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The Unforeseen Benefits of Online Events

In this era, virtual events have replaced IRL events. Virtual events have many obvious benefits. No hotels, no event venues, no catering, no ensuring guests are in the right city at the right time. But there are unanticipated benefits that are only now coming to light.

Many of our portfolio companies have experimented with virtual events quite successfully. We have done the same with our Office Hours program. These are some of the things that we have observed running vevents (may I coin a new word for them?).

First, the number of attendees increases by a factor of 5-10x. Vevents amplify both registrants and attendees by similar multiples. An IRL event of 50, when transitioned online, will swell to 250-500 registrants. Curiously enough, the falloff rate between registration and attendance mirrors in-person events. I wonder what that says about human behavior.

Second, because vevents liberate attendees and organizers from logistics, they can be executed on short notice. Provoked by the right content, audiences will register for an event two or three weeks out. With shorter cycle times between events, marketing teams can accelerate their cadence, learn quicker, and engage more of their ecosystem: a virtuous virtual cycle.

Third, these vevents have filled the lead generation void left by the absence of IRL events, and then some. For marketing teams, this is a new muscle to flex, but the immediate impact to lead generation has evinced many marketers vevents are the future. If you’re a bit behind your lead generation number with 5 weeks to go in the quarter, you have time to spin up 2 vevents to overachieve the target.

Fourth, vevent platforms capture more granular data about the behavior of attendees than IRL events. Which vendors did attendees visit? How long did they tarry? Which talks did each person attend?

Because platforms log these activities, marketers can learn from every interaction at an event, something completely impossible IRL. Gone are the days of the two-dimensional barcode scanner and the clever tchotchke as bait. There are privacy implications, which is something industry must evolve to tackle. But, the novel data from vevents empowers marketers to serve customers better.

Of course, virtual events have trade-offs. There are fewer coincidental meetings, less Brownian motion serendipity. Sales conversions, ere account executives pressed flesh with customers, have been replaced by gladhanding over video. And, if you’re a presenter, it’s impossible to read the room. Don’t try a joke. The audience is silent and merciless, concealed behind your monitor somewhere in the ether.

And the primary question to ask, whose answer is still unclear, will virtual event attendees buy software at anywhere close to the typical IRL rates? I’m curious to see the funnel evolve over the next few quarters.

After attending and hosting virtual events, it’s clear to me they will continue to be an addition to the marketer’s quiver. And if you haven’t yet explored them at your startup, I think you should reconsider.