People’s personal and professional habits have changed – here’s why you should adapt your events strategy to meet the challenges, and opportunities, of the moment.
Big annual events and conferences have long been a cornerstone of the STEM community. They provide the opportunity for knowledge-sharing and learning about the latest best practices, and help people connect with each other and build lasting professional relationships. However, the pandemic has caused a quick-pivot within the industry, with the opportunity to meet face-to-face considerably less of an option than before. According to our own research, two thirds (68%) of our members report spending much less time attending events, and a similar majority (67%) are working from home, based on a study ResearchGate ran in the spring.
In response, online events are experiencing a swift rise, with many agile businesses taking advantage of the new benefits digital events can offer.
Science is global, and as a result, conferences and events attract attendees from all over the world. However, such events have never been completely inclusive. Budget, time constraints, visa restrictions, or even disabilities can make travel difficult for some people. Junior talent, who have lots to give but perhaps little means to attend big conferences, don’t always get to access important learning opportunities, and potential for collaboration can be missed because researchers are not able to be in the right place at the right time.
Hosting an event or webinar virtually, however, democratizes this process. It gives more people the same opportunity to get involved — no matter where they are based. They can attend from the comfort of their own home, and don’t necessarily have to deal with potential obstacles, like juggling childcare or securing a budget to cover travel expenses. In interviews with ResearchGate's product team, members report that digital events open up new opportunities for their research, careers, and institutions. For those who need to publish to progress their career, joining in digital meeting spaces might help them make the step up.
Just because an event is online, meaningful social engagement doesn’t have to suffer. For example, with Events on ResearchGate, the customer has the ability to design flexible events that contain both pre-recorded and live elements, such as an on-demand webinar with a ‘live’ Q&A. This sort of hybrid event reduces production cost, without sacrificing high-value, post-event networking.
When events first went online, there was industry-wide concern that engagement might decrease, as at-home distractions might interfere with attention spans; but when executed well, this doesn’t have to be the case. For example, ResearchGate recently promoted a webinar for Malvern Panalytical. The webinar offered a highly interactive digital event with two industry speakers, giving researchers the opportunity to view a real-time webinar and simultaneously engage with a live Q&A. Malvern Panalytical's webinar team wanted people to join the conversation and engage, rather than just sit back and watch, which was crucial for a successful event.
A key part of many events is debate, with the opportunity to share and challenge new ideas. However, conversations can sometimes get sidetracked from their original purpose. This is especially true when taking questions from the floor at an in-person event. While the preceding panel discussion might have been rehearsed, questions from the audience can take a different angle, leading to an undesirable change in the conversation. There can also be the problem of a lack of record of who in the audience asked questions, meaning valuable follow-up opportunities could be lost.
Hosting events digitally might help reduce this issue, with specialist moderators able to focus the conversation and ensure only the best and most pertinent points are raised. Plus, with a record of who asked what, panelists and event organizers can connect with each attendee afterwards to help provide more information, or perhaps point them in the direction of relevant research as a value-add.
In today’s new work-from-home world, marketers and events teams must overcome their audience’s digital fatigue, as researchers are now on their devices for hours at a time. While there are evident benefits to events going online, marketers need to communicate the benefits of digital events clearly and concisely, in the right channels. Ultimately, there are significant business benefits to going digital: when promoted on a relevant scientific platform, your business can increase the volume and quality of registrants and attendees, resulting in new brand engagement and lead generation opportunities.
Cut through the digital noise. Promote your webinar or virtual event on ResearchGate, the world’s most visited platform in science.*