With so many live events cancelled due to the pandemic, companies everywhere have been making the rapid shift to online experiences. And although webinars and events have always been a feature of B2B marketing, market expectations are changing as we’ve all been living a nearly completely virtual life for the past few months. This affects not only webinar programs, but also longer format meetings that are market-facing.
Ninety-three percent of marketing and events professionals plan to invest in virtual events moving forward, according to a recent report from Bizzabo. A big number and a trend that will continue. And, as with all things, people want to understand the value of what they’re signing up for.
There are crucial considerations to take as organizers aim to create the same type of value and energy from a live event and repurpose it for a virtual audience, from format to length to content to audience experience.
We’ve been talking to industry leaders about their findings from this transition, and have put together six key things to consider.
1. Get creative with your program’s structure
Keep audience engagement at the forefront of structure strategy
Plan for a mix of interactive opportunities. Private chat rooms, breakout sessions, virtual networking hours, Q&As, polls, gamification, and quizzes are just a few options you have. Depending on your audience and the type of event you’re hosting, some may be more appropriate than others.
Include generous breaks. Breaks prevent screen exhaustion and maintain attendee attention (heard of the term Zoombie?). Better yet, provide activities during break times for audience members that want to stay connected—a wellness class, a cooking class, morning yoga, scavenger hunt, receptions, or coffee breaks.
Consider timing. No one wants to stare at a screen for hours on end. In order to bring as much value to the table as possible, keep content tight, while remaining educational and actionable. A good rule of thumb is to keep presentations to no more than 30 minutes and keep the entire experience to under 4 hours.
Communicate the format. At a live event it’s common to receive a program with an agenda for the conference. Many people are new to the world of virtual events, so the simpler you can make things for your audience to understand, the better. Be sure to explain the process of your virtual event in your event promotion campaign, and have an organized meeting agenda, including an FAQ page.
2. Invest in content above all else
Content is the key. Keep your audience engaged and event attendance high. Really think about why someone would want to come to your event and deliver on it. Make sure your sessions are educational, actionable, and selected based on market research. Every audience has different needs so it’s important to choose the right speakers for the right audience. Focus on finding headliners who can meet and exceed audience expectations, and get them excited!
The art of online presenting. Part of an audience’s engagement is also in how content is delivered. Online presenting is vastly different from in-person. Offer speaker training that covers not only the technological considerations of virtual presentations, but general best practices like eye contact, body language and organized backgrounds.
3. Deliver long-term value and get regular feedback
A “backstage pass.” The more value you can deliver to your audience, the better. Don’t stop at the content itself, think about what else you can offer, similar to a “backstage pass” at live events. This could include content sneak peaks, on-demand recordings, slide data and document access, or raffles.
Don’t forget to follow up. Networking is key to live and virtual events. Remember to send an email recap after your event. Consider offering things like one-on-one or small group follow-up conversations.
Care packages. When people think of live events, they often think “free swag.” Replicate the experience with a care package after the fact — send a branded notebook or screen cleaner and let your attendees see that you are thinking of them.
4. Remember to still have a run of show
The devil is in the details. The logistics to planning a virtual event require just as much planning as they do for a live event, and there are many additional things to consider. Be sure to test out technologies, platforms, and resources in advance. Consider lighting kits, the right audio and camera equipment, and speaker moderators.
Communicate the amount of bandwidth required to your audience and the browsers that work best with your event in advance.
Choose the right technology. Know what types of digital media and technology connect with your audience’s needs.
Have a dedicated emcee. Moderators can help facilitate Q&As and ensure all the logistics of your event go smoothly, including tech support.
5. Consider all the factors influencing your ROI
Think of all the factors that roll up to success and weigh them. ROI is affected by many different things for virtual events, not just advance ticket sales and event attendance, the most common metrics for live events. Remember to measure and analyze your content downloads, social discussions and engagement, including hashtag trending, audience participation in activities and website traffic.
6. Utilize your marketing channels
Make the most of it. An advantage to virtual events is that you can really leverage your different digital channels. Think about repurposing your content in blog posts, podcasts, Youtube bite-sized trailers, and on social media.
Take the opportunity to build community. There are trusted event listing platforms for hosting the event emerging in the market, consider utilizing them or other event apps for more targeted community building!
Companies worldwide are repurposing their live events budgets to host virtual ones. The live events industry isn’t expected to recover until at least 2021, and even once travel bans and gathering restrictions are lifted, there is still long-term value in virtual events that companies should consider.
Virtual event marketing allows businesses to capture lead data; save costs on travel, hotel accommodations, and food; improve content strategy; analyze and nurture prospects; and more.Back to blog