In July 2011, the Virtual Edge Institute published a report on “Business Motivations and Social Behaviors for In-Person and Online Events”.
Engagement and Interaction
“A common misconception is that attendees are uncomfortable networking with strangers online and prefer a face-to-face setting for communicating and connecting with others. In fact, over 80% of respondents stated they are comfortable/very comfortable connecting and networking with strangers in a physical (88%) or online (81%) setting. The cross tab data shows an interesting correlation for those that like to travel; they are much more inclined to indicate that they are very comfortable in meeting people at physical events and are somewhat less comfortable meeting people in virtual environments than other groups. Furthermore, 70% said they are comfortable/very comfortable using video/webcam to chat and meet others online, with 65% comfortable/very comfortable using an avatar in a 3D immersive environment or game. About a third said they are uncomfortable with these types of online interaction techniques.”
Multi-Tasking or Task Flexibility
“Virtual and in-person attendees are multi-tasking during events with an almost identical percentage checking email (greater than80%), leaving the session for some reason (65% plus), tweeting or texting out of boredom (32% plus) and IM-ing to share information (28% plus). Where we see significant differences in distracted behavior is with telephone calls, with 66% of virtual attendees reporting phone use versus 48% for in-person participants. Shopping/surfing on the web also showed noteworthy differences with 42% of virtual attendees versus 28% of in-person attendees reporting this distraction. This may indicate a need for a more interactive experience for online attendees, such as video/audio chat, real-time demos and live expert Q&A, to more fully engage their attention spans, and to minimize the temptation to engage in other online and offline activities.
What some see as a lack of engagement or multi-tasking can also be seen actually as a benefit of the online scenario. Since multi-tasking behavior is more enabled in the online event world, productivity could potentially be segmented or streamlined, for example users can start activities online, shift modes to offline (phone call), then return online to where they left off, providing task flexibility with task continuity.”
Motivations for Attendees
“Attendees continue to show interest in virtual events due to the value of the content provided and ease of getting to that content in virtual environments. Top drivers to attending virtually include: compelling content (97%); easy-to-use environment (90%); ability to ask questions and participate actively (90%); travel costs and hassles eliminated (88%); and minimizing time away from family/office (87%).
For online as well as in-person attendees, the motivation to network and connect is very high and represents a major opportunity to improve the networking activities at virtual events. Perhaps this may require more innovation in technology platforms but, again using the online dating example, we know that discovering and establishing meaningful relationships online is being done with current technology so the indication would be that the innovation needed for events and meetings is more a factor of how that technology is being utilized and toward what ends.”
Social Media Extends Events
“An interesting statistic to take note of is the percentage of online and in-person delegates who have tweeted, texted or instant messaged during an event to share information to their network. People are social by nature and social media allows them to share information with colleagues and peers whether they are at a physical or online event.
• IMd to share information: 33% online / 28% physical
• Texted/tweeted to share information: 41% online / 51% physical
This showcases the power of social media to create engagement amongst attendees themselves and between delegates and event producers. This is a trend worth following as this supports how delegates are leveraging technology to extend the content beyond the walls of both physical and online events to their networks and entire communities.”
“The primary driver for going virtual is extending the reach of their events. The reason being that event producers are still concerned that their audience cannot (or will not) travel to the physical event. Clearly some of the programs being done online are not of the nature to warrant a physical counterpart. A large number also feel there are some instances where the content and program were better suited to an online-only experience. Monetization and cost savings ranked fifth and seventh respectively as considerations for producing a virtual engagement. Though we know that for those that are trying to generate new revenue streams and for those that need to cover the cost of the online experience, revenue is a top priority. Of those who have produced a virtual engagement, the main motivation for holding a virtual event is unrelated to generating revenue or cost issues.”