6 Tips for Virtual
7 out of 10 companies have moved their physical events to virtual platforms.*
*A RECENT SURVEY BY THE PROFESSIONAL CONVENTION MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION
Live events work, and marketers know it. 80% of marketers—and more than 80% of the C-suite—believe that live events are a critical component of their company’s success.1 And 41% consider live events to be the single most critical marketing channel (of 9 options) for achieving business outcomes.2
But in March, overnight, in-person events were canceled. Immediately, the virtual invites started coming – and coming, and coming. A survey by the Professional Convention Management Association reported that 7 out of 10 companies had moved their physical events to virtual platforms, and Google searches for the term “virtual events” had increased 300% by May. Just this morning, I received three virtual event invites, bringing my total to six in a week.
With so many virtual events competing for mindshare, how can you transform yours from yet another PowerPoint click-a-thon to a fresh, engaging activity that spices up your demand-gen mix? Here are six ways to deliver an experience that stands out.
Yes, physical events are effective. But according to Forrester data, only 18% of event technology vendors say that their clients can measure physical event ROI. Whereas in the digital realm, there’s plenty to measure. Digital platforms provide a wealth of data that reveals insights beyond booth visits and badge scans.
First, you need to determine which measures of success are important. How many registrations do you need to drive acceptable attendee rates? How many attended sessions equate to success? Are named accounts represented at an acceptable threshold? Which content engagement metrics matter?
Don’t be overwhelmed by platforms touting robust dashboards with endless KPIs. Just define a few quantifiable business and communication goals for your virtual event. (And make sure to include your salespeople when you establish metrics.) Armed with documented goals, you’ll have the rationale for selling your event to management and the criteria for determining which type of event is most appropriate.
Choose the right format
When you’re planning a virtual event, don’t start with the format; start with your goals. Then align the format with what you’re trying to accomplish. A few examples of good format/goal alignment:
Launch new products
Position as an expert on a topic
Forge relationships with key
Highlight the power of your combined offering
Drive meetings with stalled prospects
Co-sponsored partner webinar
Spice it up
There’s a common objection to virtual events, and it’s a big one: There’s little opportunity for personal connection, especially the incidental 1:1 interactions that happen so naturally in person.
Another complaint: Visually, virtual events are a bust. Conference environments are drab and generic, using templates included with the software. Or they’re random and bizarre, with a different style for every room, which erases any sense of brand cohesion. Trade booths tend to be indistinguishable from each other, so people get bored (and lost) fast. And webinar slide decks . . . zzzz.
The solution? Be intentional. Create a strong visual concept that applies across all environments and elements, and enhance your format with tech capabilities that perk up your content, immerse people in your brand, and initiate actual relationships online. For example:
- If you’re holding a user conference, create custom environments for people to click into: rooms to enter, booths to explore. Make each space unique –but still connected–and include visual cues and CTA buttons to guide users through the environment. Here’s a sophisticated Virtual User Conference environment we recently completed for Qlik.
- In webinars, use the breakout function to divide your attendees into pairs or small groups for working sessions, discussions, or brainstorming activities. If you’re hosting a series of webinars, you can assign partners or small teams to regather during each session, increasing the opportunity for real relationships to form.
- Consider gamification techniques that keep people interested and checking back for results. For example, if you’re hosting a virtual trade show, you can include a sales leaderboard. And even a simple trivia question or two asked during a webinar can spike engagement, especially if it’s an amusing or provocative one.
Don’t assume a registrant is an attendee
With some exceptions, virtual events are usually free. That translates to optional. As the event gets closer, calendars fill, and work is a real-time distraction. Plus, it always feels easier to imaging consuming the content later, on-demand. As a result, attendee rates hover between 30-50%.
The key to attendance is expressing the value after registration. And you have to go beyond the typical pre-event cadence (invite, confirmation, reminder) to do that. Try some of the following:
- Once someone registers, keep them engaged with short videos of speakers, executives, and past attendees who discuss the value of the content
- Promote blog posts that address session topics
- Use personalized hubs like Folloze to cross-promote relevant content and connect with sales reps
- Create quick polls to get input on topic ideas
- Invite registrants to ask questions in advance
- Where appropriate, use incentives to drive attendance. Be careful; the value of the information comes first. But a thoughtful and fun hook can push your event to the head of the pack.
Make content meaningful
A Sparks/Event Marketer study found that the primary reason people attend B2B professional events (73%) is for education and professional development. Obvious, right? But how many times have you fallen for the promise of amazing speakers and session topics, only to walk away with a veiled sales pitch?
No matter how successful your pre-reg activity, the right content is the lifeblood of your event, and the wrong content can undermine trust. Your value prop is directly aligned with the information that’s shared. A few strategies that can have a real impact:
GO BEYOND PPT.
Sure, slides can be essential, but you need a range of engaging options. Video is incredibly effective, especially in short-form presentations and keynotes. You should also consider real-time Q&A’s, audience polls, and –if you’re later in the customer journey – product demos.
CREATE TOPIC BUNDLES.
As attendees consume your content, give them an opportunity to dig deeper–and don’t just serve up a list of PDFs in a sidebar. From your existing assets, develop bundles aligning with specific topics, and expand on them in follow-up communications. If you’re targeting specific verticals, add an industry element. You can even align bundles to personas or accounts.
EMPOWER MODERATORS WITH 1:1 CONTENT DELIVERY.
Imagine having a personal concierge –someone who can answer your question the moment it comes up during a session. In the digital realm, that’s possible, and you can offer it to your attendees via chat. As a speaker discusses a topic, post a relevant asset. If a speaker discusses a survey result, offer the full report. And when an attendee asks a question, post an asset that expands on the answer.
AMPLIFY YOUR EVENT CONTENT.
All too often, follow-up emails don’t provide a way to continue the dialog. At WHM, we’ve developed event summary infographics and post-event videos that highlight key takeaways. Hosting a follow-up Google hangout Q&A is another great option. You can also promote on-demand webinars to non-attendees.
Answer “What’s next?”
Event attendees are typically considered higher-value, because they made a time commitment. But we often treat them like any other lead, dropping them into unrelated nurture flows or biz-dev rep call attempts.
Make sure you think beyond the event and determine which path you want registrants and attendees to take. Options include:
- Start with an event-centric nurture that, at minimum, directs people to more resources
- Layer on an account-based, sales-aligned follow-up with relevant content and talking points
- Get input from attendees on topics for the next event
- Conduct a follow-up survey to get deeper feedback
With all the choices available to attendees today, capturing attention and interest from just one of your events can be a big win.
This is just a small sample of ways to enhance your virtual events. We’d love to hear how you’ve transitioned from physical events, the lessons you’re learning, and the results you’re seeing. And let us know if you’re seeking help delivering the experiences that your audiences–and your pipeline –want during these exceptional times.
1 Bizzabo Event Marketing 2018: Benchmarks and Trends Report
2 Bizzabo Event Marketing 2018: Benchmarks and Trends Report