Can virtual meetings offer the face-to-face interaction that people crave during virtual events? The answer is a resounding yes. In looking at two recent virtual events held on the Engagez platform, the data is clear–virtual meetings, whether they are 1:1 or small groups, offer both attendees and exhibitors the chance to fully engage in all an event has to offer.
Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual and hybrid events were growing and continue to grow in popularity as companies become more global and as people are looking to reduce overhead costs and their carbon footprint. Additionally, events with a digital component provide greater access to participants located in various time zones as well as the ability to attend without having to leave the convenience of their own home or office.
With the introduction of a digital component, attendee expectations are shifting to create a new event industry norm where bilateral communication is at the forefront. Attendees want and need to be able to interact with others to feel satisfied and heard. Gone are the days when unilateral communication is the sole form of interaction digitally provided. According to IDC’s Virtual Meetings and Conference Survey published in June 2020, 86% of people who attend in-person events will engage with other attendees and vendors present. This number reflects the convenience of being able to interact with other conference attendees when the event was held solely in-person and without a virtual component. In looking at organizations that have opted to hold completely virtual events, the IDC found that over 57% of organizers who held a virtual event failed to provide a way for attendees to engage with each other as well as a way for the virtual venue to engage all users. This data suggests that there is a gap forming between the level of interaction provided in attending a fully in-person event and the level of interaction provided during a digital event.
That’s where video meetings held directly within the event space come in–and there is no reason for an event planner to not include that critical face-to-face interaction component. As you read on, you’ll see two examples of clients whose events were only meetings with one completing almost 500 small group meetings and the other almost 1500!
What does it mean to host a 1:1 or small group meeting in a virtual event space?
Hosting a meeting in a virtual event space is different from hosting a virtual meeting on a third-party platform. These meetings take place directly within the event platform and do not pull users out into a new window or third-party platform for the meeting (like Zoom, Teams, or WebEx). One-on-one (1:1) meetings are typically held between a vendor and an interested attendee or between two attendees looking to catch up. Small group meetings, on the other hand, can exist between multiple parties in many capacities. For example, the participants can turn that 1-on-1 meeting into a small group meeting by adding others to the video call. Exhibitors use group meeting functionality to create staffed meetings or interactive Ask-the-Expert mini sessions. Exhibitor and sponsor rooms can be set to any limit by the event organizer allowing for larger or multiple rooms for larger sponsorship levels. The true difference between 1:1 and small group meetings is purely based on size. In both, you can share screens, mute/unmute yourself, turn on/off your camera, and run live demos.
What are the key benefits of using online virtual meetings?
Virtual event meetings have many benefits, but one of the key attributes is their ability to engage users and provide as close to an in-person experience as possible. With online virtual meetings, organizers can fully brand the event space and the meeting space so that attendees never feel like they are being pulled out of the event atmosphere.
Moreover, individualized meetings between vendors and attendees are a great selling point for tickets and offer organizers an opportunity to monetize their event with higher sponsorship and exhibitor prices, especially when you let people pre-book meetings for the event. Organizers can also encourage post-event meetings schedules to reach those who are too busy during the regular event hours to connect with solution providers. This individualized attention creates an atmosphere for face-to-face interaction that an event without virtual meetings is unable to provide as well as encourages all users to be active and present throughout the digital event.
And lastly, one key benefit to note with including virtual meetings in your next digital event is the fact that not only does face-to-face interaction act as a value add for users but exhibitors and vendors also often see an increase in overall lead generation and quality as a result.
Virtual Meetings in Action—Two User Case Studies:
Our first case study looks at an organization that created an event solely to allow buyers to interact with various sellers. This event held on the Engagez platform offers an insight into the ability of virtual meetings to monetize an event, successfully satisfy sponsors, and drive leads to participating partners.
Our first user is a large technology company that sells IT products (supplied by their partners and distributors), consulting, and technical support services. They approached Engagez with one request: to provide an event for IT buyers that allows them to interact with and speak face-to-face with the various company representatives and their partners’ sales engineers who will be sponsoring the event. After discussing and evaluating all their options, they quickly decided that using and implementing the 1:1 video meeting tool was the best solution for their needs.
