Virtual events were a lifesaver for many companies and individuals in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of physical events around the world.
But it’s not just a flash in the pan. Virtual events were growing in popularity even before the pandemic, and the sector was valued at nearly $78 billion in 2019. The sector is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 23.2 percent from 2020 to 2027, suggesting that this is not a temporary phenomenon.
A survey of 200 B2B event organizers in the U.K. and Ireland found that 72% of companies will support virtual events in the long term, and 77% are interested in organizing hybrids. In fact, companies will host 32% of physical events, 45% of virtual events and 23% of hybrid events in the future.
Considering that before the pandemic, £31 billion a year was spent on B2B events in the UK, this suggests that the virtual event industry in the UK could be worth £14 billion a year.
Budgets are expected to reflect this change immediately, as over the next 12 months investment in virtual events will be three times greater than in physical events. The study also found that a third of event budgets (29%) will be spent on virtual platforms in 2021.
When asked why they plan to continue organizing virtual events, the answers were that they are pandemic-proof, cost-effective, and give global access to content without having to travel. This is not surprising given that UKI B2B event organizers described 2020 as a “challenging” (63%), “learning experience” (62%) and “frustrating” (40%).
The majority of event organizers (88%) held a virtual event, webinar or online conversation last year. Data from Linkedin’s own platform shows that the number of LinkedIn Live streams is up more than 400% over last year, and the number of LinkedIn Live broadcasters is up nearly 500%. In fact, there were 12,000 events per week in December with a total of half a million participants. Thanks to this approach, 81% of organizers say virtual events have provided opportunities that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.
One company that has really embraced “virtuality” since the pandemic began is Welcome. Starting out as a communications app for restaurants and food wholesalers, it quickly morphed into a virtual event platform in early 2020 and raised $12 million in Series A funding in November of that year.
Co-founder and CEO Roberto Ortiz is positioning it as an upscale, white-label platform that primarily emphasizes quality and design to easily create an experience “like an Apple product launch.” Three months after launch, Welcome’s revenue exceeded seven figures, and customers included Netflix, Oracle and Okta, the company said.
“We had to pivot – we either pivot or die,” Ortiz said. “So we sat down at the table and went back to the drawing board, and we completely turned 180 on events.”
“We saw that there was a big gap in the market, especially when you look at high-end events, high-end experiences and high-end production.”
Like other virtual event platforms, Welcome positions itself as a virtual venue, meaning it strives to replicate the kind of rooms you’d expect to see in a physical venue. For example, there are breakout rooms and a “green room” where speakers can gather before speaking.
Welcome also allows users to mix live and pre-recorded video, create graphic overlays with additional information or include audience questions.
At Digital Marketing World Forum 2021, you can hear directly from Welcome co-founder Jerry Shen, who will deliver a talk titled “Key Elements for Creating an Awesome Event.” During his talk at 2 p.m. June 2, he will discuss the key ingredients that make up a memorable virtual event that holds the attention of listeners and speakers and forces them to interact with each other.
At 10:30 a.m. June 3, its co-founder Roberto Ortiz will participate in a panel titled “Creating Stunning Virtual Events That Get Results.”
He will talk about how the world’s best brands are using virtual and hybrid events to deliver meaningful value, organic engagement and an amazing experience every minute of the event.