For only a handful of industries is the crisis not a curse but a blessing. Just look at the makers of mouth masks, disinfectant gel and toilet paper. With the rollout of the vaccine, however, it looks like these sectors will return to their status quo. Still, there is one sector whose explosive growth cannot be easily reversed. Virtual events are here to stay.
When people think of virtual events, they still often think of the static and messy cases of old. Yet we are long past those times. Today, virtual events have become real experiences in their own right. With beautiful 3D environments and a strong focus on usability, they were the perfect alternative to physical events during the many lockdowns of the past year. But is there a future for virtual trade shows now that they have started to vaccinate. We asked Michèle Roggemans, our COO, for her opinion.
Now that we are probably in the final stages of the crisis, it looks like physical events will soon be allowed to start again. Can virtual event organizers compete with these giants?
Michèle: Competing has never been our intention. From the beginning, before there even was a corona crisis, our goal was to work together with the organizers of physical events. Both types of events have their advantages and disadvantages. Today, it is important to give visitors the choice of how they want to experience an event. In this way, one reaches the largest possible target group.
However, there are organizers who describe virtual fairs and conferences as something temporary. They compare it with chicory versus coffee in times of war. Perfectly normal, but not comparable with the original. What do you say to that?
Michèle: Innovation is always something that scares people. It's easier to go on the attack for fear that the new will replace the old. However, we are sober enough to realize that this will never be the case. There is enough room for both types of events. Some people prefer a physical experience. Others prefer to stay at home and visit the event from the comfort of their armchair. It's a matter of letting the visitors decide for themselves.
You think event organizers have nothing to fear from their virtual counterparts?
Michèle: Quite the opposite in fact. We see it as two sides of the same coin. By adopting a hybrid approach, events will emerge much stronger from this crisis. Times of crisis are also times of renewal and innovation. We offer this to them on a tray. It is up to the fair organizers to decide whether they accept this offer or not.
So do you see virtual events as a supporting element?
Michèle: Not at all. A virtual event can perfectly function on its own. Especially smaller events benefit from it because the cost burden is immediately a lot lower. But the past few months we have also been able to set up a lot of big events, like Conway for example. Most of them have already decided, regardless of the state of the crisis, to hold a virtual event with us in 2021 as well. That in itself says a lot.
You sound convinced that virtual events will not disappear just like that. What makes you so sure?
Michèle: The success of virtual fairs is undeniable. Visitors have had a taste of how user-friendly and unique a virtual event can be. The luxury of being able to access a trade show or conference from any location is something they will not give up easily. It is also an affordable service that event organizers can offer as an extra. There is no doubt about it. The future is Fairtual.