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Online events take-off, but is it sustainable?


May 30th brought a historic occasion in both space travel and live streaming as NASA and SpaceX launched the first ever privately-funded, crewed space mission ‘in front’ of huge audiences online.

The launch itself was not only the most watched NASA online event to date, with over 10m concurrent viewers, it was also the first manned space flight from US soil for almost a decade - and boy have things changed over the last 10 years!

Video streams reaching new heights

The meteoric rise of video streaming platforms over that time period has made witnessing historic, expensive or potentially ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences from anywhere in the world on a range of devices incredibly easy. And whilst I am not suggesting all events fit these lofty descriptions or that they can attract the same broad audience (everyone has a vested interest in space travel, right?), these video platforms mean that you don’t have to be leaving the Earth’s atmosphere to be able to amplify your live events to larger, more dispersed audiences.

The Events industry adapts

More recently, through these uncertain times back here on Earth, there has been a groundswell of activity in the events industry to adapt schedules, cancel conferences or transition to online substitutes to ensure the safety of attendees. The consumer tech world, for example, is usually dominated by large conferences that stretch the length of the year but 2020 has forced even the biggest players; Google, Apple, Samsung and Adobe to change their plans.

Across the industry, the shift to virtual events has been arguably successful in most cases and demonstrated a lot of benefits to the format, leading to plenty of early speculation about whether the industry would ever really need to go back to how it was.

However, those in the event industry that rely on the commercial opportunities and footfall of traditional, physical events - as opposed to virtual ones - should find comfort in the rocket launch analogy. You see the ability to let the whole world experience an event online is incredibly valuable and can really transform awareness and engagement levels, but it isn’t quite the same as being there in person, is it?

Looking ahead

Nothing can replace the feeling, connection, clarity and perspective of experiencing larger and more impactful events like these in person. Although it is perfectly feasible to expect hybrid event offerings in the future, that look to get the best of both worlds, it is likely that the events and conferences that were performing well before the Covid-19 pandemic will return just as strongly when it is safe to do so. Continuing to provide all those unique benefits of in-person, social interaction and networking that most attendees covet, and many businesses rely on.

Looking back to the Falcon 9 mission, the excitement wasn’t just surrounding the launch itself but for the future possibilities that reusable, and therefore less expensive rockets, can bring to space travel as well as life here on Earth.

On a similar note, it has been rewarding to see how technologies like our own have been able to come to the aid of an industry in a desperate time, and it will be interesting to see the long term impact that these proven capabilities will have on how events are experienced in the future. I suspect it can only be for the better.

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During these uncertain times, we’ve had many enquiries from event teams about how our technology can help store, manage and share video content with their audiences online. To find out how we can help you deliver content, take a look at our Imagen for Events Factsheet.

Looking for more information and insights on shifting to online events – even if just in the short term? Download our 5 Steps Guide here.

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