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What Is a Virtual Event?

By Theresa Miles
Updated May 17, 2024
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A virtual event is an event that happens over the Internet. The participants are situated in different locales but are connected through the web, creating an interactive space that relies on technology rather than proximity. These sorts of events use Internet-based software to connect people, either through a one-way presentation or a two-way interactive program. Put another way, the virtual event can either be something that a person watches, such as a concert, or something in which a person actively participates, such as a conference.

The Internet enables delivery of content to people anywhere in the world at the same time. Through the use of web streaming, chat rooms, video conferencing, cloud-based collaboration and many other technological advancements that rely on the web, the barriers to engaging large numbers of people at the same time have been lowered. Traditionally, special events required a significant allocation of money and resources to cover all of the expenses that are associated with gathering a large number of people in one place at one time. Despite any amount of planning, however, a physical event is always limited by the size of the venue and the project's overall budget.

Those limits cease to be an issue if people can attend an event virtually. With web-based technology, a virtual event can be delivered in real time and simultaneously to all participants. These two features give the virtual event much of the same type of excitement and interactivity as a physical event without the same level of expense. The only limit on a virtual event is the capacity of the servers running the software to handle the number of people who will log in to the event at the same time.

Many industries have put the virtual event to innovative use. The fashion and music industries use web streaming to present live performances that people can watch over the Internet. Television producers hold live chats with fans while shows are airing in prime time. Major universities enable students to attend classes online. Some nonprofit organizations have eliminated the expense of holding physical events by transforming them into virtual fundraisers, such as conducting an auction live over the web instead of requiring supporters to attend the auction at a designated location.

Perhaps one of the most common uses of the virtual event is in the business industry. The Internet has forever changed the typical business meeting from an event that had to happen in person if more interaction was required than could be had through a conference call to something that can be done effectively at a distance. Video conferencing, screen sharing technology and cloud-based programs for document sharing have enabled a truly interactive virtual space for business meetings where all attendees can collaborate without being in the same location.

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