By Alexa Peters
Since the onset of the pandemic, one thing is clear: Virtual events are an impactful way to build engagement with your cannabis consumer, particularly as in-person cannabis festivals and tradeshows have not fully returned—and that doesn’t show signs of changing.
After all, in 2020, virtual events took off as all industries looked for ways to adapt to the constraints of quarantine, and the cannabis industry was no exception. Even as we return to a more “normal” style of business, many cannabis entrepreneurs, organizations and enthusiasts will continue to support virtual events. Here’s why:
• Overall data projects the virtual events industry is only going to expand in the next decade. In fact, data suggests this industry to have a compound annual growth rate of 23.2% from 2020 to 2027. Currently, some of the biggest in-person events in the cannabis industry have transitioned to virtual events—including the upcoming USA CBD Expo in Chicago—and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of that ending anytime soon.
• The pandemic has changed the way we live and the way we work. As a result, there’s been a shift toward working from home and many companies are considering sticking with the work-from-home or a hybrid model even after the pandemic, and according to the report of cannabis business trends, the 420 industry is making the same considerations. In this way, virtual events are a perfect way to meet cannabis enthusiasts where they spend the most time—at home.
• Putting on virtual events is cost-effective. In fact, data shows that putting on a virtual event is about 75% cheaper than doing an in-person event, freeing up budget that would’ve otherwise been spent on staff, venue, setup, travel, accommodations and more. With virtual events, cannabis companies can cut out those costs and redirect that budget somewhere else—like more time to plan your keynote speech or on marketing.
• Many large cannabis organizations have become accustomed to managing events virtually during the pandemic and they’ve found ways to put on fantastic, personalized virtual events that can be more impactful than ever before. More tools and platforms—which utilize virtual reality, augmented reality, livestreaming, and video—have emerged, making it possible for cannabis businesses to hold cannabis events and conferences that rival previous in-person iterations. Plus, by removing the constraints of a centralized physical location, people from all over the world can engage with your event from their device. “To ensure during pandemic times that marijuana entrepreneurs can continue to meet up to share ideas, conduct business and engage with consumers and clients, the industry has turned to Zoom, Instagram and conference-specific virtual platforms,” reports Marijuana Business Daily.
• Virtual event platforms often optimize a cannabis company’s ability to collect data by easily tracking your ROI with virtual event analytics, or real time measurements of your audience and what they are engaging with. After all, when everyone is online almost everything can be captured, tracked and reported, which gives companies a very accurate measure of event success and ROI, as well as valuable data about your cannabis consumer for future marketing efforts.
As beneficial as the move to virtual events can be, they’re not without their challenges. Here are some strategies for traversing these challenges and making virtual events succeed for you:
• While you’ve probably already incorporated virtual events into your marketing approach, it’s time to think even bigger. How might you harness the power of virtual events to fortify your bottom line? What data are you collecting during virtual events that you can use to target high-value customers and build stronger customer relationships overall?
• Virtual events are not that same as webinars, so try not to think about them that way. Profit-driving virtual events are those that go above and beyond a Zoom presentation with a Q&A—often by building in immersive livestreaming, polls, and other tools that keep audiences engaged. For instance, in 2020 The Emerge Virtual Cannabis Conference unveiled a captivating 3D virtual platform from Hyperfair that provided audiences with the ability to play with life-like, interactive, customizable avatars, and created an imaginative virtual reality ecosystem.
• Invest in cybersecurity and a strategy for implementing it, because cyberthreats are skyrocketing and cannabis companies are particularly at risk. As Rolling Stone reports, cannabis companies are prime targets for cybercriminals because they are often scrappy start-ups using unsophisticated systems. Don’t let your company be part of that generalization! When planning your virtual event, make sure you work with a reputable virtual event platform and have a plan in place if any security breaches should arise.
• However virtual your event, take a human-centered approach in hosting it. This means making audience members feel seen and acknowledged as humans. The best ways to create this human-centered feel is to create opportunities for human connection in your event like Q&A, polling, Zoom breakout rooms and other personalized touches. These additions add an element of surprise to your cannabis event and help audience members feel like more than just avatars on a screen.
In the end, mastering the art of virtual events is a sound business decision for any cannabis company—because they aren’t going anywhere and they have the capacity to offer a hefty ROI to cannabis companies. Just remember, in implementing this new type of event, keep strategy, security, imagination, and human-centeredness at the helm. From there, expect success.