Business Motivations for Events (How to Apply Them to Virtual Events)


Our good friends at Virtual Edge Institute, PCMA and UBM Studios published a report titled “Business Motivations and Social Behaviors for In-Person and Online Events.” The report is based on insights from an online survey conducted earlier this year, with 479 respondents from North America.

In a press release announcing the availability of the report, the three parties shared a summary of the insights learned:

  1. People are Social Creatures – Both In-person and Online
  2. Participants are Easily Distracted
  3. Business Travel Sentiment – Likelihood of attending physical vs. online events

I’d like to cover how you can put these insights to use in your upcoming virtual events.

How to Apply: “People are Social Creatures”

According to the release, “Over 80% of respondents are comfortable/extremely comfortable connecting and networking with strangers regardless of setting – both physical and virtual.”

In a physical event, planners can design activities to encourage attendee networking – however,a lot of networking at a face-to-face event comes naturally, by virtue of being together in the same area (e.g. chatting with someone while on the food line).

Digital event planners, in turn, do not have the advantage of physical proximity. As such, digital event planners need to make strategic use of the digital event plartform to encourage networking (e.g. attendee to attendee, attendee to sponsor, etc.).

Tools available to the digital event planner:

  1. Scheduled chats
  2. Scheduled moderated chats
  3. Ongoing chats (e.g. Lounge)
  4. Integration of social networks
  5. Social gaming
  6. Blogs
  7. Message Boards
  8. “Attendee discovery tools,” such as LinkedIn integration
  9. Buddy Lists / Friend Lists
  10. Activity displays of buddy/friend activity
Related Resources
How to Apply: “Participants Are Easily Distracted”

The survey results indicate that while both physical and online attendees are easily distracted, it’s easier for online attendees to “step away” (e.g. take a phone call, surf elsewhere on the web, etc.).

While we’ve always known of this tendency (in online attendees), this result should be a call to action behind engaging content and engaging activities. In other words, your content needs to shine, but you also need to draw your audience in to be a part of the event.

Examples include:

  1. Audience engagement in webinars (e.g. polls, quizzes, games, breakout rooms)
  2. Take your attendees on guided tours of the online event
  3. Use moderated chats to allow your audience to connect with your keynote presenters
  4. A video Q&A session with a prominent speaker
  5. “Attendees as publishers” via an integrated blogging system
How to Apply: “Business Travel Sentiment”

The survey results indicate that those who enjoy business travel are more likely to attend physical events, while those who do not enjoy business travel are more likely to attend an online event.

Those who do not enjoy business travel made up 17% of the survey respondents. Because the respondents are likely associated with the events industry (in some way), let’s assume this percentage is a bit higher among the broader population and call it 25%.

What this tells me is that event planners ought strongly consider hybrid events, which blend physical and digital experiences. If you don’t, you could be missing out on 25% (or more) of your target audience. And don’t forget, the digital extension serves as a great lead generation tool for the physical event, as Cisco Live has shared.

Related Resources

I’m thankful to the research from Virtual Edge Institute, PCMA and UBM Studios. Our industry needs more research like this, so we can better understand audience needs and embark on discussions and collaboration on how to best address those needs.

Use the comments area below to share your thoughts on this research report.

Further Information
  1. Press Release: PCMA, UBM Studios and VEI Reveal Work-Related Uses of Events, Expositions and Virtual Engagements in New Survey
  2. Download the Report: Business Motivations and Social Behaviors for In-Person and Online Events


Post contributed by Dennis Shiao