For almost a year, the events industry has faced huge difficulties, with innumerable cancellations and many organisers now having to postpone for a second year or, once again, take their events virtual. Despite the widespread disincentive to focus on events – and the understandable temptation to wait for a return to normality – 85% of leaders and executives have identified events as critical for their company’s success, according to the Event Marketing 2020: Benchmarks and Trends report.
In turn, this has fuelled massive growth in online events, with digital platforms and service providers seeing unprecedented growth in demand. Investment is flowing into fast growth virtual events businesses, and in November, for example, London-based Hopin, an online events platform with over 3.5 million users, raised $125 million in Series B funding on a valuation of over $2 billion. They are far from alone in attracting the interest of backers, and the market niche as a whole is predicted to grow by nearly ten times over the next decade from $78 billion to $774 billion.
Without doubt, live in-person events will return across every sector when restrictions allow, but in common with other technology and cultural trends that have seen huge growth in the last year, virtual events will remain popular. For the cybersecurity industry, it’s vital to blend the two to retain its sense of community, cooperation and vibrant analysis of an ever-changing sector, and they offer a range of advantages:
Building engagement and contact
One of the fundamental challenges for events of any size is optimising reach, engagement and attendance. Clearly, virtual events have a built-in advantage in that they are less time consuming, often considerably cheaper and remove the need to travel. But, despite the absence of face-to-face contact and the popular social aspects of in-person events, the online environment is highly conducive to networking. Delegates can connect with speakers, exhibitors and other attendees with a few mouse clicks, and whether interaction and contacts are made via a live chat, video call, forum discussions or social platforms, the digital alternatives to meeting in person are increasingly effective.
Everyone who has been to a large in-person event will recognise they can become quite chaotic. It can be challenging to arrange meetings at the various booths, attend demos and speaking sessions in the time available. Indeed, some of the most high profile events are organised on such a huge scale that it’s just not possible to see everything.
In contrast, virtual events tend to run at a faster pace – not least because attendees don’t have to move from session to session or booth to booth. That means it can be easier to engage with the event community and make connections with other attendees and speakers than an in-person event. Many people will be missing collecting the freebies and merch, but since everything is online, attendees can easily record important information for future reference.
Enhancing the cybersecurity community
The cybersecurity industry has a strong sense of community, much of which can be attributed to the success of in-person events in bringing people together. Despite the enforced current separation, maintaining a vibrant, co-operative community is vital if cybersecurity professionals are to keep learning about the best practices and build better relationships.
Virtual events are playing a key role in helping the community to develop, not least because they are more accessible and enable more security experts to attend and share the latest threat knowledge. Teams everywhere are looking for ways to stay up to date with the latest tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) and virtual events have stepped in to fill the gap currently left by cancelled physical conferences, exhibitions and seminars.
Increasing value for money
According to Bizzabo, nearly all (95%) of event professionals “believe that in-person events can have a major impact on achieving their company’s primary business goals.” But, in the context of a global pandemic, and with many budgets under regular review, moving events to virtual experiences can help save on staff, the cost of the physical venue location, setup and takedown, booking hotel space for attendees, costs for travel, meals and much more.
In general, the most substantial cost is for the meeting platform of choice, and in many cases, those costs are already in the budget for platforms like Zoom, meaning they might not require additional spend. This allows more organizations to offer free events, with the option of charging for specialized sessions – making everything more financially accessible for the average attendee.
Organisations that build their experience of hosting online events now will be very well placed to mix and match virtual and in-person strategies when circumstances allow. Those that do will be able to offer the best of both worlds: a return to those valuable and memorable meet-ups and socials alongside the option of convenient and engaging online industry experiences.
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