They say “necessity is the mother of invention,” and Falcon Events was born out of this logic. COVID-19 almost caused industries that thrive on in-person engagement to buckle. Thanks to innovative solutions and video conferencing technology; conferences, festivals, and trade shows have found better ways to engage their audiences through virtual and hybrid events.
Since the roll-out of the vaccines, we have seen in-person events slowly come back around. Many within these industries are hoping for a permanent return, but are virtual events going to become a thing of the past? While some think the answer to that question will be a resounding “yes,” the folks on the inside of the event-planning industry think you might want to hold those horses.
“Over the last year-and-a-half, we have seen attendance explode for virtual conferences,” Bill Mott, CEO of Falcon Events, said. “Which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. With travel, lodging, and per diem expenses no longer being a factor, the target organizations are now able to afford to send more employees to virtual industry events.”
This new model doesn’t only apply to inter-organizational conferences. Several clients are now expressing how easy and critical virtual conferencing is for training, intra-organizational meetings, and communicating with stakeholders. Even celebrities are cashing in on the virtual and hybrid events. At one point, talent agencies assumed that part of the allure of massive entertainment events like South by Southwest and the Sundance Film Festival were the in-person celebrity key-note speakers.
However, talent agencies like All American Entertainment have been able to provide a daunting list of celebrities to give virtual addresses and keynote speeches, including Ashton Kutcher, Mark Cuban, Will Smith, and Reese Witherspoon.
According to AAE’s website, the task of moving toward virtual events was an advantageous one.
“Event planners are no longer limited to only booking speakers who are able to be physically present, and audience size is no longer limited by a physical venue’s capacity.”
The confidence of agencies like AAE, as well as event planners, to move into the virtual terrain links directly to the expertise of companies like Falcon Events – who were able to figure out some of the missteps and trappings during the beginning of the pandemic. This new event strategy allowed for much of the same experience as in person events, but managed to take away a lot of the hindrances.
• Professional, High Definition Quality
With tools like Zoom and Wirecast, events can broadcast video, audio, and graphics that rival broadcast television quality.
• Engagement and Interaction
One thing live television broadcasts can’t do is provide for access to the audience. Attendees that want to ask questions don’t have to wait in line at a microphone stand anymore. Chat is an integrated feature in most of these platforms. Attendees can engage with the speaker in real-time from the comfort of their own home.
• Stress-Free Environment
Large-scale events require a lot of heavy lifting. From stage hands to lighting and sound specialists, the man-power alone can cost a pretty penny. Not to mention, attendees have to pack bags, catch flights, book hotel rooms, and traverse unfamiliar settings. Virtual and hybrid events eliminate all of that hassle.
The American Medical Association provided an interesting case study in 2020. The format for their annual Research Symposium underwent some major changes. The old format required an in-person exhibit hall. After the shift to virtual, they held a digital gallery. Virtual attendees were able to check out the work between sessions and vote on entries, After calculating the top five presentations, the finalist were able to present during a live-stream. Top medical experts ranked the findings. This “game show” model for virtual presentations garnered over 1,000 entries — a 60 percent increase from years prior. It drew an audience of 33,000 people.
For some in the industry, 2020 was a record-breaking year. However, for those who didn’t have the confidence to take the virtual leap, a lot of revenue ungenerated. Thankfully, many organizations have come around to do virtual and hybrid events. If you’re just getting your virtual feet wet, consider these words of wisdom from the pros.
• Hire Experts
If you want to stream your DJ set or your video game feed for friends and fans on the internet, Zoom and Twitch are the only tools you need. However, if you want to bring 100 speakers from around the world to lead sessions with 10,000 attendees, you will have you work cut out for you. The amount of work that goes into one of these events requires expert technicians, multiple computers, and various interfacing programs to ensure that it goes off without a hitch. The learning curve is steep and you can save a lot of time, money, and frustration by hiring a company like Falcon Events.
There is no shame on your event if some or all of your speakers pre-record their session. We’ve had plenty of great experiences where a lecturer records their presentation before the event and then they come back for Q&As. Going live, virtual, or in person, always runs the risk of human error or technology failure. I know I have seen more than one live event have a delayed start because of a malfunctioning microphone. Pre-recording eliminates all of those potential issues.
• Interaction Breeds Engagement
There are a plethora of options to make a virtual event more interactive than an in person event including: live polls, chat functionality, trivia, and break-out rooms.
• The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Once you’ve witnessed an in-person presentation, that’s it. If you didn’t take notes or needed a bathroom break, you missed out on vital information. In the virtual world, however, the streams are more often recorded and posted on demand so you can go back and memorize the entire lecture verbatim if you want. Recording the streams isn’t just a good idea for the attendees. Speakers and event planners can also use the footage to build a virtual portfolio with branded graphics and video that can be used for various kinds of digital promotion.
Much like anything in life, there are pros and cons to choosing between virtual and in person events. What makes the option of going virtual so great is that it can be used as the sole platform or it can be implemented into a hybrid event incorporating the best of both worlds. No matter what direction you choose when planning your event, there is no question that the virtual aspect is growing exponentially and is not going away any time soon.