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How Are Virtual Events Facilitating Community Building And Networking Virtual events are typically gated, requiring attendees to either pay for access or provide their personal information in lieu of payment

By Nishchal Dua

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The number of organizations producing virtual events has exploded in the new normal. Innovation has been rapid. Results have been mixed. The definition of "virtual events' is evolving swiftly. For our purposes, we've defined them as collections of live and/or recorded presentations typically organized by topic or subject. Content may be available only live, but more often is available for live viewing and later for viewing on-demand. Virtual events are typically gated, requiring attendees to either pay for access or provide their personal information in lieu of payment.

This pandemic has redefined everything, our lap has become our office desk, every other professional has become an amateur chef, theatres are taken over by OTT platforms; 2020 has truly written new norms. But there's also a catch-22 situation, as face-to-face social interactions are limited because of lockdown stipulations. Sure, verticals such as WhatsApp do enable us to connect with our peers, but the absence of face-to-face communication simply fails to replicate the engagement of offline interaction. On such verticals, thoughts are mere words, and expressions are just punctuations. And amidst all this, being a part of a high engagement event sounds like a far-fetched dream. But don't worry, there's a solution.

Being part of the community, virtually

Cutting-edge virtual communication platforms that stimulate high engagement and authentic connections have become an indispensable part of this modern age as they have this unmatched twin advantage. The first being, economic: organizing a state-of-the-art high engagement event is a logistic and economic nightmare for many companies. It costs a fortune to organize offline events, plus there are numerous unfathomable obstacles that can cause an obstruction to it. Be it nature, human folly, or both. But on virtual events, the chance of encountering any such impediment is extremely slim. Finding an apt venue for an offline event is another tedious task, whereas virtual events can simply be conceived on the click of a button. According to a recent survey by Markletic, 87 per cent of marketers consider the opportunities generated by virtual events as a success factor.

Borderless micro interactions between experts

The second most prominent leverage that virtual communication offers is freedom from the bounds of time and geography. We all are a part of a global village, sailing on different seas, surfing the same webpage. Virtual events have this unprecedented advantage over offline events, and that is the ability to connect geographically challenged niche communities with unmatched ease. Saving an indefinable amount of traveling time, hassle, and of course money of both host and attendees.

Studies have also shown that virtual events have enriched the friendship among colleagues by giving their interaction a physical dimension. Evoking a sense of close-knit community within them. As a result of which, the productivity and inventiveness of several organizations has increased manifold.

According to a survey by Markletic, the average no-show percentage of virtual events is 35 per cent. This is slightly higher than in-person events.

So, will virtual events replace in-person gatherings? The short answer is no. Humans are social animals, and nothing in the virtual world will replace shaking hands, chatting to a speaker after a session, or even that late night bar conversation that opens our eyes to new ideas. People want to connect with other people. We will, however, see the rise of the hybrid event or supplemental virtual content. So, it's important for event organizers to learn how to engage virtually.

Today's reality has made human connection more valuable than ever, and there is one aspect of events, whether digital or in-person, that's sure to leave a lasting impression: its people.

By preparing teams for virtual networking, by using data and insights to quickly identify attendees' interest and pain points, and by taking an account-based approach to events, teams can use virtual events to build authentic business relationships that lead to real business results. Because virtual events may have sputtered in the "new normal', but we need to be ready for a squall.

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