. 4 Ways the Pandemic Has Affected Digital Events — For the Better | Northstar Meetings Group

4 Ways the Pandemic Has Affected Digital Events — For the Better

Despite fierce challenges, there are bright spots in our industry response and the opportunities available when meeting online.

In the midst of losing loved ones, lives falling apart and companies permanently failing, we could use a bit of positive news. While much of the events industry has experienced a devastating blow, the Covid-19 pandemic has also introduced new opportunities for organizations, speakers and event planners to create exciting experiences. Consider these four trends that are shaping the industry for the foreseeable future.

More Events, More Often

Ken Sterling, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, BigSpeak Speakers Bureau
Ken Sterling, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, BigSpeak Speakers Bureau

Thanks to the opportunities inherent in meeting virtually, more companies are staging smaller events and holding them more often. The days of that one, gigantic, end-of-the-year blowout staged to accommodate every person in the organization or all customer groups are over — at least for now. 
The new trend is to book shorter events, more frequently and for smaller groups. We, you, they, all of us need connection. We need to engage, share ideas and collaborate — and because there's only one way to do it for now, let's make it incredible (and not too long).
Regular monthly events are a great way for company leaders to keep up-to-date with their employees, clients and partners. In a win-win scenario for everyone, frequent events provide more opportunities for companies to grow while boosting interactivity and learning. Plus, employees who receive more frequent input tend to be better engaged, with higher retention rates.

More Affordable Fees

In many cases, event budgets — and speaker budgets in particular — have been reduced. But we are seeing some companies upgrade their speaker budgets to get bigger names because they are saving the money that would have been spent on the venue, hotel rooms, travel and so forth.
Good speakers are more affordable for digital events, though their fees still vary considerably. Typically, keynote experts are charging about 50 percent of what they had previously requested to come in person. Organizers of virtual events with limited budgets should know that there are good speakers who can be hired for $2,500-$5,000.  
More commonly, the lower fee range hovers between $7,500 and $10,000. Thought leaders (speakers with published books and large followings) are a little pricier at $10,000-$30,000 for digital events, while some celebrities and athletes are appearing for $20,000-$50,000. Major-name celebrities command between $100,000 and $200,000 for virtual events.

New Formats

Online-event organizers are promising "un-webinars" in place of traditional webcast formats. The most successful examples we've seen combine a short keynote with a moderated Q&A and a "mash-up" of speakers. These online events tend to be more interactive (with polls and surveys) and often include music along with multiple speaker sessions or panel discussions. Many are also adding emcees to introduce the speakers, handle audience interaction and guide the Q&A.  
Speaking of music, remember the days before Covid-19 and the cool music that was played between sessions (really loud) to get you pumped up? That shouldn't stop when the event moves online. Have music playing in the virtual holding areas while people are logging in and waiting. Heck, get a live deejay. Steve Aoki probably has time on his hands these days.

Increased Diversity

New formats and more frequent meetings have led to increased opportunities for speaker diversity. Younger speakers, women and people of color are showing up more often as keynote presenters, emcees or Q&A moderators. The added diversity not only promotes new voices in the industry but also increases different viewpoints for keynote topics. Audiences have responded with more engagement, telling us they feel their ideas and opinions are now better represented.
Covid-19 may have slowed down the events industry, but in some ways it has fueled new innovations in online presentations that are helping to spark more engagement for audience members and more opportunities for speakers and event planners.

Ken Sterling is the executive vice president and chief marketing officer at BigSpeak Speakers Bureau, an international keynote and business speakers bureau. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California and an MBA from Babson College. Ken teaches Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Strategy at UC Santa Barbara. He is a serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker, business consultant, and sales and marketing expert. For more information, contact [email protected]