Virtual events here to stay as convenience and cost factors come into play

One in three of Australians now attend more than 10 virtual events a month, according to a new study that indicates the sharp growth in online events sparked by the need to work and meet remotely could become permanent.

The study by digital event specialist Redback Connect showed more than half (51%) of the respondents to expect to attend even more virtual events this time next year, while four in five say virtual events can be “as good as or better than their physical event counterparts”.

Almost two in three respondents (64%) now attend six or more digital events a month, while the proportion of ‘heavy’ digital event-goers (those attending more than 10 events a month) soared from 2% in 2019 to 30% of respondents this year.

Live viewing is increasing, with four in five respondents (83%) attending at least half of all digital events live rather than on demand, up from 64% who did so in 2019. The most common digital events attended include webinars, internal company meetings, workshops, briefings, external conferences and customer meetings.

The study follows earlier research that indicated four in five workers (80%) expect face-to-face meetings will decline even when they re-enter the physical office environment.

“Australians now attend virtual events so often, they know they can achieve most of the things that used to be done face-to-face in the digital environment, at greater convenience and for a fraction of the cost,” said Redback founder and chief executive officer Jeff Downs.

But Downs warned virtual events organisers to guard against “digital event fatigue” with 86% of respondents saying they have abandoned a virtual event early, up from 66% a year earlier.

The most common reasons to leave a virtual event early include content that is “not what I signed up for” and presenters that are “too salesy and not educational enough”.

“People won’t put up with irrelevant content, disengaged presenters or a poor technical experience,” Downs said.

“Digital events must offer valuable content and be executed well, with engaging presenters, easy-to-use technology and crystal clear audio.

“The good news is Australians are leveraging the convenience of virtual events; our data shows people are registering to attend them in record numbers and watching the content on demand if the live time doesn’t suit.

“They have taken to video conferencing very quickly and in fact, are open to the use of innovative technologies such as virtual and augmented reality.”