Virtual Events are the future for so many types of events. This list includes some of the most common like conferences, trade shows and work/benefit fairs. If you focus on the “Pros” and avoid the “Cons” by following the steps we provided you can make the most of your virtual events.
The current global pandemic has essentially made conferences and all other types of live events moot. So what do we do as marketers to reach the audience that used to attend these events, now that it is all but impossible to have them? That’s an excellent question and it is certainly one we had to ask since the pandemic started. Thankfully there is an equally excellent and even more simple answer, Virtual Events.
Virtual Events are the future for so many types of events. This list includes some of the most common like conferences, trade shows and work/benefit fairs. It can even replace open days on campuses used to recruit talent who are graduating soon or have recently graduated from their college or university. Each type of event has unique characteristics but thankfully they also have many common traits that can help us to ensure the virtual versions are as good if not better than the IRL versions we are all so used to.
If you want to throw a great virtual event first you need to understand some of the most common “Pro’s” and “Con’s” of these types of events. The “Pro’s” include them being flexible (you can easily socially distance from your desk). environmentally conscious (you don’t have to fly or drive to your desk) and of course packed with data just ripe for analysis to inform you on your future events and larger marketing strategy. Some other “Pro’s” include being reliable (rain or shine the internet is open), scalable (no need for a bigger event space, the internet is infinite if you have the right events platform), and more engaging (30% of attendees are more likely to engage virtually according to a Forester study). To quote the great Richard Branson “We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they are at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.”
What are the “Cons” you might ask. First you are limited in your organic networking opportunities (you can’t bump into someone from your desk), constant distractions (your email might have been on your phone at a conference but your phone is in your pocket), you will lost the not so savvy internet users (you can’t go to a virtual conference if you can’t figure out Zoom) and lastly you don’t get out of the office for a business trip which might lower your enthusiasm (you can’t really see your desk as a destination). These are reasonable “Cons” compared to the “Pro’s”, and for that reason all signs point to virtual events trending for the foreseeable future. So in the words of Joe Schwinger the founder of MeetingPlay "It is essential that with the ever-changing events industry, we as event professionals, commit ourselves to continued growth, being on the forefront of event technology and delighting attendee experience."
With that in mind how do you take advantage of all the “Pro’s” and avoid all the “Cons”? Follow these easy steps and you can ensure your best chance at success. First and foremost, decide on the goals of your event, then build your event format around those goals. Are you looking to share your products and services then maybe a webcast is for you. If your goal is a dialogue with your customers and prospects consider a webinar instead. Or if you have a tangible product you need people to interact with then create a 3D conference floor so people can interact with your product in a virtual space.
No matter what format you choose the next important step is allocating enough resources starting with choosing the right platform to suit the type of event you chose earlier based on those goals, then ensuring you dedicate staff to planning just as you would with a live event, finally use that staff to plan and implement marketing to ensure great attendance.
A third key step to a successful and well attended event is planning your content. This includes choosing your speakers carefully, be sure they are relevant to your audience and can help you increase the size of that audience by leveraging their own. Another part of this planning process is ensuring you prepare for technical issues. The best way to prepare is to rehearse your content with your speakers and staff before the event multiple times (practice makes perfect as they say). And remember that every speaker has a different motivation for attending. David Adler of BizBash says “I attend events not just to network and meet people, but also to invest in myself and build my own intellectual capital away from the constant pressures of being the C.E.O. of my company.”
The last and perhaps most crucial step is to collect and leverage all that data you will get from having a virtual event. To collect the data use surveys and polls during as well as after the event, try your best to make them fun and entertaining. Once you have the data then it’s time to implement it using your Marketing Technology stack. Put those email addresses, job titles and company names in your Hubspot, Marketo or Eloqua and let it rip.
Virtual events are a great replacement or in the hopefully pandemic free future supplement to live events. If you focus on the “Pro’s” and avoid the “Cons” by following the steps we provided you can make the most of your virtual events. You can harvest a bunch of useful data, make great connections, hear talented speakers, and even help save the planet. So use our guide and start planning your first virtual event today.