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Coronavirus: Don’t Cancel Your Events, Make Them Virtual

The global MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conference & Events) industry is a trillion dollar industry – but the Coronavirus pandemic has left many event planners and organisers unsure of how to meet their objectives without being able to hold physical events. But a local start-up believes there’s still a way for people to host events and reach their audiences: by tapping into the growing phenomenon of online events.

Mike Lysko, the CEO and founder of Flock Eventing Platform, says online events have been steadily gaining in popularity over the past couple of years as people look to reduce their carbon footprint, and the COVID-19 outbreak could be the tipping point that takes them mainstream.

“A few years ago, holding an event with a camera, a microphone and a computer screen might have seemed crazy. But improved technology and emerging health situations have changed our view on traditional events. The great news for event hosts and planners is that it’s not only still possible to bring people together, but we’re able to create completely online events with an almost similar – and in some cases, better – experience,” says Lysko.

Case in point: in May 2018, millions of investors turned on their computers to watch Warren Buffett’s comments at the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder’s meeting. In September 2019, Apple’s iPhone 11 launch event attracted 1.8 million people to its live stream.

For event managers, the sudden growth of online events creates new ways of connecting with larger audiences. A recent survey by the US-based business events industry body PCMA found that 67 percent of respondents will use technology to remotely participate in events in the next three years. In South Africa, a poll run by Lysko at the recent SAACI (Southern African Association for the Conference Industry) event showed that while 83% of event professionals believe that conferences will still be relevant 10 to 20 years from now, 91% believe their use of technology will increase during this year.

“In a world where people can’t (or don’t want to) travel, hosting an online event may be the way of the future – and could redefine the way we reach our audiences. We think the future holds more of a hybrid approach to events than previously, and it will be a stronger combination of physical and online events,” says Lysko. “To truly engage audiences, though, you’ll need to deliver a stand-out online event experience that delivers real value to attendees.”

A typical online event solution includes the ability to:

  • Invite people and manage RSVPs through an app or event page
  • Market the event, as with any physical event
  • Connect with, and see who is attending
  • Deliver all documents, talks and other information to attendees directly
  • Participate in live or pre-recorded event sessions, and live breakaway sessions
  • Comment and engage in sessions with the speakers
  • See exhibitor offerings, and engage with them
  • Provide event feedback easily
  • Create hype and communicate with attendees

“Events are usually held to either connect people, and to share information. Through online events, or hosting an entire event through an app, we can now provide the ability for attendees to connect with each other, and for people to live stream and engage in sessions. This essentially provides a similar experience for those attending your events, virtually or physically – and allows you to reach a bigger audience than ever before,” says Lysko.

“Regardless of carbon footprint or health issues, presenting online events will become increasingly relevant in the coming years to reduce travel and the cost of physical events. We don’t think events will ever only be online, as the need for human connection is intrinsic to us. But you can bet we love being part of the online event revolution!”

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