Everyone engaged in business will have their own opinion about the value of industry conferences. Some consider them a crucial date in the calendar, others take the view they are an extravagance.
But, whatever your view, for the time being at least COVID-19 has taken over the argument. Because of travel restrictions, health concerns and general business disruption, few executives or representatives have been willing or able to travel to business conferences for the bulk of 2020. As a result, and like so many other types of meeting, trade conferences have gone ‘virtual’. Technology has been brought in so that companies can still display their products or services and people can still see each other and interact remotely.
What is interesting is that companies frustrated by the travel limitations are beginning to appreciate some of the benefits of lockdown. Financial savings feature heavily because paying to attend a conference is only the start; there are the associated costs of travel, accommodation, hospitality and possibly sponsorship to consider. And, if you factor in the number of people attending (and their seniority), the real costs can escalate through the roof.
Event organisers naturally fear that what was forced on them out of necessity may become permanent in the post-COVID era. Like most other businesses, they have been forced to repurpose their offering. They have realised that, thanks to technology, they no longer have capacity problems – the venue has no physical limitations. And because there are potentially more delegates and sponsors – and the need for glossy brochures, hard copies of speeches, name badges and the like has disappeared – they have been able to pare back prices to offer better value.
Also, because the need to travel has been eliminated, delegates and sponsors are likely to spend less time away from their office, allowing them more flexibility to balance business and work commitments. It has suddenly become easier and less expensive to participate.
Moreover, the virtual approach has actually improved the quality of analytics so, for example, it is now possible to collect data that shows how many people took part in each session, to monitor sponsor leads and show who interacted with what content and for how long. With a click of a mouse, you can even connect with sponsors, speakers and other delegates.
Technology has made it easier to reach out to an audience, which is why UnitBirwelco recently sponsored the EIC Energy Exports Conference, exhibited at the ADIPEC 2020 Virtual Strategic Conference and is also sponsoring the EIC Virtual Saudi Arabia. The future is already here.