Virtual events are not just fancy webinars

Virtual events have been around for years. So too have webinars. While there has long been a vibrant demand for webinars, virtual events have never really taken off – that is, until the advent of covid-19. Now virtual events are on everyone’s mind in the event industry.

Although a webinar may be a significant component of a virtual event, the two are distinctly different. That’s because people attend events for two primary reasons – one is content, the other is networking. Webinars go some way towards addressing content, but they do not begin to address the desire among event attendees to network.

The Appeal of 1-2-1 Meetings

Without doubt, nothing can beat a face-to-face meeting. Your counterpart’s demeanour, gestures and subtle body language communicate much more to you, even subconsciously, than you are going to pick up when talking online. This is especially the case when the other party may not have video or is connecting over a laggy line in jerky robotic motions. Still, if you can’t meet in person, online is the next best thing. The technology gets better by the day and users are becoming more familiar with the idiosyncrasies of their devices.

Typically, many ‘real-world’ business events comprise presentations, workshops, roundtables or break-out sessions, as well as 1‑2‑1 meetings scheduled in advance or during the event. Half-a-day is the minimum length for such events. Most last at least a whole day. Many run for two or three days. Some can span a whole week.

Virtual Events to Mirror Real Events 

So won’t people expect virtual events to be similar in format and duration? Delegate Select along with our competitors are betting that they will. You may argue that people can arrange meetings between themselves online without the need to attend an event. But event organisers who can bring a diverse group of people together with a multiplicity of common interests in a virtual environment, for a day or more, and can deliver compelling content, organize stimulating roundtables, and enable participants to schedule meaningful 1-2-1 meetings among themselves, may hit on the winning formula. The only thing missing from the participants’ viewpoint will be the refreshments and finger food, but if the event is well planned, they can always find time in the program to make their own coffee and raid the fridge.

One concern for many in the event industry could be that if covid-19 impacts our lives for too long and virtual events become too slick, people might just decide they’d rather attend events from the comfort of their own desktop than venture out and mingle with the masses!

Graham SimonVirtual events are not just fancy webinars
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Potato washing monkeys


Researchers in Japan in the fifties observed that a few monkeys on the island of Koshima, with a taste for sweet potatoes, began taking the mud-caked delicacies they excavated down to the sea to wash before eating. The researchers then observed this custom spread quickly among the monkey population of Koshima and soon to neighbouring islands.

This research was popularized by various writers in the seventies and eighties, including Rupert Sheldrake who saw it as evidence of his theory of morphic rensonance. This he described in his book The New Science of Life as ‘the basis of memory in nature… the idea of mysterious telepathy-like interconnections between organisms and of collective memories within species’. An idea similar in many respects to Jung’s “Collective Unconscious”.

Personally, I’m a believer – especially in light of our recent software development experience.


About six months ago, our technology director and I were kicking some ideas around and became very excited about developing a mobile app for exhibitor lead retrieval. Using their mobile phones, exhibitors at events would capture information about attendees who dropped by their stand simply by scanning a QR code on the visitors’ badge. No more charging scanning devices, renting them out, collecting them at the close of the event and downloading data.

Great idea.

We proceeded to design a slick and sophisticated mobile app to run on both i-phones and android devices and oversaw the development of this app alongside a myriad of other tasks.

Finally, the app is ready to launch. We are still excited, but we also note that in the intervening six months, a number of other apps have appeared on the market that do a similar job to ours.

There are both negatives and positives here. On the minus side, we have a lot of competition (though we would like to think that our app has several advantages over those of most of our competitors – such as being multi-lingual and providing automatic synchronization with our registration server).

On the plus side, we feel our vision has been fully vindicated. Without sharing our ideas with others or gleaning theirs from them, we are somehow fully attuned to the direction in which the market is heading.

In short, we are washing our potatoes along with all those other monkeys!

Graham SimonPotato washing monkeys
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