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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in-person events largely came to a halt in 2020 as organizations shifted from in-person to virtual meetings, webinars, and larger events. Now, as conditions improve in many parts of the world, and restrictions ease, event managers are increasingly planning for a mix of virtual, in-person, and hybrid events going forward. To determine future plans, Metrigy recently conducted a study of more than 235 organizations, with a minimum of 250 employees, based in North America. Among participants, we found that:

  • 64% are planning to increase the number of virtual events in 2021
  • 58% are planning for hybrid events that include a mix of in-person and virtual attendees

Over the last year, to support the rapid shift from in-person to virtual events, nearly half of organizations have adopted multiple platforms to conduct various internal and external events. Examples include meetings and conferencing apps for small group meetings, webinar and streaming platforms for larger internal and external one-to-many presentations, and complex event management services to support multi-session / multi-day events with sponsorships.

This has created an environment in which event managers must decide which platform to use for a given type of event, often having to choose from among a mix of multiple, overlapping tools, creating confusion, support challenges, and unnecessary costs. Our study found that participants spend an average of $11,860 per webinar and $16,016 per virtual event on platforms, including staffing, licensing, and operations and management of the platform during the event. Consolidating these different platforms into a single one that can support webinars, as well as hybrid virtual and in-person events, offers significant potential for cost savings.

In evaluating virtual and hybrid event management platforms, buyers have a lot of choices. We asked event managers to share the features they consider to be most important in running successful events. The most important features that event managers say they need include:

  • Advanced presentation features that enable various ways of presenting content such as placing speakers in front of their materials, and enabling different ways of showing presenters
  • Integration of event platforms into team collaboration apps to enable event teams to provide pre/during/post event management with real-time contextual information such as attendance and audio/video performance
  • Audience interaction features to enable attendees to socialize with one another
  • Live polling and Q&A to enable speakers to directly engage with attendees in real-time
  • Audience analytics to determine audience engagement

Other important features include automatic transcription of audio into text, breakout rooms, the ability to stream events to consumer platforms including Facebook and YouTube, support for large audiences in the tens or hundreds of thousands, integration of event registration into marketing automation platforms, an on-demand archives of past event content, and real-time translation of event transcripts into multiple languages.

As organizations return to in-person hybrid events, while continuing to hold both webinars and virtual events, now is the time to reevaluate your platform approach to reduce redundancy, save money, and take advantage of emerging new features that improve audience experiences and event management.