While events are virtual rather than in person, we need to re-assess what we spend on them. I am referring to tickets for “attendance” and especially sponsorship.

In lieu of any reply to a few Tweets I replied to in Twitter, and without a reply from The Next Web, to whom I posed similar questions, I will use data from Twitter on 100% of the Tweets that included a recent virtual event’s hashtag for the 30 days from before, during and after The Next Web’s annual conference as evidence that discussions that emanate from virtual events are far below what they were when events were live.

**My suspicion is that much of the value that attendees place on such events are in the networking opportunities, and when events are virtual, much of this value is lost.

To support my premise, I reference the public RiteTag Hashtag Reports for #TNW2019 and #TNW2020. The Next Web held their 14th annual conference in Amsterdam from May 9 through May 10 2019. The Report for #TNW2019 includes all Tweets and Retweets containing the event hashtag from April 15 through May 14, 2019. The report for the October 1 through 2, 2020 #TNW2020 contains the same data for the same period: from 23 days before the events began until five days following the events.

Inspect and use the data downloads from the interactive RiteTag Hashtag Reports for #TNW2019 and #TNW2020 free of cost and with no login required.

Below is the data from Twitter on #TNW2019

Below is the identical data from Twitter on #TNW2020

The same data from Twitter on #TNW2020 shows less than one quarter the number of Twitter accounts that used the respective hashtags, yielding a similar proportional drop in Tweets containing the hashtags and an even sharper disparity in engagement (Retweets, likes and replies to these Tweets).

The most damning evidence is in Exposure (Tweet impressions within Twitter): The 2019 event’s Tweets were seen by nearly 24 people for every one who saw a #TNW2020 Tweet.

What’s more, we see that while the volume of Tweets containing the event hashtags peaked while the events were happening, there were very few Tweets in the weeks leading up to TNW2020 in stark contrast to the buzz prior to TNW2019 for the identical periods:

Is it worth sponsoring a virtual event for as much as you’ve paid in the past?

If you are considering sponsoring an event, are you comparing sponsor costs with years when the same events were done live? You might want to share this article with those who are still asking sponsors to pay for a virtual sponsorship anywhere near what they were asked to pay when attendees met face to face.

Event organizers talk brand awareness and lead generation, I would ask to see exactly how they are motivating attendees to visit virtual booths and schedule one-on-one meetings. How are they prompting a continuation of discussions from live or recorded keynote speeches or workshops? Do they have data on the ROI that sponsors have garnered from recent virtual expositions?

What should you pay to attend an event that you cannot actually attend?

While there may be substantial cost savings in travel and lodging, we need to account for the loss in memorability that can be expected when we do not actually meet people. Participation in a Zoom group call should not be expected to yield the leads that we fly home with after truly pressing the flesh.

I hope that the Twitter data helps you assess what you can agree to shell out to attend or sponsor upcoming events in this age of social distancing. Perhaps event organizers will reassess their pricing to address the new reality.

Data source: RiteKit

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