Virtual Summits and the Future of Business Gatherings in a Post-COVID Era

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Since March 2020
LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have canceled their big tech conferences due to the threat of coronavirus in the U.S.

Our communities are embracing virtual as most people stay home
How are conferences affected by this shift?

Big Conferences, Big Problems?

For years, tech and other industries have revealed in large events
But with increasing difficulties for attendees, has that era ended?

  • Health Concerns
    • In February 2020, Facebook announced it was canceling its annual F8 tech conference due to coronavirus fears
    • Lack of Focused Topics
      • In 2017, Intel canceled its annual Developer Forum conference which had attracted thousands of attendees for nearly 20 years
        • “3,000 attendees would come for one thing and 1,000 would come for something else. If you’re developing for PCs, do you care about AI or self-driving cars? It’s gotten so broad” – Jack Gold, principal analyst at Gold Associates


Concerns of Public Safety and Mental Health

With stress levels high, attendees are vulnerable to the spread of illness and burnout.
Jet lag, alcohol abuse, overscheduling, and tight travel deadlines all contribute to feeling overwhelmed during a conference.

  • Data Security
    • With everyone looking for health and safety instructions for public events, conference-goers may be susceptible to phishing attack emails
      • “Coronavirus is a prime opportunity for enterprising criminals because it plays on one of the basic human conditions – fear” – US Department of Homeland Security
    • Rising Expenses
      • In 2020, ticket prices for the most popular tech conferences will cost up to $4,000
        • Not only that, but attendees must budget for travel, accommodation, and work missed
        • Many conferences deliberately sell as many tickets as they can to increase their revenues, which can lower the relevance to attendees


Lost revenues to Hotels and Conference Centers Worldwide

The cancelation costs of more than 10 major tech conferences resulting from the coronavirus outbreak has surpassed $1.1 billion

Counting the Cost of Canceled Conferences

  • Business conferences generate more than $1 trillion in direct spending annually — Including airfare, hotel stays, dining, and transportation
    • Mobile World Congress — Barcelona, Spain
      • 109,700 attendees in 2019
      • $480 million in direct losses
    • SXSW — Austin, Texas
      • 280,000 attendees in 2019
      • $350 million in direct losses
    • E3 — Los Angeles, California
      • 66,100 attendees in 2019
      • $75 million in direct losses
    • Google I/O — Mountain View, California
      • 7,000 in-person attendees in 2019 — Streamed to 530 events worldwide
      • $20 million in direct losses
    • For individual vendors and attendees, missing a single conference can mean huge losses in income and future opportunities
      • com — a website that tracks local businesses losses as a result of cancelling SXSW — has verified $4,285,037 in lost income
        • Includes caterers, photographers, musicians, film crews, and more
      • These numbers don’t include losses related to
        • Profits for the companies hosting each event
        • Attendees’ spending at local shops and attractions
        • Business generated from networking at events

Online Community
As communities go online in the wake of coronavirus, conferences are following that trend ─ and reaping the benefits

Embracing The Virtual Conference

  • Nearly 90% of participants in online meetings report equal or higher levels of engagement compared to in-person
  • Unique features:
    • Live streamed talks, discussions and panels
    • Attendees fill out a profile describing their interests and an algorithm matches them with others
  • Benefits of online conferences:
    • Eliminate travel costs
    • Reduce environmental pollution
    • Reduce the price of admission
    • More targeted event focus
    • Allow conference organizers to invest more into speakers
      • Spending in typical conferences:
        • Venue: 20%
        • Food and beverages: 20%
        • Equipment: 20%
        • Program design and speaker fees: less than 5%

Online Conferencing & Meetings
By 2021, it is projected that video, including web conferencing, will account for over 80% of all internet traffic.
With the growing trend of businesses and communities that are adapting to an increasingly virtual world, these changes could be become a permanent online presence.