Living la vida virtual!


A new year is upon us. At a second past midnight a few nights ago, we ushered in 2021. We all tried to bid 2020 and its many challenges goodbye and good riddance, while we celebrated and hoped for the next 365 days ahead of us to be much better.


While it’s true that we ended 2020 with some glimmer of hope that the worst days may be behind us already, it will take some time before everything will be back to normal, if it ever will be. The most likely scenario is that our back to normal may be quite different from what it was before. There’s a heightened sense of safety and resiliency in most us now. There’s an improved sense of community and willingness to sacrifice a bit for the sake of the many. There’s also an increased creativity and resourcefulness we didn’t previously know that we had.


One of the things that may likely continue on even as everyone starts getting vaccinated will be virtual events. Many of you may have been part of some of these: there were virtual runs and races, virtual concerts and plays, virtual museums tours, and virtual conferences and webinars to name a few all throughout 2020.


This may have been new to most in 2020, but it is a thriving industry even pre-pandemic. In the U.S. alone, the estimated market size is valued at $77.98 billion in 2019. It is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 23.2 percent from 2020 to 2027, according to Grand Market Research.


My guess is that it may even grow exponentially bigger as more and more individuals and small corporations get into the fray— and not just the big, established corporations and events groups that this study may have included.


Cases in point are the many virtual events throughout 2020. Many of us had virtual gatherings with friends and family thru familiar apps with video features like FaceTime, FB messenger, WhatsApp, etc.


In the business front, many took to Zoom as our video conferencing platform of choice. It has a free version that is quite easy to use for the uninitiated ones. But it also has many features on its paid tiers that enable collaboration and bigger events to happen. Just take a look at how much revenue growth Zoom had in 2020 alone.


While there may be some who have struggled trying to do these types of events, there are many plusses to being able to do such. Guam could stand to gain by being much savvier at these virtual events. Foremost of these benefits would be the capacity to reach and engage with a wider audience at a fraction of the cost.


The audience then becomes global, the Guam context better understood, and the interaction can be sustained for a much longer period of time beyond the actual event itself. Of course, a physical event is more engaging and personal, and without need for reliable internet connections for the most part.


Can you imagine the possible revenue and bottomline growth of our local events if we’re able to monetize these to a virtual global scale? Can you imagine how much more virtual tourists we can have who will enjoy our fiestas, local concerts, nature walks and hikes? Can you imagine how it now can be possible to host global events and conferences even without a huge center? There are limitless possibilities.


In reality, it takes some time to build everything to scale – even one that is virtual. But hybrid events that combine both physical and virtual elements can also be done. It can have tiered fees, multiple follow throughs, personalization of giveaways, etc. All it takes is a bit of creativity and imagination, perhaps some smaller scale trial events to learn from prior to taking it to scale. Before we may even realize it, we’re living la vida virtual!


Joy Santamarina is the chief transformation officer of Energy Development Corp. She has extensive experience across the APAC region in various sectors including FMCG, telecommunications, media, and technology industries. Send feedback to joysantamarina@gmail.com


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