What have we learnt from 2021?​

Last year, the second of the Post-Covid era, we addressed the topic of ‘hybrid’ event development on several occasions in our blog. 

But what has changed since then? Which formats and formats have worked best? Which technologies have facilitated this rapid progress and which are about to establish themselves in the market? How can brands use these tools effectively? We will try to answer these questions. To do so, let’s take a small step back and analyse what happened in 2020. 

The first impression we had was that it was a real test-bed, where each protagonist (Agencies, Brands, Technology Companies, Networks) tried to impose its own vision or standard, something worked, something did not. Another observation is the large number of technical innovations that have followed one another in the software sphere, think of the thousands of possibilities for registering for an event, buying a ticket and selecting a slot for a booking. A truly boundless amount of software variants, plug-ins and integrations with all major management platforms. But not everything comes through technology, we are particularly interested in the degree of interaction with the audience and the possibility of bringing a certain event to life in presence. The evolution of digital events has thus fortunately moved towards gratuitousness, as is the case for a traditional event in the square offered by a brand, 80% of these events do not involve a cost for the spectator. Obviously the barrier to entry brought by the cost of a ticket has made organisers demur from pursuing this route.

However, the positioning strategy in the sale of an event (and its content) is a more delicate matter, and paid events are not necessarily always cheaper, depending precisely on the model adopted. 

The most widespread strategy in this case has been that of free registration (free) with 80% of the content being freely accessible, while 20% has been left with a sort of ‘exclusive’ paid formula. 

The average price of purchasing a paid digital event (trade fairs, meetings, masterclasses, etc.) has also risen compared with the previous 6 months (Bizzaboo data: from $378 to $443), as has the average time of consumption of content, which has amply exceeded 60 minutes per session/intervention. However, we should not be fooled by this last figure which only partially describes the general attitude, 58% of digital sessions/content were in fact reduced in duration. 

Therefore, more content is consumed but of the shortest duration. This reduction also intervenes in terms of audience volume. In fact, the digital event is perceived as more intimate and warm if the audience is somewhat restricted, it is as if one is inside a small exclusive club. This happens in all fields: in entertainment, art, science, business, etc.

In this way, staying within a smaller circle encourages interaction, it is an established fact, just think what happens when someone on stage asks an open question to the audience in a large theatre, how many would feel comfortable having to answer in front of a large audience?

From July to December, more than half (58%) of virtual sessions still relied heavily on an interactive environment that allowed participants to go ‘on stage’ and participate. 

Looking at the disclosed data on online media consumption (BVA-Doxa, AgCOM, Google), which also reflects the main user behaviour/preferences, one can see an incredible leap forward in terms of data consumption compared to the previous year +34% in downloads and +35.9% in uploads on the fixed network, while +38.2% in downloads and 39.6% in uploads on the mobile network, truly remarkable!

But how is all this data used? In Italy, AGCOM, examining the behaviour of unique users of various Internet sites and apps, has summarised that users of apps/sites dedicated to generalist information (+3.8%) and e-commerce (+4%) have increased, while consumption of local information (-13.5%) has dropped slightly, and those related to entertainment have remained constant. The other interesting aspect, which concerns brands more closely, is the index of the conversion rate of participants in digital (or virtual) events. Those who knew how best to integrate their sales strategies with customised activations positioned within the event in fact saw their conversion rate increase to 50%. In short, one in two of the participants is not only willing to buy and has shown interest, but has taken action!

In 2021, audience and user behaviour has changed a lot when it comes to networking, sharing and direct engagement. Here there is a decline and fatigue in being proactive and this is probably the aspect that more than any other at this time represents the real challenge for brands. The time for attending events has also declined and people actually prefer events that last only one day or, better still, a single session.

The golden rules have therefore not changed, brands need to stay focused on content, finding the content that is most relevant to their audience and making it interesting and engaging, inviting and promoting active participation!