The State of Virtual Events 2022: Keys For Continued Success

By Lisa Bennett, VP Marketing at Kaltura

After two years of unprecedented growth for virtual events, 2022 remains a mystery for event organizers. With COVID restrictions rising and falling anew, event planners are seeking clarity for the coming year, and that is what Kaltura set out to provide in a new survey delving into the current state of virtual events and what is driving plans for the next year.

We have long believed in the potential of virtual events and hybrid event strategies. But, we couldn’t back it up without enough metrics from enough virtual events. Not anymore. After two banner years for virtual events, we can finally tap into real-time data and qualitative input to answer the most pressing questions: Are attendees impressed? Are organizations satisfied with the execution and results? What is measurable? What is lost in the digital space? Equipped with our survey’s fascinating insights, we hope that organizers can now better understand such key issues, and improve how they strategize and navigate planning for virtual events in 2022.

Our research was split into two. First, we surveyed organizers to determine their priorities, challenges, and successes. We also sampled attendees to ascertain how satisfied they have been with digital events and pinpoint which elements have resonated the most. Armed with the data, we can offer clarity on how the experience of both event organizers and attendees, as well as the effectiveness and role of “virtual” in events, are moving forward. And make no mistake: For the foreseeable future, a critical component of most events will indeed be virtual.

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Below are some of the most important takeaways.

A Lasting Legacy

There is no going back to what events looked like pre-COVID. While it’s no surprise that 92% of organizers switched to virtual events in 2021, 94% plan on continuing with digital events in 2022, and 48% plan on increasing how many they organize.

Virtual event plan

Attendees are ready for this move as well,  with 75% of respondents stating that they plan to continue attending virtual events even after in-person events have resumed.

Attendees are Satisfied

While the transition to virtual and hybrid events was hasty, attendees are nevertheless impressed, with largely positive experiences. 84% say that they want to continue having virtual participation as an option once physical events return. Also, the efforts that organizers have put into the transition have not gone unnoticed by attendees. A whopping 93% actively commending companies for how they have handled the shift.

Content is Now King

Content – rather than potential networking or business development opportunities – is what is driving attendance and engagement. We found that the top goal for virtual event attendance is learning about the host company or specific product, with 36% of respondents ranking this as a priority, and another 36% ranked non-company specific educational content as a priority. Accordingly, focused and value-driven events are emerging as the ideal course of action for virtual events – a stark contrast from in-person events, where the biggest draw, per 39% of respondents, was to build relationships.

Marketers Are Seeing Better ROI

Of the benefits listed by the marketers and event organizers surveyed, 26% reported a greater return on investment and increases in attendee engagement from virtual events than in-person events. Virtual and hybrid events, which are sure to take on increased importance as larger events return, have proven their impact and will continue to do so, especially as marketers seek ways to generate leads and provide real business value.

Challenges Remain, but So Do Opportunities

Despite a largely positive experience in shifting to virtual and hybrid events, organizers face no shortage of challenges as they perfect the art of going digital. More than three-quarters of organizers, 77%, see the main challenge as integrating registrant data with CRM systems. Meanwhile, 50% struggle to integrate the data into existing marketing operations and to create actionable next steps. More than a third of respondents, 37%, stated that there was difficulty coordinating follow-up steps with the sales teams as a result.  The diversity and novelty of the data that is now accessible have created a logjam in marketing departments. Although a challenge, finding ways to more effectively harness data for post-event outreach holds enormous promise.

Conclusion

While we were not surprised at the benefits and potential that digital events hold, the high levels of satisfaction across a wide range of events across industries were heartening. Attendees’ enthusiasm for what comes next and organizers’ commitment to bring events to their fullest potential shows that the bar has simply been set, not reached.

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