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Webinars & Virtual Events - Any Good?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, a wealth of webinars and virtual events has been introduced to the world. If we ever thought that there were too many physical events and trade-shows, the COVID-19 by all measures exceeds.
Webinars and virtual events are easy to set up and push to market, so this has become a space that services different perspectives. It’s an ‘opportunity’ for trade-shows to keep some stakeholders (mainly exhibitors, I would say) in the loop. For vendors, this is an opportunity to keep prospects and customers hot. For media and companies like my own INKISH, a chance to teach - but again being honest - a chance to have some revenue, keeping your sponsors close, and of course, serve your audience.
All this is good, but you can end up saturating the market with all things good if you get too much.
So we have at least three types of providers:
Trade-shows and events such as drupa, fespa, dscoop, thINK, PRINTING United, and those alike
Vendors - like HP, Koenig & Bauer, Durst, Heidelberg, etc.
Others - like Virtual Summit, Elevate Print/Girls Who Print, our own Learn With Us.
All are executed quite differently. Like the recurring Crown Pub, some events are LIVE social gatherings using Zoom as a platform. The Virtual Summit mainly contains pre-recorded sessions. Like Koenig & Bauer and Heidelberg, vendors have spent a lot of money setting up professional recording teams, audio, video, etc. to have a few sessions daily and execute these in both English and German.
Of course, I am not in a position where I can judge the webinars I have seen - I will, however, “judge” a general thing. When you are asked to register for an event and participate at a specific time, I find it extremely annoying when the sessions are pre-recorded. Why shouldn’t I be able to login to a website (or YouTube for that matter) and watch the content created as I want? Why do I need to sit and watch a video at a specific time? It could MAYBE be justified if the event planned Q&A sessions for the audience afterward - but it strikes me that the pre-recorded sessions are WAY easier to execute with way fewer technical issues.
Almost ALL of the 100% live events experience technical issues. We are using the Webinarjam platform for the INKISH events, and though it has been evaluated as one of the best platforms - it has a lot of flaws. So many flaws that you almost every time end up saying - NO more LIVE events - ever.
For me, the number one event by all measures - and regardless of technical flaws - is the LIVE events, where you can interact with the speaker and the moderator.
Last week the Flemish organization VIGC held its HET conference. The event was held live in a professional studio, so light, camera, editing, sound, internet connection by all measures delivered the best platform I have seen to date. We were so fortunate to have our own Jacques Michiels from INKISH Benelux on the podium. You will soon be able to see his presentation on INKISH - and I am sure the other presentations will also be available online soon. But - and there is always a but - NO audience interaction.
The second best format for me is the Crown Pub. The Crown Pub is a bit unusual since British Vpress hosts it - and though Vpress is not using the weekly/bi-weekly event to promote their products and services, the awareness they have got by hosting this event is impressive. Every event has a subject, and often a guest is invited not to give a presentation or a speech, but an opportunity to get information from a specialist. I was so fortunate to be invited as a special one time and have participated on multiple occasions.
As mentioned - The Crown Pub uses Zoom - and though I am not blown away by Zoom as a platform, it serves the purpose. So well done, Vpress.
Part of this information overflow is that events are LONG. For companies like INKISH, it’s a matter of creating a “school” format with interesting subjects like our Back to School or Smart Factory that we believe are interesting and allows us to reach out to multiple potential sponsors AND specialists who can contribute to an exciting program.
Virtual Summit also combined editorial and sponsored content to create a mix that makes it financially interesting to spend the MANY MANY MANY hours planning, managing, organizing, etc.
Our prices are typically 1.000€ for a sponsored session - and still restrictions in subjects/and how commercial it can be. We also offer customers what we call gold-sponsor opportunities - but as the number of virtual events keeps growing, we will change our format 100% from 2021.
In the new format, we will focus on letting participants - both commercials and editorials - do way more of the setup themselves in a new platform we are developing. Instead of charging up-front fees, we will charge fees based on success. This format we have high believes in - and we also think it will push the boundaries a bit.
With more and more events around, the commercial value - if measured in the number of attendees LIVE - will decrease. For at least me, a surprise is how low the attendee-ratio is compared to signups. You can have events with 200 people pre-registering, and only 40-50 of these attend. As we experienced, you can also have 400 people registered, 100 attended, and more than 400 attended non-registered.
For both sponsors and organizers of the virtual events, you have to ask whether the content is more important than the number of registrants. When we edit all participants into separate films on INKISH, we have acknowledged that a virtual event for us is not a question of LIVE attendees but about getting content that can be utilized on our platform later.
Being a media, we live of content, so this makes sense. For vendor-events, they don’t have a platform. Or even worse, organizers like drupa and fespa - who not only don’t have the platforms, they also have limited good relations with the media.
Virtual events and webinars can NOT replace anything of now. It MAY be an OK substitute for now, but the software used to execute these events is not even close to giving attendees a seamless and excellent experience - in my view.

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