Virtual Event Technology for Meetings & Events
On more than one occasion, I have recently heard someone say that the event industry is struggling to adapt to a modern age where people are connecting remotely more and more. An example one professional gave was that to cut costs some companies are minimizing their physical events and are instead hosting online events where anybody with an internet connection around the world can tune in and participate. However, I find more and more that this information is anecdotal and that the influence of virtual technology on meetings & events actually has more benefits than it does drawbacks.
If you scan the web long enough you will find that there are people that say that eventually face-to-face meetings will become a rare occurrence. With technology-driven millennials taking over the market, this makes total sense, right?
Millennials love technology, social interaction and networking, so if you through virtual meetings in the mix, face-to-face meetings are sure to be gone, right? According to a recent study from HubSpot
, that could not be a more inaccurate description of current reality. In the survey, they revealed that 84% of people said that they still prefer in-person meeting and networking opportunities.
Virtual Meetings vs. Face to Face Meetings
Virtual meetings are growing in popularity, and more and more events that used to occur in a live setting are taking place virtually. However, there is also a global increase in the number of live events occurring around the world. Virtual meetings are intended as a method of information exchange and allow for very limited collaboration, networking, strategic thinking, and visual expression. Yes, that’s right. Both event mediums are growing independent of each other.
Many companies and organizations who were quick to abandon in-person meetings and events have recently realized the error of these practices re-integrated more live experiences into their practices. What you will hear from these kinds of organizations is that people often felt more and more disconnected in these settings; both socially and professionally.
Doing away with in-person meetings & events, and solely using virtual meetings, is largely considered mistake. What if people stopped all traditional dating and only used dating websites and chatrooms? It may work for some, but largely we all know this probably wouldn’t work for most people. There’s a much more open line of communication and understanding with face-to-face meetings and conferences than in virtual meetings. The key is picking which meetings and events should be live, and how to optimize them to allow for greater virtual connections moving forward.
Face-to-Face Meetings Have Unique Benefits
There are certain social cues present in face-to-face meetings that are just not available in virtual meetings: facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, hand gestures, etc. We all know this. Misunderstandings occur much more often when social cues are absent during the meeting. Social cues and first impressions when meeting someone can influence the entire business decision process. Meeting in-person allows you to make an impression that you otherwise couldn’t. Your attitude, the way you present yourself, the small talk you make is all different when meeting in person.
This is why key meetings and events for corporations and organizations should be conducted inside of a singular location where people can connect in way that is consistent with our social nature. Even the most introverted people benefit strongly from face-to-face interactions. It’s even been proven in some studies that introverts misconstrue virtual communication more commonly than extroverts, so you could event argue it is more important for introverts to experience live connections.
The relationships that people build virtually – through social media or virtual meetings – are simply different than the types of relationships that are built in-person. Both are extremely important. The best scenario is that in-person meetings and events support future relationship building. This is why all live events should do a better job encouraging the use of technology inside of their events. It can actually enhance the value of these live experiences.
Limited Accountability Leads to Limited Attention Span
The increase in the amount of technology used daily has caused most people to have shorter attention spans. Many times during virtual experiences people are easily distracted, which results in them taking part in unrelated online activities. Once attention levels start to dwindle, so does interactivity and discussion. This is one of the things that makes virtual social connections very different from in-person connections. Virtual experiences do not require a high level of social, personal, or emotional investment. This means it can be heard to build foundational experiences virtually.
However, the reduction of attention spans may be affecting live events as well. A recent research report by John Medina suggests that learning environments devoid of interactive experiences causes attention spans to be less than 10 minutes. However, most meetings and events are usually planned for hour increments. Face-to-face meetings and conferences do provide a sense of involvement and accountability requiring attendees to pay attention, but incorporating more interactive experiences into these events may be a good way to cater towards this change in our culture.
Switching Priorities from Cost-Cutting to Attendee Experience
If your goal is to maximize the impact of a meeting or event, the path is clear. Instead of thinking about cutting costs and the ease of execution, organizers should begin to think of the attendee experience
A meeting or event will be something that everyone who attends will now all have in common. It is a platform for new and future connections. It is an actual foundation for virtual social experiences.
Ultimately, virtual experiences and face-to-face meetings should be used synergistically by meeting planners and event organizers
. To create the strongest connections and best experiences possible this is what is required.