With the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly here to stay for the time being, societies across the world have begun to settle into their version of the “new normal”. Co-existing with the highly contagious virus has meant a change in priorities, as well as both lifestyle and work habits.
One of the few positives this year has been the uptake in digital adoption. Workplaces have now implemented increasing use of collaborative software and apps to ensure that their businesses can continue to function even as their employees remain at home. The events industry, for one, has begun to undertake innovative measures through the use of technology to bring their events online with mixed success.
Most recently, Detective Comics (DC) Entertainment staged what was possibly the most successful online consumer event to date. Titled DC FanDome, the 24-hour online event was a celebration of its multiple franchises and superheroes. Eight hours of fresh content including highly anticipated teasers and appearances by actors and other personalities, ran thrice to ensure that everyone around the world had equal opportunity to attend the free event. The event was largely lauded by critics to be a huge success. In contrast, Comic-Con@Home, the similarly-themed five-day online convention failed to garner any positive reviews or hype – with tweets about Comic-Con sharply falling a steep 95% from the previous year.
While admittedly not being a fan of pop-culture, I attended the DC FanDome out of professional curiosity. While Comic-Con at home focused largely on online panels for fans, the organisers at DC FanDome understood that online events focusing on personalities such as content creators and actors would undeniably deny attendees of the excitement of meeting these personalities face-to-face. Instead, DC FanDome chose to focus on exciting content that would engage its audience. Never-before-seen trailers for upcoming movies, shows and even games surround the DC Universe kept online attendees enthralled throughout the event.
The end-result spoke for itself, and DC FanDome recorded 22 million online visitors by its end. The massive online buzz that the online event created far outstripped any live event and fully showcased the possibilities that technology can bring. Online events, when done right, bring accessibility to a global audience, truly shrinking the distance, making location a non-factor in the grand scheme of things.
Similar to consumer events, businesses have also pivoted to hosting webinars in place of live seminars and workshops. Digital platforms that facilitate these online activities such as Zoom and WebEx have seen a drastic increase in adoption and activity. Zoom in particular, saw its meeting participants grow from an estimated 10 million in December 2019 to over 300 million in April 2020. Recent research has in fact concluded that the pandemic has fast-forwarded digital adoption, exceeding global projections by an estimated five years.
Webinars and online events enjoy the same advantages that consumer events do. Location flexibility and cost-effectiveness translate to the ability to reach out to attendees from the world-over at lower costs. Truthfully, such business-based virtual events have been on the rise even before COVID-19. Various businesses have already seen the effectiveness of webinars for lead generation, as well as a means to interact with their customers to present after-sale value and engage them through their mid and late stage after-sales conversations.
The emergence of the pandemic has surely hastened more companies to adopt webinars and other online events. While 2020 will continue to be seen as a year of experimentation and adoption out of necessity, there is wisdom in adopting sustainable solutions that go beyond the pandemic instead of looking for a fix-gap solution to tide your company through the pandemic.
To that, businesses must answer these questions:
As it is with most things in business, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to creating an online event for your business. A good understanding of your platform will go some ways in helping you to work with its limitations, while taking advantage of its strengths. However, with all this talk about technology and digital adoption, it is easy to forget the true focus of your business – your customers.
In the earlier consumer case-study, we saw how the organisers at DC FanDome benefited from insights into the thought process of their target audience. Similarly, businesses looking to launch webinars and other business-related online events must take a user-centric approach in order to create meaningful engagement with their target audience.