2021 Event Industry Report: Learning is the Primary Motivation for Virtual Event Attendees

2021 Event Industry Report

Here’s how you can create better learning experiences at your next virtual, hybrid, or live event.

Virtual events have evolved from passive streaming experiences to become dynamic gathering spaces where people from all over the world could consume great content, learn, conduct business, and even experience a sense of community.

Due to their many benefits, we know that virtual events will continue to occupy a strategically important place in an event planner’s toolbox, especially as we move towards a hybrid future.

To dig deeper into the “virtual attendee experienceBizzabo surveyed 700 attendees and analyzed data from 1000 virtual events. Their Spring 2021 Virtual Attendee Learning Report revealed that “online attendees are more likely to choose learning as their main goal than in-person attendees.” Simply put, learning is the primary motivation for virtual event participants.

This is a significant finding because, in order to design a satisfying hybrid event or even just a better virtual experience, event planners need to account for why their people want to attend their event in the first place.

Despite learning being the primary motivation, Bizzabo’s report reveals that 56% of the surveyed attendees stated that they did not gain as much knowledge as they were hoping to, revealing a significant gap between attendee expectations and experience.

Bizzabo report surveyed attendees

What this also means is that there’s an exciting opportunity for event professionals to improve the learning experience at their events so that 100% of their attendees can walk away from the event having all their learning needs met.

So, in this article, we will help you do exactly that. In the sections below, we share actionable tips, so you can design an event experience that meets your attendees’ most important needs.

Having been in the business of learning at events for 10 years, we are sharing best practices gained from activating successful peer-learning experiences at some of the world’s most iconic events and conferences, some of which include the Adobe Summit, SaaStr, Tableau Conference, Workday Rising, C2 Montreal and more.

Learning experiences at events

Here are five ways in which you can create high-quality learning experiences at your next hybrid, virtual, or live event:

1. Ask your people what they want to learn.

This first tip might seem obvious but event programming is rarely able to address the needs of individual participants. This is because event content is often based on top trends and current & anticipated industry challenges. While this is a great starting point, the resulting content ends up being generic precisely because it’s addressing the needs of the masses and not individuals. 

Great content is specific and relevant and your people deserve to have their unique learning needs addressed at your event. So why not co-create your event content with your attendees? You can do so by launching your event early, surveying your community for their learning needs, and releasing sessions based on what they tell you.

Another easy way to do this is to simply use Braindate at your next event. We designed our solution to make the lives of our event industry clients easier. Our platform helps attendees learn exactly what they want, without the event planner ever having to lift a finger to create extra content.

Participants booking meetings based on a shared topic of interest
Participants book meetings based on a shared topic of interest.

Our platform acts as a stream of user-generated content where attendees can post 1:1 and group meeting topics they want to learn more about. Other attendees can then book them for those meetings to either share their knowledge or learn from their peers. The result: attendees don’t have to depend on just the event content to address their learning needs. They can supplement what they learn in sessions with more focused braindate conversations.

2. Make learning experiential by creating time and space for your attendees to dive deeper into what they learned at event sessions.

Research into memory retention shows that when people learn something, they tend to lose most of the information within the first couple of days. This phenomenon was most famously demonstrated by the “Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve.”

Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve
Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve

This is relevant to event planners as the forgetting curve can negatively affect how much participants will actually learn (and remember) at your event.

You can combat memory loss by reinforcing the information through repetition, and by making the process of learning interactive and relevant to the learners. In order to ensure that the information communicated in your event sessions has maximum impact, you need to ensure that your attendees have the space and time to dive deeper into what they’ve learned.

It’s common to include networking and wellness breaks in the event programming. Why not also include time for experiential learning? The easiest way to do this is to give participants time after sessions to not only ask questions but discuss the session content with the speakers and other attendees.

At many events, attendees have used the Braindate platform to host meetings where they discussed learnings from an event session or keynote. This has allowed attendees to personalize the information provided in the sessions to their needs. It also led to higher engagement with the event content, better retention of information, and a deeper feeling of satisfaction at having met learning goals.

3. Combine networking with learning.

Traditional networking sucks. As Glassdoor’s Julia Malachoff writes, “though some find the task of talking to new people for career purposes to be enjoyable and enlightening, for others, it’s a major source of stress and anxiety…they can’t think of anything they’d like to do less than talk to complete strangers.”

So what if you could create a networking experience where participants not only gained new contacts but had meaningful conversations with every stranger they met? You can. It’s called learning-centered networking.

At Braindate, we believe in the power of peer learning. We believe that everyone has the ability to be the student and the teacher. That is why we designed our solution so that every participant has the ability to not only share their knowledge but learn from the experiences of their fellow attendees. 

We enable this kind of exchange by giving participants a platform where they can host their own conversations, be it in a one-on-one or group format. In this way, participants can benefit from the event content (keynotes, sessions, workshops) AND tap into the collective knowledge base of their community. When they connect with the aim to exchange knowledge and ideas, networking just becomes one of the many side-benefits that emerge from their exchange.

Peer Learning is the Future of Event-Networking Experience
You can learn more about peer learning and networking: Why Peer Learning is the Future of Event-Networking Experience.

4. Diversify learning opportunities at your event by inviting your community leaders to share their knowledge.

Opportunities to learn at most events are limited to attending keynotes, sessions, and workshops. More often than not, all of the above is led by industry leaders, field experts, popular influencers, and at times, even random celebrities. These are generally big names with large followings.

While these individuals offer valuable knowledge (and attract registrations), they are not in touch with the challenges faced by individual members of your community. They might not know, for example, that users are unhappy with a certain feature of your company product.

In contrast, community leaders, individuals who interact with various members of your community on a regular basis, will be able to provide knowledge that feels more relevant to your community. By inviting them to lead sessions or host AMAs, you’ll be able to diversify the learning opportunities at your event and personalize the knowledge provided to the needs of your attendees.

Community leader hosting an AMA on the Braindate platform
A community leader hosts an AMA on the Braindate platform

For example, as part of the Braindate experience, we work with clients to identify and then engage community leaders to host conversations on the Braindate platform. Not only does this boost attendee engagement, but it also helps our clients identify, through their community leaders, what their people actually want to learn at their events.

5. Be data-driven. Learn from past participant behavior to better learning experiences. 

With access to advanced analytics, you can now gain great insights into participant behavior. By analyzing data points like, engagement times, popular sessions, event polls, chat transcripts, number of connections, you can understand what kind of content your participants like and when they are most likely to engage with it. This can help you create better, and more relevant learning experiences at your event.

For example, our event management dashboard gives insights that relate specifically to participants’ learning experience with Braindate. This includes trending searches on the Braindate platform, popular braindate topics, the number of hours spent learning and in what format (1:1 or group), and names of participants who were most curious, or most generous with their knowledge. 

Clients have been able to action this knowledge by creating more relevant sessions at future events and even rewarding participants who were particularly active and engaged with the event content.

Better learning experiences = greater event impact

Bizzabo’s Attendee Learning Report brings welcome insights into one of the biggest reasons why participants choose to participate in virtual events. It validates a hypothesis that we’ve held for a long time: event organizers are not just gatherers of people, but also potential educators. 

With this understanding, we can see events as having an impact that goes beyond brand awareness, business development, audience engagement, customer retention, and community management. By truly facilitating meaningful and satisfying learning experiences, an event can go so far as to change an attendee’s life by giving them the skills and knowledge they need to grow professionally and drive projects forward.

Resources for Creating Memorable Virtual Experiences

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