The Rise of Virtual Business Events

Best Practices for 2021 and a Look at a Hybrid Future

Executive Summary

Rapid-fire event cancellation notices and invites to (poorly produced) virtual events littered the inboxes of B2B audiences at the start of the pandemic. Luckily, there are plenty of learnings for organizers and sponsors to implement as the landscape continues to transform.

How did the pandemic change corporate event strategies?

Before the pandemic, in-person events were a major touchpoint for B2B marketers looking to engage with buyers. Many event organizers postponed their events at first but quickly realized that virtual events were an avenue to continuity, rather than just a backup plan.

How big is the virtual event market?

When most B2B marketers pivoted to virtual events, investments in the tools, technology, talent, and infrastructure needed to execute a digital production increased. By 2030, the global virtual events industry will grow nearly tenfold, from $78 billion in 2019 to $774 billion, according to Grand View Research estimates.

What goes into planning a successful virtual event?

The tried-and-true playbook for in-person events doesn’t translate to virtual. Event organizers should start from scratch by reassessing their goals, their reach, and the type of event they want to execute. For a successful event, use eMarketer’s checklist during each part of the virtual event life cycle.

What is a hybrid event?

The events industry is anxiously waiting for a coronavirus vaccine to be widely available, so that in-person events can resume safely and legally. When that happens, hybrid executions, which feature a scaled-back in-person element and a virtual extension, will become common.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? The events industry transformed in 2020. This report documents how virtual events became mainstream during the pandemic and looks at the best practices for virtual events now and hybrid events in the future.

KEY STAT: When shifting to virtual events, 58% of marketers in the US and UK said they needed to rethink their events strategy to ensure success and meet goals, according to August 2020 research from Integrate.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Events Pre-Pandemic: A Refresher on What Was
  3. Virtual Events Surge During the Pandemic
  4. Going Virtual: A New Playbook
  5. The Pre-Event Checklist
  1. The Event Experience Checklist
  2. The Post-Event Checklist
  3. A Hybrid Future
  4. Key Takeaways
  5. Insider Intelligence Interviews
  1. Read Next
  2. Sources
  3. Media Gallery

Charts in This Report

Interviewed for This Report

Alon Alroy
Co-Founder, CMO, and Chief Customer Officer
Interviewed November 11, 2020
Brenda Berys
Director, Experiential Event Marketing, SAP Customer Experience
Interviewed November 5, 2020
Bill Borrelle
Pitney Bowes
Senior Vice President and CMO
Interviewed November 5, 2020
John Caplan
Global CMO and President, North America and Europe
Interviewed November 6, 2020
Kim Darling
Vice President and Executive Producer, Inbound
Interviewed November 4, 2020
Naomi David
Walker Sands
Marketing Manager, Demand Generation
Interviewed November 6, 2020
Kimberly Dubblestein
Vice President and Head of Global Events, SAP Customer Experience
Interviewed November 5, 2020
Shane Edmonds
Chief Technology Officer
Interviewed November 12, 2020
Karin Flores
Senior Vice President, Strategic Events
Interviewed November 11, 2020
Jean Foster
Consumer Technology Association
Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Interviewed October 29, 2020
Paula Hansen
Senior Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer, SAP Customer Experience
Interviewed November 5, 2020
Chetan Kulkarni
Group Product Manager
Interviewed November 10, 2020
Helena Lehman
Leading Authorities, Inc.
Senior Vice President
Interviewed October 29, 2020
Yvonne McNair
Director, Talent and Technical Production
Interviewed November 25, 2020
Peter Micciche
Interviewed November 11, 2020
Shalini Mitha
Global Vice President, SAP Customer Experience Marketing and Marketing Programs
Interviewed November 5, 2020
Susan Newman
National Retail Federation
Senior Vice President, Conferences
Interviewed November 25, 2020
Sasha Pasulka
Vice President, Marketing
Interviewed November 4, 2020
Natalia Rybicka
Senior Director, Event Marketing
Interviewed November 5, 2020
Jim Sharpe
Interviewed November 12, 2020
Kate Spellman
Interviewed November 15, 2020
Tiffany R. Warren
Founder and President
Interviewed November 25, 2020
Wanda Weigert
Chief Brand Officer
Interviewed November 10, 2020

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Jillian Ryan


Paul Briggs
Senior Analyst
Mark Dolliver
Principal Analyst
Lucy Koch
Junior Analyst
Melissa Rosenberg
Senior Researcher
Tracy Tang
Senior Researcher

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