The crucial difference between 2020 and 2021 virtual events (and how businesses can adapt)

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, virtual event popularity reached an all-time high.

According to research from Wild Apricot, the number of organisations planning a virtual event doubled last year.

From webinars to trade shows, conferences to exhibitions and more, businesses across the globe sought virtual event solutions that would ensure they and their prospects could remain connected.

Fast-forward to 2021, and virtual events are not only still popular, but likely to remain so for the long term.

This is because, despite many individuals (including everyone here at Gravit8) looking forward to returning to in-person events, virtual events have an incredible capacity to increase global accessibility, reduce costs, and capture in-depth data and insights.

However, a fundamental difference has become apparent between 2020 and 2021 virtual events…

In 2020, despite having been around for a good few years beforehand, virtual events were quite a novelty; in a world engulfed by restrictionsvirtual event solutions offered an innovative means of helping businesses and individuals carry on as “normally” as possible and in a variety of diverse ways.

In 2021 however, and in light of the expectation of their long-standing popularity, virtual events are gradually becoming considered the norm. What’s more, people aren’t as easily enraptured by them as they were last year; and some are even tired of them.

As an example, further research from Wild Apricot found that the biggest challenge organisers currently have with running virtual events was that there are too many other events going on, and that event visitors are becoming “sick of online calls.”

So, what does this mean for upcoming virtual events?

In short, businesses can no longer rely on producing the bare minimum for their upcoming virtual events.

To have a chance of achieving their business goals, any future events need to be truly captivating, original and – ultimately – unforgettable, whilst capitalising on the wide range of technology and opportunities that the market currently has on offer.

Let’s explore this in more detail…

6 ways businesses can adapt their virtual events for success in 2021:

1. Think outside the box

There is a common misconception that, despite continuing advances in virtual technology, there is only so far that our imaginations can be unleashed in the virtual world. However – with the right virtual event solution – this is not necessarily the case.

For your virtual event to be a success in 2021, it’s important to think outside the box and not allow your ideas to be too constrained. In a world where virtual is becoming the norm, consider how you can make your event stand out from the crowd – whether that’s in its design, functionality, or offering.

As a result, your virtual event will be set to astonish, and create an overall positive impression of your brand and the potential it can offer to customers.

This doesn’t always have to mean going outside of your budget, either. At Gravit8, for example, we can create awe-inspiring events with our virtual event solution from as little as £15,000.

2. Consider what has worked well and not so well previously

Reflect back on any previous virtual events you have held, including its best and worst features, and consider how you can improve for your events in 2021. For example, did you have any difficulties when it came to live streaming? Or your content wasn’t quite engaging enough?

If you were able to gather data from these previous events, conduct an analysis of this and feed the results into your next virtual event plan.

Additionally, if you have attended the virtual events of your competitors, or attended events where your competitors have been present, think about what they did that impressed you or not, and how you could do even better with your upcoming event.


3. Make it engaging

Having created a bold and enrapturing virtual event space following the two tips above, you’ll have overcome the first step to abolishing attendee’s virtual event fatigue. The next step, then, is to hold that attention for the entire event.

There are a number of methods you can implement to engage your event visitors. Just some of these include the use of gamification (for example, an interactive quiz with a leader board, offering a prize for the top scorer at the end of the event), implementing 3D sensory models of your products that visitors can try out, and instant messaging and video calling functions.

These features should all align with the visitor’s journey, embodying a natural flow from one point of engagement to the next so that they remain with you from the moment they first arrive to the moment your goal is achieved – for example, handing them a digital business card or scheduling a meeting.

In a similar vein…

4. Place your attendees at the centre

With higher expectations of virtual events than ever before, it’s essential that you do thorough, in-depth research of your visitor “personas,” and subsequently place their needs and goals at the heart of your event to make it a success.

For example, is their main goal to network with other professionals in their field? Then make sure you include virtual meeting rooms in your platform that can be integrated with popular video and text communications tools, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

Or, is their aim to learn as much as they can about the latest developments in their sector? In this case, ensure you have plenty of informative downloadable resources that prospects can take away with them.

5. Capitalise on branding

It is no longer enough in the virtual events sphere to simply have your logo on display at every possible opportunity. Your chosen virtual event platform needs to live and breathe your branding.

To stand out in your 2021 virtual events, take the time to explore your brand voice, visuals and values, and ensure that these emanate from every aspect of your platform; from its design all the way down to the content you share.

6. Make it accessible and inclusive

In light of recent events (such as the Black Lives Matter and Reclaim These Streets movements) and popular awareness days (including International Women’s Day and International Day of Persons with Disabilities), equality, inclusivity and creating a safe virtual space for attendees has become an essential part of successful 2021 virtual events.

Eventbrite’s blog explores some fantastic ways that businesses can achieve this, including moderation, extending your event reach to diverse communities, providing additional support to in-need communities, providing recordings for those who are unable to attend, and so on.

By making your event as inclusive and accessible as possible, you will not only demonstrate your business to be as such, but will also be able to welcome wider and more diverse audiences to your virtual events.

Gravit8 can help you achieve all of the above – and more.

As mentioned above, the team at Gravit8 are looking forward to the return of physical and hybrid events. In the meantime, however, we are committed to helping businesses successfully pivot from physical events to virtual events that not only impress during the event, but well into the future.

The best way to see this for yourself is with a demonstration of our virtual event solutions, which you can book here.