The COVID pandemic has affected the way businesses and employees travel and interact at events, especially with the big shift towards digital engagement. More communication is being done over email and video conferencing while online engagement has reduced the need to travel. This in turn has led to a decrease in business travel’s share of hotel room revenue as more employees who usually travel for work say they won’t be returning to the road.
In terms of events, more events are planned to be virtual or hybrid with audiences moving to digital platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. In fact, Zoom saw daily meeting participants grow by a factor of 35 between 2019 and 2020 while Microsoft Teams saw annual users increase by a factor of 13.5 from 2019 to 2022. Still, online interacting does come with its own frustrations, such as technological issues during virtual meetings and poor communication between participants.
In fact, the online setup can be draining as the amount of eye contact and sizes of participants’ faces are unnatural on screens. It can also become stressful to see yourself in real-time during video chats as it can increase opportunities for self-criticism. Video chats also can lead to unnatural, exaggerated non-verbal communication to be understood. Nonetheless, almost 50% of people who attend 10 or more events every year attend online events.
Virtual events can actually benefit businesses as they save time and money, help increase employee engagement, and increase productivity. Hybrid events are slightly different as they involve two separate audiences connected by the content they’re accessing in a way that creates a good experience for everyone. There is usually a main event that can be either virtual or physical and a virtual component that everyone can access. Gamification can help increase event engagement and improve event effectiveness while using the metaverse could make the event experience more immersive and create advanced learning opportunities.
Event planners can improve event quality in several ways, including considering a more persistent interactive experience that strays away from one-off events, offering access to online breakout sessions, and using polls, chats, and Q&As to encourage networking. Utilizing online social engagement platforms can help businesses create successful hybrid and virtual events that will better engage audiences.