Do Virtual Conferences Have a Future Post-Pandemic?

Virtual Conference Trends

The “New Norm” is now being used to identify the state of almost all industries, and the business event segment is no different. Asking “Do Virtual Conferences Have a Future Post-Pandemic?” is completely appropriate considering where we are at the moment. And the answer is it will have some future, but business events will continue as before as soon as a vaccine is found.

In the meantime, virtual conferences are the norm. Our very own events page on Small Business Trends is now populated with virtual conferences and webinars. This is what a new infographic presented by Data Connectors and developed by NowSourcing is looking at.

Titled, Virtual Summits and the Future of Business Gatherings in a Post-COVID Era, the report asks, ‘How are conferences affected by this shift?” Not only are the conferences affected, but the impact on local economies is also a big issue.

These events are a boon to the cities hosting them, including the many small businesses located in those cities —  hotels, restaurants, social businesses like clubs and bars, etc. And the cancellations are costing cities around the world millions of dollars.

The Cost of Cancelled Events

According to the report, the global events industry currently stands at $1.5 trillion. And since COVID-19, the vast majority of events have closed or rescheduled, while others have gone virtual.

Direct spending on airfare, hotel stays, dining and transportation are responsible for generating more than $1 trillion annually. As it stands now, all of this has come to a grinding halt. Furthermore, there are direct losses related to events.

For example, the infographic says Mobile World Congress lost $480M, SXSW $350M, E3 $75M, Google I/O $20M and many others.

While the numbers are enormous, the loss to individual vendors and attendees is more impactful. For a small business missing a single conference will have devastating consequences. Huge losses in income and future opportunities are on the line.

The loss for local businesses comes from hosting events and attendees spending in shops and attractions. A great example of this impact is the 280,000 people who attended the 2019 SXSW event in Austin, TX. This doesn’t include the tens of thousands of people who attend panels, parties and concerts at the same time spread across hundreds of venues in Austin.

The total number of people for 2020 was estimated at around 400,000.

Virtual Conference Trends

The one thing this pandemic has accomplished is to force organizations to reassess the way they do business. And business events have been adapting by holding virtual and even holographic conferences. The report says by 2021, video and web conferencing will account for 80% of all internet traffic. This means both businesses and consumers are now comfortable with this form of communication and interaction.

A virtual conference will:

  • Eliminate travel costs
  • Reduce the price of admission
  • Deliver more targeted event focus
  • Allow organizers to invest more into speakers
  • Reduce environmental pollution

Additionally, organizers can create unique features for attendees with talks, discussions and panels to address their specific needs. Customized content allows online participants to engage on a higher level. The report says the engagement level is as much as 86% compared to in-person conferences. So, there clearly are many benefits to holding a virtual conference.

The question is how many of these events will permanently move their conferences to a digital platform? If not, is a hybrid conference on the horizon?

Local Events

When we finally do get back to normal, will people prefer local events? The infographic points out 15% of travelers plan to avoid public transport and large cities, even after cities and states lift their restrictions.

The virtual conferences companies are holding now will deliver some highly insightful data points, and businesses will not forget about them. In the end, virtual conferences will be part of all business events. After all, the thought of reaching millions of attendees around the world can’t be ignored no matter how many people physically attend a conference.

Take a look at the infographic below for more.

Virtual Conference Trends


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Michael Guta Michael Guta is the Assistant Editor at Small Business Trends and has been with the team for 9 years. He currently manages its East African editorial team. Michael brings with him many years of content experience in the digital ecosystem covering a wide range of industries. He holds a B.S. in Information Communication Technology, with an emphasis in Technology Management.