The reinvention of the webinar can reinvigorate audiences
Toby Lewis, CEO at Live Group, explains how the reinvention of the webinar can revitalize the audience experience
When the first lockdown was announced, businesses were forced to find new solutions to replace their calendar of in-person events. Webinars provided an efficient and immediate answer which helped to expand audiences in the short-term. However, it has been almost two years since this first disruptive wave of closures. Now the time has come to think more creatively about what webinars can offer audiences to truly reinvigorate their experience and secure the relevance of the webinar format long-term.
Advances in technology have provided companies with a wealth of options for optimised virtual and digital events at their fingertips. These solutions should be applied to the webinar format to speed their reinvention, and help them meet the rising expectations of audiences who have grown accustomed to virtual events.
As the events industry looks to kickstart recovery, continued innovation and a revitalization of business engagement strategies will be key – and webinars are the perfect place to start.
An advanced offering
A recent report released by the Business Visits and Events Partnership found that a third of operators who had diversified throughout the pandemic had done so through a focus on enhancing their digital offering. This included virtual and hybrid events, which have experienced a period of rapid evolution throughout the pandemic.
Webinars are primed to benefit from this new interest, as they can easily be integrated into the virtual and hybrid formats alongside streamlined networking portals and interactive features like chat rooms, gamification, polls and quizzes. This can help to deliver a content-rich experience that ensures more meaningful engagement. At the same time, these features allow content to be updated in real-time to respond to delegate interests, ensuring that both in-person and virtual audiences remain engaged.
These data-driven capabilities mean that businesses can continuously improve their event, on the fly, and also across a series of events. By using audience and engagement data to inform future event strategies, organisers can anticipate which content will resonate most with future attendees, ensuring their events benefit from past insights.
Moreover, virtual and hybrid events are designed to ensure that this flexible content can last far longer than the scheduled peak of activity. As a result, the impact and utility of webinars are much less fleeting. The offer of networking tools alongside the webinar can create a community in the weeks prior and post the event itself, enabling engagement without walls, clocks, or limits.
Exploring options and cost-efficiency
B2B events are more than just a choice between a ‘live event’ or ‘webinar’. Webinars are now part of a long-lasting shift within the industry towards new forms of digital engagement; indeed, Live Group has seen a 200% increase in clients wanting a longer-term strategic partner in the virtual and hybrid space.
Shifting to virtual and hybrid events has meant that many companies have been reconsidering their budgets. Often, a hybrid approach is equated with increased expense, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
Costs can rise if businesses work from the basis of a traditional in-person event and think of hybrid elements as an addition to activity in-venue. Instead, hybrid events should be considered from the opening planning stages, with the in-person and virtual elements designed alongside one another. In doing so, cost efficiencies emerge.
Businesses and event organisers must also consider the core objectives of the whole event. Often, we have found that features of an event structure or agenda are superfluous to achieving these objectives, and increase the pressure on cost and resource. By considering these objectives at the outset and building the event around their fulfilment, we are able to ensure budgets are spent in the most effective possible way.
To truly reap the benefits, it is crucial to consider virtual and hybrid events as something entirely different to traditional in-person functions. New strategies will ensure that events can be created within a budget, and with good return on investment.
Reinvention will prevent digital fatigue
For the past eighteen months, much of our lives have been lived through screens. The reinvention of webinars will be key to combatting digital fatigue, and to reinvigorating the audiences that were initially attracted by the format at the beginning of lockdowns.
These audiences are large and diverse, and it is key that the events industry takes steps to maintain these connections. Creative and innovative hybrid and virtual events are delivering ingenious new ways to keep us connected, and are taking webinars to the next stage of their evolution. New technology is helping the sector to stay exciting, enabling data-driven content that enhances brands and builds meaningful connections with delegates.