The State of the Virtual Meetings and Events Industry 2013

Undoubtedly, the past few years have shaped the events industry in a new way. We had to face the harsh reality of the budget cuts following the economic downturn, however, there is still hope, since that same period was also marked by some great technological advancements that allowed us to expand the market to new territories. I find it crucial that at times when corporate events were kept at a minimum and event planners saw a disappointing drop in attendance, virtual meetings rapidly gained popularity.

Recently ON24 published their Webinar Benchmarks Report 2013 which provides some interesting insights on the online events industry. According to ON24 ‘[w]ebinars have become one of the most important tools companies for communicating with their employees, partners, customers and prospects.’ This is no surprise, especially in the context of international organisations, which now can communicate screen-to-screen so to say, regardless of geographical location.

Some of the key findings of the report include the following statistics:

– The average webcast captures 433 registrants
– Average viewership per webcast is 53 minutes
– Webinars are averaging a 42% registrant-to-attendee conversion rate

While a majority of events average between 200 and 400 attendees, over 15% of webinars in the study had over 500 attendees

According to The British Meetings & Events Industry Survey 2011/12 16,5% of associations and 20,6% of corporate have used virtual meetings in addition to face-to-face meetings, while 13,4% of associations and 12% of corporate have already replaced physical meetings with virtual ones.

If you are considering on holding a webinar as an alternative to a physical event, it appears, you will need to alter your marketing strategy. It’s safe to say offline marketing will have little to no effect. The Webinar Benchmarks Report 2013 provides that 80% of the marketing mix consists of email, website, emails from sales and third party content (content syndication and newsletters), while 20% is attributed to partners, banners ads, SEM and social media. It is interesting to note that SEM and social media comprise such a small part of the marketing mix. This can be interpreted, in my personal opinion, only as a call out to many companies to expand their presence on social media and learn how to make use of it. Another interesting discovery is that Tuesdays are the days that bring most registrations. This, of course, may be subject to reconsideration when taking into account target audience and industry.

If you are still uncertain as to whether or not virtual events are an adequate solution, let’s look into some advantages and disadvantages that may be encountered when planning an online event.

Some advantages of virtual events include:

– saves time and resources in planning
– big time budget cuts
– places are not limited
– can be attended regardless of physical location
– opportunities to broaden your reach
– sophisticated attendee tracking
– it is the greenest alternative of physical events
– attendees encounter no additional costs such as travelling
– recording allows participants to go back to the webinar whenever they need to
– on-demand increases your outreach – 25% percent of people request the event afterwards

While this is only a small list of the advantages offered by virtual events, the disadvantages, however humble in numbers may give weight to the cons for some.

Some notable disadvantages are:

– technical problems and unforeseeable connectivity issues
– quality of the webcast
– lack of human contact
– networking cannot occur in the traditions sense of the word
– computer literacy
– you will need to look for new sponsors and substantially alter your sponsorship packages

Essentially, events are experiences – the question is whether or not you can create a memorable experience out of your event when your attendees are sitting comfortably at home.


Image credit: Daria Nepriakhina | CC0 License