When virtual events first came on the scene nearly a decade ago, their main purpose was to mimic physical events. But in the last couple of years that has changed. Virtual platforms have begun to evolve as their very own medium and not just as a substitute or supplement to a physical event. The newest iteration of the virtual event is the perpetual environment, also referred to also as an “always on,” “evergreen” or “365” environment.
According to Chicago-based virtual provider UBM Studios, these new environments came about as a result of a demand for more scalable types of platforms that provide a web experience that reflects more sophisticated online user habits. These users have become accustomed to the flexibility social media sites offer rather than a one-size-fits-all trade-show type template that dominated virtual event spaces in their early years. There’s a lot more customization in the new templates, these days offering customers interested in engaging their audiences virtually a bevy of options. This is also true for some annual virtual events that opt to keep the environment functional until the next year’s event, some even taking the interaction a step further by creating perpetual environments that provide a series of events throughout the year.
PR Newswire’s monthly Retail Investors Conference handled by UBM Studios and run on an INXPO platform is a good example of how this new type of virtual engagement is gaining ground. The monthly series has helped the company address a number of issues that a live event or annual virtual event couldn’t, such as being more flexible with speaker schedules. If a ceo can’t present at its event in June/july because of earnings announcements or blackout periods, no problem, they can present the following month. In between the monthly events, attendees can return to the environment and benefit from every aspect of the space with the exception of live chats. They can view presentations on-demand or learn about new ones on the schedule, as well as connect with fellow attendees and speakers by emailing them via their profile. They can also provide feedback by filling out surveys and taking polls. And once these folks are signed up for the monthly series, they’re emailed regularly about new content being pumped into the environment. In May, attendance spiked in the space by about 200 percent during the downtime before the next month’s live event.
“We’re not necessarily running an event—we’re operating a destination. It’s a place where people can come on a continual basis to research potential investments,” says John Viglotti, vp-investors relations products and services at PR Newswire. “When I speak to presenting companies we talk about the extended visibility our perpetual environment provides and the bumps in traffic they see as the next live event comes online and their prior presentations are available for viewing to a new group of investors.”
The trick to running a successful perpetual virtual environment is making sure that there’s new content constantly being produced to refresh the space between events. “With most events they’re scheduled out a couple months ahead of time and have an agenda set, speakers lined up, so it’s more of a challenge when you’re reloading every month,” says Viglotti. “The operational schedule gets condensed considerably. We’re working up to the last minute.”
But that hasn’t changed his mind about choosing a perpetual virtual environment over an annual virtual event. He says that 44 percent of his registered attendee base has returned for multiple conferences.
“We’re incrementing our base and growing our business. You could have an annual conference but one of the reasons we decided to do it monthly is that there are a lot of public companies out there, so we may be able to present 150 companies throughout the year, but there’s over 8,000 public companies in the U.S.,” says Viglotti. “There are a lot of companies that would like to present and we would end up trying to jam a critical mass of those in a single day event. By having this on a monthly basis, we can provide a better forum with repeat attendees.” It’s a virtual success!