Virtual Events: Powering up Small Businesses in 2021

Have something to say? The best way to do that these days is by holding a virtual event. 2020’s stay-at-home and social distancing protocols have led to large-scale reinventions in how we communicate, network and socialise, especially for small businesses and startups.

Why virtual events? Easy to organise, cost-effective and simpler in logistics, these digital events break barriers and unite the world. Literally! Individuals and organisations can live-stream multiple sessions and host webinars with guests – beyond the barriers of location, distances and time zones. You can collaborate with founders across the spectrum, rope in angel investors and hold digital product launches at a fraction of the costs involved. At the same time, everyone remains safe from close contact in these viral times.

2020: A year for virtual events

Need more evidence for all things virtual? Consider how Mahindra & Mahindra launched their Thar SUV on YouTube, alongside new additions from Volkswagen, AUDI and Nissan. Closer to the ground, EV startup Atumobile Pvt Ltd, which launched their first EV bike, Atum 1.0 are also leveraging their product through reviews from biking YouTubers.

Virtual events are the new democratic platform, offering an equal pedestal to big brands and new businesses. In India, virtual events also powered launches for Canon India’s cameras, a fragrance range from designer Masaba Gupta and Nykaa and even a startup virtual event platform, Hublio.

Such virtual events across 2020 have meant big business for event organisers and the larger event management industry. Event organiser Eventbrite has reported a 1,100% increase in business and professional online events in April 2020, versus 2019. Most of which has come from the ambit of small businesses.

The Benefits of Virtual Events

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), global economic losses for 2020 accrue to between $5.8 trillion and $8.8 trillion this year. Small businesses have been hit the hardest and are now trying their best to overcome the situation.

Virtual events can provide the much-needed boost here. Why? They’re budget-friendly, reach a global audience, can be managed easily and provide quick, real-time feedback through online surveys and questionnaires. They can also mean serious money for startups – virtual events like the Biotech Showcase 2021, Echelon Asia Summit 2021 allow startups and small businesses opportunities to make their elevator pitches and capture funding from investors.

Virtual Events and Small Businesses

As I’ve mentioned earlier, virtual events tend to be a great equaliser among businesses, especially startups. Here are some ways in which they’ve successfully used virtual events recently:

  • Webinars

Like their on-ground counterparts, webinars engage discussion, brainstorming and idea generation like no other virtual event. While the pandemic severely restricted movement, these web-based exchanges occur at all levels – from schools and educational institutions, research groups, organisations and industry group. Unsolved.xyz, for instance, leveraged the startup community for a brainstorming webinar this year.

  • Virtual summits

While webinars generally serve a singular topic of discussion, summits are a whole new ballgame. SOW from Home, an October 2020 virtual summit aimed at growth for startups, was one such high-note event.

2021 will see a continued interest in virtual summits – from established brands like Tedx to relatively smaller businesses.

  • Virtual Product Launch

Apple did it first, with consistent product launches streamed online, alongside an on-ground event. The pandemic, in turn, forced multiple companies to think on these lines too. Mahindra to AUDI, VR launches for sports shoes to virtual fragrance pop-ups, a product launch online is all about creativity and effective use of available technology. As we wait for widespread vaccination, we can only expect to see more such virtual product launches.

Currently, businesses can host these on GoToWebinar, Teams, OnlineEvent, Brella, Dreamcast, Webex and 6Connex, vFairs, Socio, Inxpo and Workcast. Depending on their needs, businesses can opt for custom solutions from these providers as well.

The road ahead for virtual events is exciting indeed. Though they won’t entirely replace on-ground company events, I believe the future is open for hybrid events, which would synergise the best from both forms of corporate events. I, for one, can hardly wait for the year ahead!

About Author: Sadiya Khan specializes in Public Relations and digital marketing communications with more than 13 years of experience. Currently, she is the founder of Akund Communications.

Published by Akund Communications

Akund is a full-service communication consultancy firm based in Mumbai that offer services in the areas of Media Relations, Content Development, Crisis Management and Crisis Correction, CSR, Media Coverage and Monitoring, Launch & Media Events, Social Media & Online Reputation, and Market Research & Survey.

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