There are benefits to virtual events vs. in-person events.
NamesCon has announced a virtual conference taking place September 9-11, 2021. Organizers promise educational sessions, regional tracks, networking, and virtual vendor booths.
You might think that nothing can replace in-person conferences, and you’re right. The key is to think of virtual conferences not as a replacement for physical conferences, but as a different type of educational and networking experience.
I recently helped my wife organize a virtual event and have evaluated lots of online event platforms. Here are four ways I’ve found that a virtual conference can be better than a live conference:
Networking can be better – It seems counterintuitive, but networking virtually can be better than in person. Sure, there are no late-night meet-at-the-bar discussions, but there are upsides. For one, you might meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet. I know that I tend to greet people at conferences that I already know. Virtual event networking can introduce you to more people. Those conversations can be one-on-one without the distractions of people coming up to interrupt you, talking over a loud crowd, etc. It’s also easier to take notes and follow up. And for introverts who don’t like to walk up to strangers, automated matchmaking at virtual events is a big plus.
Better content and more flexible viewing – Let’s face it, many conferences rehash the same topics with the same speakers each year. Virtual conferences must up the game to keep people interested, and this puts pressure on organizers to do a better job. Hopefully, NamesCon 360 will deliver. A benefit of virtual conferences is that it’s easier to switch between sessions. Recorded sessions make it possible to attend two sessions held at the same time.
Vendors can reach a larger audience at a lower cost – The economics of virtual conferences are different. This means that vendors can get in front of their target audience without spending as much for a vendor spot and spending thousands on a booth, travel, and cheap plastic swag.
More people can attend – NamesCon hasn’t announced pricing yet, but most virtual events are free or very low cost to attend. Even putting aside the ticket price, there’s no airfare and hotel tab for virtual events. This means more people from more parts of the world can attend.
Note that the title of this article is that virtual events can be better, not that they necessarily are. NamesCon 360 will be different for sure. Organizers need to deliver with a solid platform and great content.
One concern I have is that the event stretches over three days. Virtual events need critical mass for networking and vendor booths to make sense, and I worry that spreading it over three days instead of one will make it difficult to sustain audience momentum. But I’m hopeful this event can bring us all together in a time that we can’t meet in person.