A virtual summit is an online conference and a viable alternative to in-person conferences.
Virtual conferences have been an option for years, thanks to the internet and advancing communications technology.
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A wide range of digital technologies – from video streaming services to interactive polls – make it easy to host a conference entirely online.
Though there are many advantages to holding an in-person conference, in certain circumstances virtual summits are preferable.
The Rise of the Virtual Summit in 2020
For decades, conferences and summits have allowed business professionals to share knowledge, network, gain practical skills, and more. Even after the rise of the internet, in-person conferences still predominated.
In 2020, however, virtual summits became more widespread.
This trend was caused in large part – if not completely – by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak that began in 2019. The global disaster hit the economy hard, forcing the cancellation of countless events, including conferences and summits.
However, certain businesses stayed flexible and, instead of canceling their events, moved them online.
Mobile World Congress (MWC) and Mobile Live
Mobile World Congress (MWC) is a massive conference that hosts speakers and businesses from around the world.
Each conference has a different theme, but this conference is ideal for anyone interested in digital transformation, mobile technology, and the evolving digital landscape.
In 2020, the conference was scheduled to be held in late February in Barcelona, Spain.
Unfortunately, it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Health and safety, it is widely acknowledged, should take precedence.
Yet at the same time, as WalkMe put it: “The investments of almost 3,000 companies that were slated to attend the conference should not be overlooked.”
In response to this very unfortunate turn of events, WalkMe announced that it would be willing to host a virtual summit, Mobile Live, for businesses that were scheduled to present at MWC.
This would allow the conference’s original participants to showcase their innovations and their hard work.
As WalkMe CEO Rafael Sweary said, “One of our core beliefs at WalkMe is that technology adapts to you. Sometimes life is unpredictable, but those are the chances to do something revolutionary.”
Of course, Mobile Live is not the only virtual summit that WalkMe has been involved in.
Realize Live, by WalkMe
WalkMe’s own digital adoption conference had to be moved online due to concerns over COVID-19.
The conference, Realize, was originally intended to be an in-person event.
However, rather than canceling the event completely, WalkMe moved it online.
In under six days, WalkMe changed the offline event into an online one: Realize Live.
Congrats to our Realizer Awards finalists, @netflix and Standard Chartered Bank! And to the winner, @AmericanAir for utilizing #digitaladoption for the BEST employee experience!https://t.co/osHSq6pD8W
— WalkMe (@WalkMeInc) March 27, 2020
Here are a few highlights from this event:
- Less than a week before the scheduled event, WalkMe was forced to cancel the in-person event and transform it into a virtual summit
- More than 1,426 digital adoption enthusiasts from around the globe watched the event, which was filmed in front of a live studio audience in both Tel Aviv and San Francisco
- Over a dozen speakers spoke on topics that included digital leadership, increasing productivity, the future of work, and more
- Over 300 participants engaged on a Slack channel to hold their own discussions and even interact with the speakers
- Attendees also gained access to a library full of sessions from WalkMe partners, customers, and analysts
For more details, read WalkMe’s recap of Realize Live.
Are Virtual Summits the Future?
WalkMe was able to quickly pivot from an offline event to an online one, engaging participants on a global level.
Though the circumstances surrounding this shift were very concerning (and still are, at the time of this writing), the rapid transformation demonstrates the flexibility, connectivity, and power offered by digital technology.
For some, this begs the question – are virtual summits the future?
There are compelling reasons to hold an online conference rather than an offline event:
- Online summits are cheaper to host, which means that attendee prices can also be reduced
- Virtual conferences are easier to put together, requiring fewer logistical considerations, such as booking hotels, event spaces, and so forth
- Participants can tune in from anywhere in the world, regardless of location or time zone
- It is easier for people to attend an online event, since there are fewer barriers when it comes to payment or travel
Also, virtual summits are more flexible, making them an ideal response for disruptive changes, such as the coronavirus pandemic.
However, despite these advantages, in-person conferences can see extraordinarily high attendance numbers.
For example, Salesforce’s popular conference, Dreamforce, saw over 100,000 attendees.
One of the biggest benefits of attending these conferences is the potential for networking.
An in-person event of such scale can include a wide range of activities, including:
- Social gatherings
All of which add a completely different dimension to offline conferences.
In the future, we will certainly see technological advancements in areas such as IoT, 5G, AR, and VR, which could certainly add new possibilities for socialization, networking, and interaction.
So, although virtual summits may never fully replace in-person conferences, we can certainly expect them to continue increasing in popularity.