Five Benefits to Making Your Conference Virtual
Virtual conferences are no longer the best-kept secret for associations. These days, many, if not most, associations have considered making their conferences virtual. The additional costs are minimal and the infrastructure necessary to set up a virtual conference is widely available and easy-to-use, so why are some associations only entertaining the idea of virtual conferences and not actually setting them up? The answer might be that virtual conferences are still largely misunderstood.
One of the biggest fears about virtual conferences, for both associations and attendees is that they will directly compete with the in-person conference. Some think that by attending an online conference, some of the primary benefits of conferencing, such as face-to-face networking, are jeopardized. While there are many differences between the types of conferences, the benefits of hosting and attending virtual conferences far outweigh anything that might be perceived as a negative when compared to traditional in-person conferences.
Here are five benefits to making your conference virtual.
1. Throw a Wider Attendance Net
One of the common refrains about virtual conferences is that they could cannibalize the in-person event attendance, but this is not what typically happens. In fact, it’s rare for associations that host virtual events in addition to in-person events to experience a decrease in attendance at all. Instead, virtual events tend to attract a completely different audience, as well as picking up many of those who planned to attend in-person but could not for whatever reason. The attendees who prefer onsite events will continue enjoying onsite events, whereas virtual events attract a virtual crowd. Additionally, virtual events also have a much wider geographical reach, allowing for attendees to join from all over the world.
2. Generate More and Varied Revenues
While virtual conferences help associations boost membership registrations and renewals by providing members with the opportunity to attend conferences online as well as in person, they also provide new revenue channels for associations. These new forms of revenue are found by offering virtual-only product and event offers as well as advertising that is only accessible to the virtual audience. Virtual conferences also provide associations with the opportunity to reach and attract different sponsors, vendors and speakers, those who are more interested in an online audience than an onsite one.
3. More Engaged Participation
Face-to-face networking is one of the most sought-after experiences at in-person conferences, but, during a presentation, communication is put on hold. For the most part, an in-person presentation is a one-sided discussion until it’s over and the floor is opened to the audience. Many virtual conference hosts, however, find that the lively discussion online during a presentation is some of the most engaging and informative available.
The improved discussion works both ways. Not only are the attendees more engaged in the discussion because they’re participating in real-time, but the presenters themselves and the moderators are able to see and react to instantaneous audience comments and reflections about the presentations without disruption. Furthermore, since online thoughts and comments are more heavily edited than the in-person variety, virtual conference discussions can be more informed, more thought-provoking and more challenging than onsite discussions, all benefits for any conference and/or presentation.
4. Longer Conference Lifeline
While the memory and the impact of in-person events can live on long after they finish, there is rarely any physical remnants left over. With virtual events, however, there is an online record of both presentations and attendance. Content from the event can reused, repackaged and repurposed, giving members more opportunities to benefit from the material and the association more opportunities to monetize it. There’s also the benefit for sponsors and advertisers, who, when the content remains online, get a longer-lived value from their investment.
5. Greater Convenience
As already discussed, virtual conferences provide attendees with additional and convenient attendance option. While virtual conferences rarely substitute in-person events, they do complement them. Whether attendees are unable to attend onsite because of travel, timing or costs, virtual events enable these members to still attend rather than missing the event completely. There are other benefits to virtual events as well, including improved logistics and timing, especially for larger conferences. Since many conferences have multiple sessions overlapping or going on at the same time, onsite attendees often have to choose between their preferred session. Virtual conferences allow audience members to attend multiple events at the same time, switching instantly between windows when wanting to move between them.