At the beginning of the Pandemic, Zoom was the hero that saved us all. A platform that was used by few saw millions of new users in mere weeks (lucky Zoom investors). While the software had some hiccups in the beginning, Zoom worked tirelessly to improve functions and security to ensure that families, friends, and businesses could communicate via video chat. Zoom carried a lot of us on its back throughout the longest year, 2020, but despite its saving grace, people got tired of clicking that blue icon on their device screens.
For LGT, Zoom meant we could not only communicate with our clients for services in a global pandemic but it also allowed us to inexpensively expand our professional events. Less money was spent on the platform for the 38 virtual events we hosted throughout the year than 1 in-person event normally costs. Not to mention our geographic limitations. Any of our clients or COI’s could instantly join events at the click of a button wherever they may be. That’s the beauty of webinars, the accessibility of it all.
We interacted with more people in one year than we have in two years through in-person events but we began to see a downward projection of attendance as the year went on and into 2021. Our marketing team tried everything to keep the momentum that we had in July of 2020: changing email designs, rewording social posts, a variety of topics, the list goes on. So what was the issue? Why were we seeing a decrease in attendance?
The issue with accessible webinars is that they become more of a chore than an enjoyable experience. The less time we can spend in our home office the better. And that issue became abundantly clear as the world started to make the return to the “new normal”. The issue wasn’t about how we were marketing but the exhaustion from continuous screen interaction online.
Zoom fatigue is something that we have all heard but no one discusses how we combat it. Do we forget everything we learned from 2020 and return to events pre-pandemic? I like to think of 2020 as an anomaly of a year, but that does not mean that we should forget how successful and influential webinars can be for business. So the real question is, how do we help our clients enjoy digital events?
We need to focus on bringing the in-person experience online to enhance the quality of webinars. Whether this is through classic hybrid events, more interactive webinars, virtual networking, or using a different type of digital platform, it’s all about what is best for your clients and employees.
Many conferences are making the switch to hybrid events due to pandemic restrictions and in turn, the event industry realizing how effective this can be for their bottom line. Hybrid events allow people to attend in-person if they are comfortable and can travel. Those who cannot, are able to attend from the comfort of their home or office. Additionally, speakers are not limited. Many high-profile speakers cannot speak at conferences because of the time commitment, hybrid events knock that out of the equation. The pool of choice and topics are significantly expanded which means better speakers that will draw people to attend your event.
Some events feature virtual networking and chat functions with attendees to bring the in-person experience online and allow virtual attendees the capability of networking with someone attending live. The downside of this option is cost. Not only are you paying for the venue space, but many venues will also charge an additional fee for the internet bandwidth you are using to live-stream your event. This may outweigh the benefits of international attendance for smaller companies that don’t have the budget of a multi-million dollar corporation. But no worries, there are still options for small businesses.
The classic webinars that we host, feature little room for interaction with attendees. Leaving them behind their screens to work while they “actively listen” to the content on their screens. There are several ways you can combat this.
Zoom fatigue is hard to combat with this option but it can be done. Don’t give up on your webinars just yet. The next option is a great solution in addition to adding more interaction via chat.
This option is great for companies that rely on connections with referral sources and clients. Next time you schedule your webinar consider adding 30 minutes at the end for networking with your attendees. If you use the Zoom Webinar add-on to launch webinars as LGT does, schedule a separate Zoom Meeting that is sent to attendees. In the networking session, you could keep it simple and have everyone in one room or try your hand at Zoom break-out rooms. Zoom has great tutorials, consider checking out their resource library for more information here.
The downside of this is obvious. Virtual networking can be awkward, we’ve all been there. As time goes on people will learn how to make this experience more natural. We just need to remember that everyone is learning and new resources (especially for business people) take time to work like a well-oiled machine.
Combining your skill with interactive webinars and virtual networking, the last option is different digital platforms to host more than one webinar in a day. LGT is trying this approach in August at the 2021 LGT Summit Virtual Conference for our Construction, Manufacturing & Distribution, and Real Estate industry contacts. We are excited to see attendance increase and try a new way of launching digital events. If you’re in one of those industries, keep an eye out for the invite via email or on social media.
Conference platforms have made strides in the last year to provide for the event industry. Interactive events are their strong suit and not to mention the cost-benefit. You will spend more than your Zoom budget for the month but not more than an average in-person conference would cost. There are so many options for platforms, a simple google search will get you on the right track.
Many of the benefits of hybrid events also apply here, this would be a great option for those who don’t want to deal with venues and the high cost that comes with a hybrid. Consider adding networking sessions as options for attendees and if they are not comfortable with being on camera, start a chat with hot topics in your industry. This is another option that creativity will get you far.
Virtual events are not going anywhere in the near future. Use what we learned in 2020 to grow your events and your attendee reach. As technology advances, these key options are great for increasing attendees at your next event. So keep these in your back pocket. The most important thing is to take it one step at a time and not get overwhelmed. Some of these will work better for your company than others. Listen to what your event regulars respond to and don’t be afraid to take a risk. You never know what outcome you may have. Online events could potentially open up an entirely new business avenue for your company.
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