How virtual events help advertisers boost audiences, creativity and revenues

July 9, 2021
SCMP Insights
The continuing Covid-19 pandemic has thrust virtual conferences, panel discussions and similar activities into the spotlight as global restrictions on movement, such as social distancing and border closures, make it impossible for the events industry to stage them physically.
I recently spoke at an online seminar, or webinar, titled “Event-Driven Growth In The Time of Covid”, during which 44 per cent of the 200 participants said they expect their budgets to be divided equally between virtual and physical events in the coming year, when things ease and start to return to normal. 

Virtual events do not have boundaries and have a much greater reach, in terms of audience and speakers, compared with traditional offline, in-person events. They allow people who are unable to travel to experience the events and increase revenue streams because of greater sponsorship opportunities and higher attendee volume. Organisers are also able to collect data about their attendees, including social media usage and content consumption for analytics purposes.

For us at the South China Morning Post (SCMP) we have a great track record of success with content-driven virtual events that started before, and have continued during, the pandemic. However, Morning Studio, SCMP’s dedicated creative branded content house for advertisers, took things a big step further by offering our clients custom event solutions that leverage our credibility and expertise in storytelling, technology, and media platforms to elevate their brands.  

For instance, the inaugural hybrid Global Innovation and Technology Forum 2020 event, co-organised by the Chengdu government and SCMP last September, was live-streamed from mainland China (where there was an in-person audience present), Hong Kong and Singapore to a 190,000-strong online audience on the video hosting websites YouTube and Youku. From tailored programme creation to desired audience recruitment and cutting-edge event execution, the virtual format enabled the event to engage influential SCMP readers despite border closures and travel restrictions. 

Global Innovation and Technology Forum 2020 - live-streamed from mainland China (with in-person audience), Hong Kong and Singapore

The team also organised a hybrid event with live, pre-recorded, and documentary video production to a global audience during last October’s three-day WRLDCTY 2020 virtual festival celebrating major international cities, their citizens, culture and experiences, in partnership with Brand Hong Kong. Of all the top world cities, Hong Kong was the only city to pull off a quality, in-person live event production amid the pandemic. The two cultural videos we created for the event attracted more than 51,000 video views across SCMP platforms, demonstrating our ability to craft engaging, audience-centric content. 

Hong Kong panellists at the virtual WRLDCTY Festival

Our sophisticated digital capabilities also contributed to hosting other successful events. In March this year, the team collaborated with high-end audio solutions company EPOS to curate and organise two panel discussions and a virtual event, titled “The New Age of Hybrid Work” – from its inception, content and creative development right up to the management of the live event itself. Promoted on a number of SCMP channels, including our email database,, Facebook, LinkedIn and our branded content online stories, we managed to attract more than 500 quality participants from target countries across the Asia-Pacific region. It was also broadcast live on SCMP YouTube channel to a wider audience of more than 2,000 people. 

Some of the on and off SCMP platforms promotions for EPOS conference

Virtual events will continue to play an important role as advertisers increasingly understand how the use of both virtual and physical presentations in a hybrid model can maximise their impact. While physical events offer unique, memorable experiences and face-to-face networking opportunities, those held virtually provide an opportunity to scale in terms of audience reach, creativity, and revenue streams.