When I set out to create and organize the oil and gas virtual summit for the oil and gas industry, I did not know what to expect.
In previous years, I used to spend a significant amount of time each year organizing and attending physical oil and gas events in Kenya, Uganda and across other cities in Africa as well as across the world.
Right now, the big question is; are virtual events going to be the future?
Are virtual events going to be the future? Yes, virtual events are going to play a key role in the future. There is an increasing demand for all things virtual for the next 12 to 36 months. Even after live events and conferences make their way back into marketing strategies and budgets, virtual events will continue to be a part of the event industry.
Having attended a few virtual events over the last few weeks and after hosting my own oil and gas virtual summit, I have definitely changed my perspective on the above. Here are a few key takeaways on why you might come to love virtual events.
Access to High-Quality Speakers
Easier access to high-quality speakers regardless of where they live or where your event is taking place
Now that events are taking place online, it is easier than ever before to get top-notch speakers from around the world. Previously, they used to have to travel, sometimes across continents, just to spend 30 minutes on stage.
For our Oil and Gas Virtual Summit, Jasper Peijs, Vice President of Africa Exploration at BP, dialled in as a speaker from the comfort of his living room in the UK whilst I was running the event from home office in Kenya. Talk about convenience.
While you might initially be sceptical about virtual events: what was the point in attending if you could not benefit from the networking piece and meet cool companies? Would people really spend half a day watching a virtual event and why would they not just watch a YouTube recording of it? Don’t get me started on Zoom fatigue
The global crisis has upended few sectors as completely as the events industry. The question now is, will virtual and video-based events be the norm as we move into the future?
Event planners and speakers aren’t the only ones paying attention, either. Recruiters are worried about on-campus events. Employees wonder whether in-person conferences will still make sense for professional development.
Are virtual events going to be the future? Keep an eye out for these trends in the event industry.
Are Virtual Events going to be the Future? Start of a New Normal
Hosting online events has proved that not only are virtual events possible for large number of people, but that they are engaging and entertaining as well.
There are advantages and disadvantages of hosting virtual events. However, it is clear from recent past that virtual events will be the norm beyond this year. This is according to research by 614 Group.
You should be excited because virtual events are easier to organize. There is no need for a venue, refreshments or accommodation for speakers or attendees. All you will need is a video software platform that everyone can use.
Therefore, it is far much cheaper to organize and host a virtual event. Having said that, it is also worth noting that in-person physical events will also shift
Physical or Face-to-Face Events to Attract Exclusivity
The increased use of virtual events is going to create an over-supply and some form of fatigue in due course. This will make physical events increase in status, demand and therefore value.
This will make physical events to attract exclusivity. It will be possible to have small and high-level meetings or events taking place in-person. This will be highly important for top business CEOs and executives who want one-on-one networking.
Virtual events are going to change the way people network. The idea of sharing a room, a drink or a meal with influential executives does not work very well over an internet connection.
Are Virtual Events Going to the Future – The Rise of Hybrid events.
The emerging ‘new normal’ in the events industry is giving rise to an innovative trend of the rise of hybrid events.
These hybrid events combine the world of virtual and physical events. They will balance the engagement of real-world events with safety and ease of digital ones.
The future will be interesting, as there will be an element of in-person networking experiences coupled with digital content to be broadcasted to a much wider audience.
Hybrid events provide you with exciting possibilities to consider. Event hosts will find new ways to mix and match, such as in-person activities that remote attendees can also try at home.
The Future of Virtual Events
Experimenting with different virtual event approaches
While there is in-person or physical events have reduced, companies and businesses seeking to remain top of mind are experimenting with new or different approaches to virtual world.
Zoom has been a popular choice for panel discussions and interview style events. However, virtual keynotes can still be delivered either live or pre-recorded, giving some flexibility in terms of setup.
For these events, I usually pre-record in 4k using the Canon EOS M50 camera which is my current set-up in my home office. While there are streaming apps and software to stream via a DSLR, zoom and other platforms have streaming limitations when it comes to bandwidth.
The quality difference between a 4K pre-record and a live-stream is high.
Some people like Tony Robbins have taken the virtual zoom event idea to whole new levels. He hosted a virtual event with about 400k attendees, and which took place over a 7 day period.
To have a great studio type approach, you will need a minimum of a lavaliere microphone (wired or wireless) and a broadcast earpiece where you can hear questions coming in from participants or the emcee in real-time.
It takes a little more setup, but you can use a single Apple AirPod to hear the stream, along with a radio transceiver-based lav mic both processed through my computer.
YouTube Vloggers have long employed setups that can use both a high-quality smartphone and/or a DSLR for a live stream. Software like OBS Studio even lets you control which camera feed you use in the live-stream, along with super-chats and other functions available within platforms like YouTube.
Evolution of Virtual Event Space
In times of an economic crisis or downturn, the organizers of events and conferences usually face a depressed market.
However, there is still need for various brands and businesses to stay top of mind. This is one area where virtual events provide a solution. There is increased demand of online or virtual events across the world.
What does that mean for event organizers and speakers?
For organizers the temptation is to treat virtual events like a temporary replacement for in-person events. However, like the retail sector, banking and other sectors, the likelihood is that even when the events or conference business comes back, some of this business will remain virtual.
Are Virtual Events the Future – New Generation of Events?
Now that we are discussing about the future of virtual events, we should also explore the new generation of events.
It is possible to create a virtual event that provides an experience of a event stage and audience. Application of virtual reality into this space is very potent.
As you provide both in-person and virtual solutions, there is an opportunity to create events in VR space. This will give you the experience of sitting in an audience listening to your speakers. It is an opportunity that is still evolving.
We know that Apple (Glass), Facebook (Oculus), Google (Magic Leap) and others are working on Augmented Reality glasses for the next couple of years that will allow you to visit virtual events without requiring a full VR headset.
If you are already using a VR headset like a Vive, Oculus Quest or Rift complete with tracking capability, you can already appear on stage and present just like you would as a keynote speaker on a real world stage today.
We can track your hands for gestures, you can move around the virtual stage and you can embed presentations like Keynote, Powerpoint or even video on a virtual screen in the VR space behind you.
VR tracking capability is coming along rapidly, so that you can track full body movement and simulate your avatar very closely to how you would move on stage in the real-world as a speaker.
While 6-point tracking is necessary for video games and animating virtual characters in movies, that is not needed for a virtual keynote.
Just 4-point tracking available in a current Head Mounted Devices (HMD) with controllers is all you need for a virtual event today.
Are Virtual Events Going to be the Future – Conclusion
Conference organizers who develop strong virtual event capabilities and can offer blended event options in the future, will likely end up both expanding their overall audience sizes and their flexibility from a revenue perspective.