From meetings, conferences, and panels, to museum tours, fashion shows, and world expos, events have become mostly online affairs, giving people from all over the world the ability to attend such gatherings virtually. As empowering as it is, the fact remains that technology can never fully capture the experience of human interactions, which has become much-needed in the age of COVID-19.
Vaibhav Jain and his event organizing platform, Hubilo, are determined to bring more people together, by creating personalized journeys for every participant and allowing them to connect with each other more efficiently during engaging virtual events.
Besides offering his thoughts on how to organize a successful virtual event in this interview with Oasis, the founder and CEO also shared more about the advantages of virtual events over physical ones, as well as his vision for events in the future.
This interview has been edited and consolidated for clarity and brevity.
Oasis (OS): What’s the story behind Hubilo?
Vaibhav Jain (VJ): In 2015, I was trying to build an attendee recommendation platform for events, because I used to attend those myself and realized that it was extremely difficult to make connections when you don’t know anyone there. I wanted to create a platform where people can meet folks that truly matter and could potentially make a difference in their lives.
When the pandemic hit, we knew that physical events were going to become a rare occurrence, and that people would not be returning to them immediately. So in less than 25 days, we pivoted to a virtual event platform where we were able to leverage on our experience with offline events.
OS: What were the typical shortcomings of virtual events at the beginning of the pandemic?
VJ: At that time, everybody was trying to figure out what virtual events are and how to organize them, and the only definition that people had in their mind was doing a webinar because that’s how virtual events existed before the pandemic. A lot of folks were just trying to replicate their entire itinerary of physical events, in that they would take whatever agenda they already had in mind, and just port it over to a digital setting..
But as the organizers began to understand how people tend to interact online, they started to tweak their events and make them more suitable for a virtual setting. We learned that organizers care the most about attendees, their experience, and the content they want, with branding being secondary.
OS: What qualities should a successful virtual event have?
VJ: The first thing is understanding the audience who may be interested in coming to your event, and marketing your event according to the needs of that audience. The second thing is to make sure your content is not a mismatch for those people. Now that you have the right content and the right audience to reach out to, the next thing is to engage them with the content that you’re delivering. Then comes the analysis. What kind of metrics can you extract from the event? How do you make improvements for your next event based on what you’ve learned? There’s an entire cycle to think about.
OS: How does Hubilo help to organize such a virtual event?
VJ: A lot of platforms, including ours as well, are at the forefront of ensuring that people are not just engaged with content, but are also connecting to other participants throughout the event. What we do is curate a personalized journey for every attendee, and give them a VIP experience, so that every attendee can meet the kind of people that he or she should meet based on their profiles, and gain a proper ROI from that particular virtual event.
For example, we look at the profile that you’ve built to see what type of sessions you are attending, what type of people profiles you are checking out. Then we will curate a list of attendees that match your profile and the people with whom you may want to meet. Once you generate around ten strong connections through that process, you can go ahead and concentrate on that particular group, instead of going through a list of 1,000 folks that may or may not be who you’re looking for.
OS: What are some of the things that technology provides to add value to virtual events where offline events cannot?
VJ: That’s a great question. One of the things that technology can help with is customization. At a physical event, you can give VIP experiences to only 20 or 30 attendees. But at a virtual event, you are able to understand the needs of every attendee and curate a personalized journey for that person. That is something that can only be experienced at a virtual event.
Second, at a virtual event, you’re able to track a lot of stuff. At a physical event, it can be difficult to introduce unfamiliar gadgets or make people download a mobile app in order to fully participate. But at a virtual event, you’ll be able to track a lot of activities right away and create a more engaging experience for everyone.
The third is that virtual events can always be on-demand. If we were to attend a physical two-day event, we would go ahead and attend the event only on those two specific days. But at a virtual event, if you like the content, those events can easily remain evergreen. You will still be able to go ahead and check out the content, and engage with the people who were there, just like if you had community-based access.
OS: What will the future of events be like? Will there be a blurring of lines between physical events and virtual events?
VJ: Just like hybrid workplaces where people can transition easily from an office environment to remote work, events are going to go through a transformation in the near future.
Physical events will not be going away, but it’s likely that there are going to be fewer large-scale physical events in future. At the same time, more virtual or hybrid events will become the norm across the world.