Throughout the one-day event, 493 one-on-one meetings were held between vendors and IT buyers. This event is a real-life example of people wanting to connect with vendors despite outside factors that may limit their ability to do so in person. Not only did attendees walk away from this event fully satisfied with their level of interaction but so did the partners as they were able to individualize each interaction to provide a more personal approach to their products and solutions.
Our second case study is an example of small group meetings driving high interaction rates throughout the entire event. This user is a large travel-focused company that connects buyers with various travel programs. In this event, we saw the most successful meetings-based event to date that featured almost 1500 small group meetings (usually less than 4 people).
As we see event producers continue to adopt virtual meetings as a key part of their programs, we expect that record will be shattered this year!
Learn how to add one-on-one meetings to your Engagez programs
Using the Engagez digital engagement platform, event planners/organizers can decide how they would like to facilitate meetings. One option is to let participants book meetings with one another by finding a participant’s profile and clicking the Book a Meeting link under their name. If the attendee has already indicated their available meeting dates and times, the meeting requester can select one of the open slots and a message will be sent to the other party. If the attendee has not set up specific meeting availability options, the requester can suggest a date and time. If they accept the meeting, each participant will get a notification and the meeting will be added to their schedule.
If the participant prefers to utilize their calendaring tool (like Calendly, HubSpot, Doodle, etc.), when another attendee requests a meeting, they will be redirected to the URL that they have specified in their profile to complete the request.
It’s easy to use the in-platform tool to open at certain times of availability. The image below is a screenshot of how this is set up and is quite intuitive. Just add the dates and the times you’d like to schedule for the meeting and also the duration. You can also use the meeting function for hybrid events by adding physical locations instead of using the online video call feature in the platform.
You can choose to open back-to-back meeting times or set up one meeting slot at a time. Adding a description will be helpful to notify the recipient of what the agenda might be other than general networking.
Administrator-Created Meeting Option
As the event producer, meetings manager, or concierge, as long as you have administrative rights and you have turned the On-on-One Meetings functionality in the Resources tab, you will now have the ability to set up meetings for your event’s participants including attendees and exhibitors or sponsors.
Meetings can be set up individually or you can upload all your meetings via a CSV file. In either method, you will always be able to manage upcoming meetings in the system and swap out participants or change dates, times, and meeting locations if necessary.
Sending messages and confirmation emails including “add to calendar” invites can be managed within the Engagez platform once the meetings are saved or when updates are made.
Anyone that is either designated to be a host or an invitee must exist in the Attendee section of the venue–so make sure to take care of registration uploads or open registration in enough time for people to be added to the event or meeting. Please note that you must pick a Host and have invitees complete a meeting setup.
Most people use our video call capability inside the platform, but you are not limited to that option. You have the option of choosing a third-party video conference tool such as Zoom, WebEx, Teams, etc. by adding the meeting URL to the Other text box in the management tool.
If you need to, you have an option to delete all one-on-one meetings as well as available meeting options for a host, but you can download all and edit and then re-upload if that helps with changes.
How to Use Meeting Options
There are many uses for one-on-one meetings such as the examples already mentioned. One such use of the functionality of the meeting is only during scheduled events to facilitate meetings between buyers and sellers. This is a common practice for structured networking (speed dating, matchmaking, etc.). These are preorganized programs, usually with specific goals or topics but not always. People go to a specific room or table and join the video conference call there in a face-to-face meetup. Sometimes these meetings have a host to help facilitate the introductions and conversations.
Job fairs and career opportunity events are places where one-on-one meetings are critical so candidates and prospective employers can start the interview process and also accelerate highly qualified candidates right on the spot by inviting colleagues to join in the meeting or take it over.
Universities facilitate these same types of engagement during recruitment events as potential students check out the schools and talk to other students and faculty before they make their decision.