Yet, what came by the close of the first quarter could not have been predicted and now 9 months later, we as business owners still find ourselves battling through the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

Social distancing, facemasks and remote working aside, a fundamental change to 2020 has been the sheer lack of corporate exhibitions and events, an avenue in which a vast percentage of businesses rely on each year to reach new target audiences, generate leads and drive business growth.

Initially, events were postponed and then either cancelled or hosted virtually, however those with poor organisation and little progression beyond the realms of Zoom soon established a negative reputation, putting many corporates ‘off' hosting their own digital experience.

However, when the right technology has been implemented and real thought has been applied to delegate interaction, virtual events provide an excellent platform for stakeholder engagement and offer a host of benefits for the business in hand: 

Brand Awareness

Whether participating in a trade or business exhibition or hosting your own corporate conference, virtual events provide just as great an opportunity for increasing brand awareness as face-to-face events.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, online traffic and the use of social media platforms has soared as we continue to operate remotely and spend the majority of our weekends indoors. This means, with a strong marketing strategy behind it, you can reach, engage with and introduce your brand to more people than ever before, without any venue limitations and/or footfall restrictions. 

Lead Generation

History has shown us time and time again that the businesses who retreat from any form of marketing and advertising activity during periods of economic hardship are the ones who will struggle most as markets start to the recover.

This supported by the McGraw-Hill research, which showed that the businesses who maintained or increased their advertising spend during the 1981 recession, secured 256% higher sales compared to the businesses that didn't by 1985.

As long as an effective registration and follow up process is put in place, virtual events provide a key opportunity to reach a vast target audience and generate new business leads, without an extensive increase in time, cost or resource. Key to this is the use of an automated B2B email marketing platform, which, aside from enabling corporates to follow up on mass, maximises the event experience and will keep your brand front of mind as delegates ‘leave' the room.

Company Culture

Over the last 9 months, millions of businesses have been forced to transform how they operate and adapt to remote working, which has resulted in many staff members struggling with feeling isolated.

One of the best ways in which to improve staff morale is by engaging employees in the business, ensuring they know what it stands for, its mission, vision and values and, most critically, the importance of their role within it.

Exhibiting at or hosting a virtual corporate event offers a proven solution, not only providing the opportunity for staff members to strengthen their position within the business and relationships with their peers, but to also reinforce team spirit and boost morale as we enter a new calendar year.

The Future of Hybrid

With evolving Government restrictions and Scientists predicting that it will take months for the vaccine roll out to prove effective, life will not return to any form of normality soon. For the events industry, this ‘new normal' will result in the introduction of a hybrid solution that combines both the face to face and virtual event experience.

Aside from adhering to capacity limitations, which are likely to adapt over the next 3 - 6 months as the pandemic continues to unfold, the hybrid event experience enables corporates and other organisations to reach and engage with more delegates than ever before via the use of technology, without losing or compromising the face-to-face experience for both the businesses and delegates who want to interact in person; combining the ‘best of both Worlds'.

Although Government restrictions have now eased to allow corporate events to take place with limited numbers, we still have a long way to go until we return to any form of normality and can enjoy the face-to-face event experience that millions of us so fondly remember pre-COVID. Until this time, 100% virtual events or a hybrid solution can provide a viable and positive alternative - and when managed and hosted correctly with the right tech solution - offer a host of benefits for corporates that simply cannot be ignored.

Meena Chander, Founder and CEO of dynamic full-service events management agency, Events Together.