So, how are you feeling about virtual event networking about now? Not so good, according to Virtual Attendee Experience Report from event software company Bizzabo.
A survey of 700 attendees and data from 967 events over a 12-month period found that the fun factor of online events is definitely waning: There was a 26 percent increase in respondents saying the last virtual event they attended wasn’t fun.
Online networking can be convenient, but it does lack the potential for serendipity that in-person events foster. The survey showed a sharp spike (20 percent increase) in attendees failing to network as expected; and spontaneous conversations in virtual events have proved to be a struggle, with 13 percent of respondents saying they initiated fewer natural conversations.
This decrease translates to fewer networking connections, the survey finds. Online attendees did not meet the types of people they were hoping to meet 17 percent more often than in-person attendees.
When online, what attendees are looking for changes—they’re seeking more education and less networking. Researchers found that 51 percent weren’t interested in networking during online events, compared to 23 percent of in-person attendees. Almost half of online attendees say learning is their goal, compared to 32.3 percent of in-person attendees.
Despite this, online attendees reported actually learning less than expected versus their in-person counterparts, 32.3 and 52.9 percent, respectively.
Although more people attend online events than in-person—almost half of respondents attended 1-2 in-person events but more than 10 online events between September 2019 and 2020—there’s also a lack of commitment when it comes to attending virtual events. Why? Because they require so little effort and tend to be cheaper, if not free; check-in rates are even lower (21 percent) when the event is free.
Universal Attendee Personas
Through data analysis and surveys, researchers at Bizzabo discovered patterns in behavior from attendees, resulting in six different personas, so planners can further deepen their understanding of their attendees.
They make up the largest proportion (32 percent) of online attendees. They are focused on learning when attending online events and do their best to avoid social disruptions. They register for multiple free or inexpensive events every week, sometimes two events a day. Virtual events are a positive for the solo learner.
This persona accounts for 25 percent of virtual attendees. The mandated learners’ employers require them to attend events for professional development. They find the social aspect of events enjoyable but have a harder time making connections online; they also are motivated to attend events to gain knowledge but find it harder to learn online.
Making up 18 percent of virtual attendees, they network as if that’s their job. To this type of networker, the social aspect of the event is most important and is the primary motivation for attending. Online events aren’t their strong suit, and they find spontaneity harder to spark online.
The strategic networker makes up 10 percent of online attendees. Learning at virtual events is a nonfactor, as their focus is creating productive business connections and finding leads. Similar to radical networkers, they also have concerns about making enough connections at virtual events.
Eight percent of virtual attendees are motivated by socializing and having fun with friends and colleagues. They typically don’t engage in sessions and spend much of their time engaging with people. They have discovered that online events have helped them become better learners.
This type makes up the smallest percentage (7 percent). They attend for the good times, gifts and giveaways. They enjoy in-person events mostly for the travel, dinners and having fun with colleagues. Though distraction is more of an issue online, they find networking easier, especially if there are built-in activities.