Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Hosting a Virtual Event

Let’s just say that event marketing took a big hit this year that none of us were expecting or even thinking could happen. Many of us went from counting on events to drive a large number of leads for our business in 2020 to having to find an entirely new lead generation channel almost overnight. And if we’re being honest many of us don’t have any confidence in when we can realistically expect to have in-person events in the future. So much has changed so quickly. But, that’s one of the benefits of being a marketer. We’re used to coming up with ideas on the fly and we’ve seen so many marketers pivot their in-person event strategy to virtual events. If you’re considering a shift towards virtual events then you definitely need to keep reading and learn about our four pieces of advice for building out your virtual events strategy.

Curate an Experience

Even though you’re not in-person, don’t forget the importance of creating an experiential environment. People find value in having a story or theme to follow along with during events…it’s the emotion of the story or theme that really makes an event soar and causes attendees to talk about it for years to come. This means you cannot just string together a handful of webinars and expect it to be a hit because webinars are recorded presentations…not the type of virtual events we’re talking about. For a virtual event, you need to tell a story which means you need to think about how you present the opening and closing sessions. Who will be presenting? What will they be doing on video? How do all of the sessions tie together thematically? How will attendees engage with speakers or other attendees? What is the key message you want all attendees to walk away with after the virtual event?  That’s why I’m such a big proponent of having your virtual event center around a single theme or message such as empowerment, controlling the uncontrollable, etc..

Timeliness and Interactive

It’s important to remember that your attendees are most likely watching from somewhere in their home. The timing of the virtual event should be scheduled so attendees can have breaks just like they would during an in-person event. Also, having the ability to make the virtual events collaborative and interactive is key to keeping your audience’s attention. Make sure to schedule time for Q&A at the end of the presentations and encourage attendees to ask questions throughout the session even if you wait until the end to ask them. And make sure you actually leave that time open for Q&A! It’s never enjoyable when attendees are expecting you’ll answer questions and you have to end the session abruptly due to timing issues. Bonus points if you can incorporate live questions in your event where attendees can ask their questions via video to the speaker to provide more of that personal connection.

Networking is Key

Part of the reason we all attend (and pay to attend!) large conferences is for networking. And networking is often an aspect that virtual events seem to lack. But you can mitigate this by finding engaging ways for your audience to interact. You also can build social networking events into the schedule of your virtual conference. Is there a thirty minute or hour window where you can have a chat room where people are matched up with one another to connect? For example, Zoom offers the option of Breakout Rooms where you can easily break your audience into smaller groups for networking via video.  Try to think of how you can set up virtual coffee dates for attendees. Personally, I love meeting up with other creatives and leaders in our community but being able to meet up with someone in a completely different state or even country would be lovely!

Marketing Opportunities

Are you planning on marketing the virtual event yourself or are you hoping other stakeholders such as facilitators, speakers, sponsors etc. will help promote your material? If it’s the latter then you need to make it as easy as possible for this group to promote the virtual event. You’re going to want graphics and messaging for a variety of channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, email, etc.. Plus, don’t forget the importance of sending out swag to speakers as well as attendees. Just because you’re not meeting in person doesn’t mean the event swag has to stop! Offer to ship your attendees a swag bag to their home address.