Less schmooze, more substance: 3 key ideas for planning digital events


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This article was written by Nohar Zmora, VP Brand Marketing, Kaltura

When COVID-19 first emerged, many expected the shift to online-only events to be temporary. Two years later, however, it’s quite clear that even after the pandemic has subsided, digital events are here to stay.

Even as some organizations are starting to host in-person conferences again, many are stepping up their parallel online events, not wanting to pass up the convenience, engagement, and valuable audience information now available.

This fundamental change goes well beyond event formats. As more meetings have gone digital, there has been a marked shift in the way attendees and marketers derive value from events. Having worked with dozens of global companies to create hundreds of digital events of varying sizes, and having hosted many of our own online events, my team has seen firsthand the impact of this change. Moreover, we can quantify it, not only from our independent research and surveys, but also from proprietary data collected by organizing these events.

Here are three top takeaways from our research that highlight what marketers need to consider when planning their next digital event.

1. No more networking – content is king

While marketers, attendees, and chair-watchers have discussed the pros and cons of digital events versus in-person events over the past couple of years, in truth, it’s not an apple-to-apple comparison. .

Case in point: Consider the very different reasons someone would attend an in-person conference or digital event. A 39% of the plurality of in-person attendees go to an event to build relationships. The main goals of virtual events are to learn about a company or product and advance professional training, according to 36% of online event attendees.

Among virtual event attendees, however, building new relationships is a lower priority than their in-person counterparts, ranking third with 15% of attendee votes. Meanwhile, 28% of digital participants opted for chats and collaboration as their top selling points, but only 9% said they made one or more connections while participating.

In light of these results, it becomes clear that the main driver of online event participation is the content of the event itself. As such, event planners need to ensure that their programming is less about chatter and more about substance.

While virtual attendees focus on content rather than camaraderie, they’ve also let go of their reluctance to participate in day-long events. Before the pandemic, many one-day events were avoided due to time commitment, but now they outperform longer events in terms of participant engagement.

We have found that engagement is higher during shorter events. Users spent an average of 126 minutes of engagement during one-day events, which is 10.5% more time than the 114 minutes of engagement on average during events lasting two to three days. This suggests that people prefer hyper-focused one-day virtual events to more generalized events that they can walk through over a longer period of time.

In the new world of online events, more and more people are willing to attend an event just for a session that is particularly relevant to them. Because costs are low and participation is possible from anywhere, there is no shame or embarrassment in heading to the outings early. Over time, this trend may intensify, with participants showing up for content that interests them, but nothing more. And this is where it becomes essential for organizers to determine what will really engage their audience.

2. New ways to measure engagement at digital events

Back in the days when in-person events were the default, measuring audience engagement largely boiled down to counting the number of people who attended each session or following sales leads that resulted directly from an event. .

This is not the case with virtual events. Through video, event planners can access behavioral data that is automatically recorded and time-stamped, making engagement analytics in an incredibly powerful way for marketers.

In and of themselves, registration and attendance do not say much. But once people show up to an event, they’re much more likely to come back for future events or engagements and convert to paying customers. Our data also shows that 56% of registrants attended the virtual events they registered for, 43% attended and 42% engaged. In other words, the largest drop occurred between actual attendance enrollment and the smallest between engagement participation. Therefore, among people who attended and participated in virtual events, engagement was high.

Engagement data is very illuminating quantitative material, but audience monitoring is essential to obtain the qualitative data needed to supplement their conclusions. Sure, marketers can see when someone logs out of an event, but to find out Why, they should ask the participants. The same goes for people who absolutely devoured the content: Organizers need to find out why people were excited about the content they enjoyed, determine what were the strengths, and use those lessons to design new. future events that will keep people engaged and coming back for more.

The bottom line? Virtual event data is richer and provides more valuable information than is possible with most in-person events, with more than a quarter of organizations see better return on investment and better engagement from virtual events. These new benefits are the top reasons 94% of organizers and marketers plan to continue hosting digital events for the foreseeable future.

3. Timing Isn’t Everything, But It Always Matters

In the age of recorded events and on-demand video, there’s an unprecedented amount of content at your fingertips 24/7. But the organizers shouldn’t assume that the timing is irrelevant. In fact, maybe it’s the overload of VOD that makes live content all the more special. Live content is what makes an event, well, a an event, and not just a conference.

Our data confirms this: Of those we sampled, 60% of the total hours of content they viewed were live sessions, not VOD. This underscores the audience’s constant desire for connection experiences – even if connection is no longer the primary purpose of their participation – and the need for organizers to make the audience feel like they are part of something. something bigger.

With that in mind, organizers should take into account the global appetite for the content they are presenting and ensure that they always run live sessions that will resonate with attendees.

In conclusion, each paradigm shift brings both challenges and opportunities. But, luckily for marketers, the shift to digital events is full of opportunities to connect with more people. And with a smart, data-driven approach to content creation, they can overcome their biggest challenges.

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