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Are You Enjoying All This Virtual Event Stuff or Nah?

atlanta talks about virtual events

Are we keeping or trashing virtual events?

Atlanta is normally booming during the month of September when it comes to events. Beginning with Labor Day Weekend — which includes Dragon Con, Black Gay Pride and the Decatur Book Festival, among others — fall’s first month always gets going with a gang of large-scale get-togethers.

But as we know, 2020 is strange. Take for example the 74th Annual Bronner Bros. International Beauty Show.

Today is the final day of the massively popular Black hair convention’s first all-virtual show, usually held twice a year in the Georgia World Congress Center. It normally gets around 30,000 attendees and generates $60 million in revenue.

The family-owned, Atlanta-based hair product corporation didn’t expect to hit those same numbers this time. This year, a company representative says they had 10,000 attendees on Sunday, and expect the final two-day total to be 15,000 people — half the amount of guests they’d normally pull in.

In a statement sent to media before the show began last weekend, SVP of Show Operations James Bronner acknowledged the challenges of going digital on a show so central to the company’s business and marketing operations.

“The BB team has reimagined an exciting virtual experience that will be entertaining and most of all, safe,” Bronner said. “COVID-19’s impact on the Black beauty industry has been unprecedented, halting the ability for many stylists and barbers to generate income. This is unchartered territory for us all— but the Show must go on!”

And go on it has, with more than 60 classes on styling hair, 100 exhibitors previewing and selling products and services in a “digital marketplace,” and a variety of competitions, presentations and panels. There was even virtual church service yesterday.

virtual event

It got us thinking about whether or not 2020’s virtual events experiment will become virtual reality going forward. And while some of us may be exhausted with hanging out in Hangouts and networking via platforms like Zoom, others say this new normal is also what’s next.

According to Variety CMO Dea Lawrence, the magazine, which normally hosts 70+ live events and sees 10% attendance from signups, credits its virtual events success to an immediate pivot back in March.

“We wanted to be the first out of the gate,” Lawrence told Morning Consult. “We started pitching all of the advertisers immediately, and everyone said to us, ‘You’re the very first one that’s talking to us.’”

As a result, they’ve averaged 43% participation in virtual events, and have held more than 60 such events since April. And that’s no small matter for a company like Variety; live events had become a significant safety net and revenue driver for traditional media in the past decade, particularly since digital revenue is only recently surpassing print advertising, even for a publication as venerable as The New York Times.

That leads us to our Question Of The Week:

virtual event

Virtual Events: How You Feelin’?

Every Monday, we’re asking all of you brilliant minds who read The Churn to weigh in on something we’ve been wondering about. Later in the week we’ll share what you’ve told us, with your best quotes, detailed infographics and more.

This time we want to know your opinion on virtual events. We assume you’ve attended one or 100, whether they’re something for work or maybe a loved one’s graduation party that you couldn’t attend this summer.

Hit this link as hard as you can, and give us your thoughts!


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