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Going Digital: How Virtual Conferences Are Affecting the Tech World

Summits, conferences, and trade shows have been a staple tool in every marketer’s strategy for decades, because, let’s be honest: There’s nothing like face-to-face interactions to drive brand awareness and generate opportunities. In a recent Harvard Business Review study on event marketing, more than half of respondents from across the globe said their events drew more business value than any other marketing tactic. However, the world is rapidly evolving. 

If people can’t go to the office, then they definitely cannot go to corporate events. A virtual transformation has been thrust upon us, and in this new digital landscape, businesses are faced with a decision: sink or swim.

Going virtual is now a necessity, and many businesses are stepping up to the plate.

Companies are now live streaming product launches, diversity conferences, and industry summits. While maintaining viewer engagement is always a challenge, these virtual events are leaving a lasting impact on the tech world. 

Red-eye flights and hefty hotel charges are long gone, and companies no longer foot the bill for renting out a venue or hiring catering services. Besides the obvious cut in overhead costs, going virtual has several other advantages.

Companies can now see exactly who visited their “booth” and how many people tuned in for the keynote speaker, and for how long. This value information provides a much more detailed picture of a business’s return on investment. And it’s not only companies who benefit from this switch.

In this new climate, consumers now have free (or almost free) access to valuable content that was otherwise reserved for those with an invitation. They can turn on and tune in wherever and whenever they want. Viewers can pause to take notes or even rewind if they missed something.

When LinkedIn moved their TransformHER conference online in June 2020, they realized the impact that going virtual had on their outreach. The event, which was launched in 2018, aims to further develop the careers of women of color who work in the tech field. At previous conferences, speakers like Claudia Romo Edelman, the CEO of We Are All Human, and Carla Harris, the vice-chair of global wealth management at Morgan Stanley, spoke in front of 400 in-person attendees at LinkedIn’s San Francisco office. But this year, it was different. 

Viewers tuned in from the U.K., Kenya, and Morocco to listen to Edelman and Harris speak. In total, TransformHER’s livestream had more than 62,000 views, according to the conference’s co-founders.  

While virtual events have their advantages, there is something special about meeting in person. Attendees can’t just grab coffee or a bite to eat between speakers at a virtual conference. Cultivating personal relationships outside the event itself is a major reason why many people attend conferences in the first place. There’s no replacing physical networking.

So, what’s next?

Virtual events may just be a byproduct of COVID-19, but there’s no question that certain aspects of this trend are here to stay. Even with our desire to connect physically, digital platforms have embedded themselves in our lives. Some companies predict running virtual events alongside physical ones, while others say hybrid events will be the new trend. Adding a virtual component to a live event, which was once considered innovative and hip, may be essential for companies struggling to compete in this new digital landscape.