VEG’ers are not just sitting around twiddling their digits. The pandemic has not ended events. Instead, and very quickly, it has evolved them. Here is this week’s news in the world of events, brought to you by the VEG.
December 22 | 3:00pm
VEG Celebrates The Holidays and Community Building
Join us for our virtual Holiday Party! In addition to good cheer, Sherry Huss, the co-founder of Maker Faire and a long time advocate of “tribe building,” will take us on a guided tour of Decameron Row, an artist community like none other. Felix Zeltner of Work Awesome has been building a community devoted to exploring the future of work ever since we went into lockdown. Plus music from the amazing duo of Eleanor Dubinsky and Dario Acosta Teich and more.
RSVP to attend.
Dissecting Web Summit 
OK, it wasn’t a pub crawl through Lisboa, but the Web Summit team did a damn good job of bringing 104,000 worldwide attendees, over 1,000 speakers, and 5 different stages into a tightly produced package with colorful graphics, well-placed hosts, and tons of interstitials from startups to travelogues.

But what really stood out was the focus on features that fostered connections. The Web Summit App lets you set up face-to-face video meetings, create your own room or join lounges, and attend workshops and masterclasses. “Mingle” hours each day created chance-like encounters with other conference-goers in three-minute, roulette-style sessions, matchmade by its recommendation algorithms. I’ll be speaking with the producers this week to learn more about how they did it.
How We’ll Meet in 2021
Not shying from its bread and butter, WebSummit devoted a few sessions to hearing from some heavy hitters in the events world. Their comments put a fine point on the idea that we don’t really have much guidance for the 2021 calendar yet. (Asia and Australia being exceptions to the rule. Both are holding smaller live events.)
  • John Hoffman, CEO at GSMA, producers of MWC in Barcelona, recalled being on the bloody edge of cancelled events. The 100,000 person event  was cancelled in mid-February, just days before the conference was to start on February 24. 

  • Martin Osterdahl, Executive Supervisor at Eurovision Song Contest, reported that after last year’s event in Rotterdam was cancelled, Eurovision will continue to focus its core mission -- a contest, a winner and a winning song--but they’ve got four different contingency scenarios planned since the Dutch government has banned large events until there is widespread use of a vaccine. 

  • Steffi Czerny, founder of the thought leadership DLD conference, riffed on the idea that a  virtual conference is simply another medium for creation. 

  • Carina Bauer of IMEX was excited about Planet IMEX, a new set of tools for the traditional events company with elements of real life moved online. 

  • Perhaps the least optimistic of the group was Jochen Witt, who serves as head of the Society of Independent Show Organizers. “Virtual events can strengthen the message,” he said, “but it’s nonsense to try to monetize a virtual event.” He added that the events industry enjoyed many “fat” years and it’s only natural that there would be a period of reinvention. 

  • Finally, another event  industry veteran, Doug Emslie, agreed that WebSummit was a good start, but the industry needs to be better at facilitating networking and commerce in the virtual space.  

Quick Takes
Did the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Virtual Parade make anyone but me super sad?  The actors looked soggy and masked, the Macy’s storefront looked forlorn, and even the balloons looked sad or just plain mad. That said, the parade fared better than most of our Thanksgivings in terms of metrics. It captured 20.7 million viewers and was more popular with advertisers than ever, per Adweek.

Orchestrated Serendipity Twine powered a VIP After Party at the WebSummit. Think Tinder for business. Based on your profile, algorithms match you with folks you’re likely to want to meet. Get ready to see a slew of these hit the market.

Sponsorship Worthy: Some fresh ideas that any sponsor would consider.

Forced Fun: The holiday party At least you won’t have to drive home from this year’s party. A few ways to get the gang together for just the right amount of fun and good cheer.

Virtually Inaugurated: Donald Trump still can’t get beyond his “huge crowds' at the 2016 inauguration. Expect Biden to think more virtually.

Money to Burn? Bizbash looks at who’s outdoing who with the coolest event stages in the biz.

Retraining the Sales Team

While virtual events are upping their game, monetizing the game lags behind. Time to double down on retraining sales teams so that they can articulate the benefits of going virtual to potential exhibitors and sponsors. I’ll get you started: 

  • More granular visitor information (beyond a business card) can be gathered

  • Larger crowds from all over the world

  • Time limits and show open hours are no longer obstacles

  • Novel sponsorships (think gaming breaks, workshops or sponsored parties)

  • Better analytics about what worked best 

  • And most importantly, lower costs for build outs and signage

He Who Hybrids Wins
With a vaccine out there on the horizon, it’s fitting that December’s jackpot goes to Bizzabo, a hybrid platform for running in person and virtual events. The company closed a fundraising round of $138 million.  Its customers include companies like Uber, Github, WeWork, Accenture and TechCrunch. Revenue has grown 100%, with the number of events organized through Bizzabo up 65%. The number of attendees registering for events with Bizzabo is up a whopping 500%.
Don’t Call Me a Virtual Event
Even event producers are getting sick of events. Shoptalk’s in-person March 2021 event, now cancelled, is being replaced by 3 groundbreaking online events called Retail Meetups, which are online meetings and collaboration events that bring the retail industry together for curated, double opt-in meetings (meaning a consensual meeting) and small group peer discussions including Groceryshop Spring Meetup, Shoptalk Meetup for Women, and Shoptalk Fall Meetup.  Here’s the press release.
The good news. We’re well into the last month of 2020! Stay well and keep it virtual
Robin Raskin and the VEG Team
Feel the need to stay up on the virtual events scene but have a few other to-dos on your list?
Sign up
for our newsletter
About Us
Send any tips and thoughts you have about virtual events. contact Robin Raskin,
Founder, Solving For Tech
201.564.7900 | 917.215.3160 | @robinr