As is the case for many VCs, I used to spend a significant amount of time each year attending startup events, as well as organizing our own #p9family events. Over the last few months, that has all been put on hold as countries around the world have gone into lockdown. Whilst physical events died down, my inbox was suddenly overrun with invitations to join virtual pitch days, talks, networking sessions, AMAs, panels and more. I was initially sceptical about these events: what was the point in attending if I couldn’t benefit from the networking piece and meet cool companies? Would people really spend half a day watching a virtual event and why wouldn’t they just watch a YouTube recording of it? Don’t get me started on Zoom fatigue… 😴
Having attended a few virtual events over the last few weeks and after hosting our own virtual B2B marketplace meetup, I’ve definitely changed my perspective on the above. Here are a few key takeaways on why I‘ve grown to love virtual events.👇
From an organisers perspective
I. Easier access to high-quality speakers regardless of where they live or where your event is taking place 🤩
Now that events are taking place online, it’s easier than ever before to get top-notch speakers from around the world. Previously, they used to have to travel (sometimes across continents) just to spend 30 minutes on stage. For our B2B marketplace meetup, Matt, the founder of AdQuick, dialled in as a speaker from the comfort of his living room in the US whilst I was running the event from our office in Germany. Talk about convenience. 💯
II. Potential for global distribution 🌎
Despite only promoting our event a week before it was set to take place, we were able to reach over 200 attendees across 4 different continents. This is a huge step-change compared to most physical events which tend to be hyper-local and a big win for a fund like ours, which despite being based in Europe invests globally. Check out the poll from our latest event:
III. More cost-effective and sustainable 💶
Most physical events require renting an event venue, paying for drinks and food and, in some cases, subsidising speakers. With virtual events, the costs are minimal and the reduced need for travel makes them super sustainable and eco-friendly.
From an attendee perspective
I. Less time consuming and significantly cheaper ⏰
Now that attendees no longer need to travel to events, there is way more time to focus on the important stuff: building and scaling your business.
II. More flexibility in terms of what content you choose to consume 🤸♀
In a physical event, it’s tough to duck out of a session once you’ve committed to it. With virtual events, you can afford to be much pickier around what content you choose to engage with. Don’t like the talk, no problem, just sign back in later.
III. Easier access to thought leaders than ever before 👸
With more events taking place online, access to unique content is being democratised as opposed to being shared within limited attendee circles.
Due to the above, I’m a huge fan of virtual events. During our event a couple of weeks ago, we even managed to recreate some of the fun, spontaneous networking opportunities you tend to have in physical events via a real-time chat function during each session (see below), followed by a chat roulette style networking function. Within a 15 minute window, I was able to chat with a founder based in Texas, another based in Bangalore and one in Berlin. Talk about awesome! 💥
Despite my excitement about them, virtual events are still far from perfect. The human element of connecting with others, having in-depth discussions, forging partnerships and meeting potential customers is still largely confined to the offline world. For companies that rely on events to generate leads and do sales, physical events are still a much more efficient medium and I have no doubt that many of these events will come back in some form as we emerge from lockdown.
The biggest challenge for virtual events will be to recreate these seamless and often serendipitous physical interactions. I look forward to seeing how virtual events platforms evolve to cater to this need. Perhaps one day they will manage to make networking even more efficient than it is in the physical world, maybe helping you avoid a lot of the unnecessary conversations that often come with spontaneous networking. If you’re working on something new in this space, I’d love to hear from you. ✉️
Disclosure: we are not investors in any virtual events platforms but have enjoyed testing out quite a few notably Hopin, Konf and Tame Events.