Virtual offerings will continue to diversify as companies look for new revenues, said Deborah Greif, managing director at bXb Online, a marketing company that focuses on developing digital extensions of face-to-face experiences. “These are investment opportunities,” she said.
Demand for feature-rich environments has grown as organizers, sponsors and audiences become more comfortable with virtual technology.
“You've got to continue to innovate,” said Rich Erb, managing director-Robotics Trends at EH Publishing. His division hosts a perpetual virtual environment with quarterly live events. “Events need to be more collaborative, more social—and provide interaction to make attendees feel closer to the individuals they want to meet.”
That does not necessarily mean that virtual events need to incorporate the most sophisticated tools available, he said. Organizers need to weigh the benefits of collaborative tools such as telepresence against increased production costs.
BNP Media, for example, has made team interactivity a focus of its marketing push, but the company is only beginning to look at video chat. Event communication relies instead on the combination of a simple instant-messaging tool, Twitter hashtags and share features linked to social media sites, said Sarah Gorajek, online events manager.
The most essential ingredient is staff support. “During the show, it's all hands on deck driving interaction,” she said. The company, which launched its first virtual event last year using the ON24 platform, currently produces six virtual and more than 20 physical events. “One of our big focuses next year is going to be hybrid,” she said.