Virtual Events: Importance of Interaction

Tech marketers quickly pivoted to virtual meetings and events in response to COVID-19, with varying degrees of success. Explore how to make your next virtual event a success with IDC Canada’s Julie Tiley.

By: Julie TileyVice-President, Custom Solutions

Pivoting to Virtual Events

Over the past 6 months, marketers have relied heavily on virtual events to help sales teams and channel partners safely interact with customers and prospects and keep the business moving forward.  A variety of formats have been tried, everything from virtual trade and award shows on proprietary or 3rd party platforms, webinars, drive-in movies, to virtual roundtables with themes like wine tasting.  Many of these events were successful, while others struggled due to technology or recruitment challenges.

The second wave of COVID-19 has arrived in Canada meaning larger in-person events are not likely to happen until fall 2021, at the earliest.  As tech marketers double down on virtual events this fall and in 2021, it is important to understand what makes them successful.

IDC’s CMO Advisory Service studied conferences that became virtual events and gathered insight into the experiences and expectations of both the host and attendees of the virtual events.

The Power of Interaction in a Virtual World

The IDC Study: Virtual Meetings and Conferences, found that the majority, 57% of event organizers failed to interact with attendees or allow them to interact with other attendees.  In contrast, 86% of people engage in conversations with others at live events.

The majority of events didn’t include:

  • Live speaker Q&A (57% didn’t include)
  • Live chat for participants (60% didn’t include)
  • Access to an online community for future discussions (69% didn’t offer)

(Source: IDC Virtual Events Study, May 2020. N=102)

Access to an online community is particularly important as our research found that companies with branded communities had 13% more success with attendance and greater social media hashtag usage than those without. A small percentage of organizations are trying to create a more tangible experience by sending participants swag bags.  This may be a tactic we see more of as marketers vie for attendees in a very crowded fall virtual event calendar.

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How to Close the Engagement Gap and Create Successful Virtual Events?

How do you close the engagement gap and ensure your virtual events are successful this fall?  IDC recommends the following:

  • Ensure the topic and speakers are compelling and credible
  • Consider more intimate roundtable events that engage all participants and create a high level of interaction
  • Make it easy for attendees to engage with speakers and other users on the platform to drive better attention and engagement and avoid break away Twitter conversations
  • Provide multiple engagement paths in your events to increase interaction.  Offer polls, live Q&A, and chat for participants
  • Use robust platforms that allow for engagement and can host larger groups than you normally anticipate


You can learn more about MarTech insights at CMO Talks, a bi-weekly podcast hosted by ITWC CMO, Fawn Annan, and backstopped by the global market intelligence firm IDC, exploring the latest MarTech trends through the eyes of the marketing leaders deploying them.

We're happy to talk to you about the future of Virtual Events and MarTech insights! Feel free to reach out to me directly at In the meantime, check out our latest CMO Talks episode here.



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About the Author

Julie Tiley
Vice President, Custom Solutions
IDC Canada

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Cristina Santander

Manager, Marketing & Customer Experience