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Virtual events: The art of being ‘phygitally’ present

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Virtual eventsVirtual eventsThe past year has created a new category of events called ‘phygital’. (Photo credit: Reuters)

By Vikash Samota

It’s already clear that COVID-19 has dramatically altered the way we live and work. The pandemic has also upended the way we use technology. In the absence of in-person interactions, people have come to rely on the prowess of video technology to seamlessly replace physical meetings with virtual collaborations. The past year has created a new category of events called ‘phygital’ that is a blend of the physical and digital experience. Since the digital-oriented way of life is here to stay even beyond the pandemic, immersive virtual events fuelled by intelligent video technology will drive the new phygital experience for users.

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High-quality video paramount for enhanced user experiences

The pandemic has put the spotlight on creating effective and impactful phygital events that deliver a seamless visual experience by leveraging the best video tools. Best-in-class video technology that offers live streaming enables event organisers to replicate live events in the virtual or phygital realm. Since attendees participate from remote locations around the world, powerful live streaming of videos should have the capabilities to support multiple platforms and reach as many screens as possible.

Video streaming technology solution providers should understand the needs of customers and other stakeholders to augment their video capabilities to drive real engagement. Further, hosting a successful virtual event is no longer restricted to basic video and screen sharing. Event producers stream high quality broadcasts to encourage viewer participation. High-definition (HD) video for a large event requires higher bandwidth to stream videos smoothly and without technical hiccups.

No doubt, high quality live video will shape the future of phygital events even beyond the pandemic. Captivating videos should also be supported by high-quality animations and graphics that will generate interest in virtual events and lead to potential onboarding of new clients. If your brand needs to stand out, incorporate graphics as a key visual aid to create an immersive experience for the audience. Graphic videos and animations delivered in real-time will help organisations foster deeper connections with their target audience.

Content is key to the phygital experience

The value of content in virtual events is key to the phygital experience. However, when moving a live event to the virtual realm, organisations should focus on delivering quality content to enhance the user experience. Since audience engagement is critical to virtual events, content should be designed to cater to the needs of the target audience. Personalisation in packaging content will increase audience interaction and allow them flexibility in choosing breakout sessions that appeal to them.

Also, focused and coherent content that prioritises sharing of relevant information would attract higher registration numbers. Online conferences are opportunities for organisers to provide on-demand, real-time content in different formats to build potential leads in the long run. Content should be packaged to align with the messaging and to attract sponsors to the virtual event. Moreover, the future of content for virtual events will be driven by data analytics to gather insights on audience engagement, such as views and comments. The data can be used to plan more impactful future phygital events.

Control over technology

The pandemic has opened doors of opportunity to organisations in the virtual events space. Cutting edge technology has facilitated in creating flexible formats to increase audience reach and engagement. For instance, AR/VR delivers augmented experiences to elevate the virtual event to a ‘live’ experience. Gaming concepts and techniques are incorporated to add value to the virtual events.

Since virtual events attract wider audiences, organisations should cater to the specific needs of each segment. Knowing your audience is essential to sustaining the phygital experience even beyond the pandemic.

The future of hybrid events

As things stand, the events landscape will never be the same again. The pandemic has shown that the convenience of hosting virtual or hybrid events has significantly reduced costs for organisations. Even as several countries are grappling with the second wave of COVID-19, hybrid events are attracting more people to participate either in-person or from the comfort of their home.

Technology has enabled event organisers to experiment with the scope and format of events, delivering value in real-time. In future, in-person events will have the advantage of leveraging technology for attendee registration, cancellation and other event components. Moreover, key data insights on attendees will enable organisers to improve the quality of virtual events.

As hybrid events go mainstream, the question remains whether organisations will continue to inspire customer engagement and add value to human interactions. Luckily, today’s organisations are attuned to the new normal and are ramping their online video capabilities to ensure customer satisfaction. This is key to building trust with the end user in the absence of conventional physical events.

(The author is Founder, MultiTv. Views expressed are personal.)

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