Almost overnight, the Covid pandemic has created legions of highly proficient users of Zoom and other video-conferencing platforms. It has led to a boom in webinars of increasing levels of sophistication. The production quality of some is starting to rival that of TV broadcasts.

Day in, day out, the in-boxes of business managers and employees swell with invites to all manner of these online webinars, often only tangentially related to their pre-furlough day-job. If so inclined, one could while away the hours listening to ‘experts’ hold forth on all manner of subjects while comfortably nestled on the living room sofa.

But it is rumoured that many event companies are finding it harder and harder to round up audiences for their productions. Once they attempt to monetise them by charging even a modest ticket price, numbers drop off sharply.

Could it be that ‘webinar fatigue’ is beginning to set in – not just among audiences but among the producers themselves? Arguably, big expenses normally faced by event organisers such as hiring a venue, onsite registration, and food and refreshments have vanished completely, leaving plenty of dosh to spend on lavish online content. True, there may be big cost savings, but expenses still remain and from where is the money going to come to pay for these?

The economics of business events, whether B2B or B2C are simple. The cost of events are underwritten by suppliers and sponsors and are paid for largely out of their marketing budgets. To recoup their costs, suppliers must ultimately sell more products or services. For event sponsors, it may be sufficient just to have their brand associated with some extravagant production and seen by a large audience. But if so, there are a lot of other marketing channels competing for the sponsor’s money besides webinars.

For the majority of suppliers, especially in the B2B world, events are less about marketing and more about sales. Suppliers want to meet potential buyers and convert those meetings into revenues. Face to face is ideal. But failing that, an online meeting can be really rather productive. After all, what happens in a business meeting once the formalities are over? Suppliers ascertain their buyers’ requirements, make presentations, show photos or videos of their offering, answer questions, discuss prices and arrange to follow up, often by email.

If these activities can be accomplished through a video-conferencing platform, what’s needed is an event that assembles a sizable group of attendees with mutual interests and enables them to identify suitable meeting partners, schedule meetings and engage with each other online at an appointed time.

Webinar fatigue? What comes next? Would it be presumptuous to suggest, “Meetings between buyers and suppliers”? Lots of them.

© Graham Simon, Managing Director, Delegate Select