Report: Online Events Attract More Attendees, Adds Value to Physical Events

From the VEI report on online events

If you’re attending online events more often, welcome to the club. A new survey finds that about two-thirds of online event producers say their attendance has increased, while only about 10 percent report lower online attendance.

The Digital Event Benchmark Report from the Virtual Edge Institute (VEI) is intended to provide a tool for the assessment of digital initiatives and for the identification of areas of opportunity. VEI said that many of the respondents producing physical events (80 percent) also produce online events (70 percent of physical event organizers).

Re-Use of Content After a Physical Event

One opportunity for physical event producers is the added value produced by the online content. For instance, a previous VEI survey of physical event attendees found that 80 percent justify their attendance to physical events by their access to event content that will be online afterwards.

The current report found that about half of the respondents said that online events typically attract less than 500 attendees, with higher attendances at physical events leading to higher attendances at related online activities.

For about 82 percent of respondents, the goal for digital events was expanding an organization’s reach and audience, and nearly 60 percent also cited the goal of providing education to constituents. Other significant goals included providing more value to physical attendees, driving attendance to the next physical event, making better use of event education, establishing the organization as leading in constituent education, marketing products and the organization, and generating revenue.

Top Revenue Methods for Online Events

On the revenue front, the top three most successful revenue methods for online events were event sponsorships, advertising, and sponsorships tied to in-person events. The technique that ranked the highest for “not yet tried” was content syndication sponsorships. However, VEI said it would watch content syndication in future surveys, because its use could increase.

There’s also, of course, charging admission. Most of the surveyed online event producers are not charging either for live or on-demand online content, but an earlier survey by VEI indicated that two thirds of respondents would be willing to pay for attending and obtaining online meeting content, and most were willing to do so even just for selected content. Most of those willing to pay for online content said, of course, that they would like to pay less for the online version than for the same physical event.

For those organizers who did charge for online access to event content, half charged 25 percent or less than the equivalent in-person registration fee.

Event Engagement Techniques

The most successful engagement techniques of online events were attendee chat, social media and polling/Q&A, as well as online moderators and emcees. The least successful engagement technique: gamification.

In terms of marketing online events, email marketing is the most successful registration driver, while advertising, search engine marketing and social media were found to be the least effective.

VEI is an international organization focused on advancing the development and use of virtual meetings, and the report was based on an email survey to physical and online event producers, which generated more than 200 responses.