Host More Successful Digital Events

A new benchmarking report on digital events, based on responses from 200 event producers, allows meeting professionals to see how their online events measure up and also identify areas of opportunity.

Is your online event attendance growing? How much time does an attendee spend at your online event? What are your goals for producing online events? How much do you charge virtual attendees?

These questions—and more—were asked as part of the Digital Event Benchmark Report, a survey of 200 event producers. The study, which was conducted by the Virtual Edge Institute (VEI) and commissioned by Freeman, was released earlier this week.

“Engaging people using online meeting and event technology has never been more important,” said VEI’s Executive Director Michael Doyle in a press release. “Armed with the information from this study, we can help the industry gain insight into best practices for digital events and hybrid extensions in order to improve event marketing ROI and deliver real results.”

One of the report’s positive findings around online events: 67.7 percent of respondents said that their online attendance is up, compared to only 9.7 percent who say attendance is down.

The benchmarking report also found:

Online attendees stick around. About 35 percent said that average attendees spend more than three hours in an online event. (And another 14.5 percent said their attendees spend more than 5 hours in an online event.) By comparison, a recent webinar benchmarking study [PDF] reported average attendance at 53 minutes.

Event producers have business objectives. Online event producers have multiple goals, and many match those that meeting planners strive for when executing face-to-face events. For example, 82 percent said they want their online events to expand their reach and audience. In addition, respondents want to make greater use of their educational assets: Nearly 60 percent said their goal is to provide education to those who cannot attend the in-person events, and that same amount said they want to “make better use of event education by making it available online.”

The bottom line counts. Half of respondents want to generate revenue from their online events, and 46.3 percent use online events to market their products or organization.

When it comes to sponsorships, 34.5 percent say they always provide sponsor opportunities, while 41.4 percent say they sometimes do and 24.1 percent say they don’t. The survey found the three most successful techniques are overall event sponsorships, advertising, and sponsorships tied to in-person event sponsorships or exhibits. What’s least successful? Online booths.

There’s room for improvement. While 50 percent want to generate revenue from their online events, only 22.5 percent charge for live access to virtual meetings. The survey shows 47.9 percent don’t charge anyone for live access to an online event and 53.1 percent don’t charge for later access to on-demand content.

Another area ripe for improvement is how to market captured, on-demand content. While 60 percent of respondents said they continuously market this content, about one-third don’t do any marketing at all. According to the report, email marketing is the most significant registration driver for digital events, with 60 percent sending dedicated email messages at least twice per month. (Read this to find out how to get more people to open your emails.) “You can have the greatest content and experience built out for your online attendees, but if you don’t get the marketing right, it’s all for naught,” said Doyle.

How does your association’s online event strategy and outlook compare to these findings?


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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