Corporate belt-tightening seems to be the rule rather than the exception in 2011. As many companies prepare for a possible financial downturn in the second half of this year, many CFOs continue to look for ways to reign-in the costs of doing business. One popular area for cutbacks is the corporate travel budget. While necessary trips to client meetings are often protected, travel to conferences and other discretionary events are frequently curtailed. Given the importance of some of these gatherings, alternate means of attendance are often sought to compensate. A study released by BtoB Magazine entitled the State of Virtual Events documents some key findings relative to value proposition, demand, triggers and metrics as they pertain to the virtual event market. Following is a summary of some of the insights gleaned from this study.
Sixty percent of the BtoB audience respondents polled for the survey reported that they would indeed be more involved in attending virtual conferences in 2011. The median number of seminars and virtual learning events they expected to attend fell within the 11 to 20 range. They predicted that advanced planning for these events would average one to three months prior with the events themselves budgeted for $25,000 or below. Among the value propositions cited by respondents for implementing virtual events are: enhancing corporate value by providing a strong marketing platform for the company, decreased sales and marketing costs and enhancing corporate image relative to use of innovative marketing and communications strategies.
While seminars (69%) and virtual learning (62%) are among the top uses for virtual events, other reasons for using VEs include: press conferences and investor relations briefings (19%), focus groups (21%), corporate events such as sales meeting and board meetings (31%), audience recruitment and lead generation (35%), product launches (31%) and brand awareness (30%). In general, approximately one-third of the respondents polled thought that the virtual events that they had scheduled in the past had been well attended. This positive outcome undoubtedly led many companies to reinvest for more of the same in 2011. Slightly over one-third have increased their budgets for VEs by up to 10% over 2010, while approximately 16% have increased this outlay by 11% or more.
One of the drawbacks of virtual get-togethers is the possibility of decreased satisfaction scores versus actual in-person attendance at conferences and the like. On a scale of one to ten, approximately 40% of those interviewed reported a satisfaction score of seven or less for sessions that they have attended virtually in the past. Nevertheless, Gugelplex TV believes that it is important to recognize the cost-benefit trade-off to virtual versus in-person attendance especially during uncertain times and periods of low economic growth.
Gugelplex TV believes that efforts to increase the attractiveness of such gatherings from a creative perspective may help to raise satisfaction scores going forward. For example, moving beyond the use of Webex-like conferencing systems to in-theater experiences might prove to make virtual events more engaging and entertaining. Local movie theaters often allow marketers to rent their auditoriums in multiple locations for corporate events such as sales or board meetings during weekday daytime hours when movie attendance is low. Interactive use of large screen presentations with digital surround-sound can make a significant difference as television networks have often found when hosting network upfront presentations in the late spring. These types of virtual events are likely to carry a significantly higher price tag than those conducted over Webex. However, the costs for hosting in-theater virtual presentations will most likely be far less than flying 200 employees from New York to Los Angeles or Chicago for an overnight stay at a “moderately priced” hotel to attend a corporate event where a large venue has been rented for the occasion. We believe that the importance of virtual event planning in today’s market should not be easily dismissed.
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