The strength and importance of a great event marketing campaign cannot be underestimated, and so we have designated a permanent slot in our newsletter to discuss all things marketing. This month we look at the importance of defining your virtual event.
Although online events have been around for a while, we are all now experiencing, participating, and investing in more of them. In fact, in May 2020, the majority (93%) of event marketers planned to invest in virtual events moving forward, (Bizzabo, 2020). However, the unprecedented amount of online content has also led to virtual event and chat fatigue. Although some in-person events are starting to be planned, the reality is we don’t know when they will be completely back to ‘normal’ and what the appetite will be for hosting and attending physical events? There is also the added complication of travel restrictions and Covid-19 guidelines varying from country to country. So, for now, it is clear that virtual events are here to stay whether that is in their current ‘fully virtual’ format or as a hybrid. In fact, 68% of event marketers reported that a hybrid solution that can manage both virtual and in-person events will play a key role in 2021 event strategies. (Bizzabo, 2020). So, it is imperative for event organisers to remain ahead of the fatigue by combatting it with a well-designed virtual marketing event strategy.
The speed at which some organisations have converted their in-person event to one that is virtual has meant at times, the event delivery may not have been as slick, and the delegate experience not as smooth as they would have liked. While audiences may have been more accepting of glitches, or oversights in virtual events early on last year, as we have all adapted to the “new norm”, we cannot assume they will be now. It is simply not enough to just offer someone talking to a screen. A virtual event, regardless of the format needs to be an experience, one that is memorable for the right reasons. So how can you be more effective in online and hybrid events?
Go back to basics
In the first instance, you should review the fundamental purpose and desired outcomes of your event. Whilst it is possible to take your live agenda and transfer it, unchanged, to the online environment, consider if this is the best thing to do.
Our most successful online events have been created specifically with the virtual format in mind. Planning against online fatigue, improving audience engagement (an often overlooked yet key aspect in virtual events) and supporting sponsorship delivery, all require careful planning and a clear strategy. Only by thinking about these from the start, will you be able to attract your audience and generate ROI and of course have your audience return to your next event.
Online events can be exciting, engaging and a great way to stimulate interest in your organisation. But before you give your event to marketers, you need to ensure it is one that is good.
So where do you start?
Think creatively about your event
Start by thinking about what you as an organiser want to achieve from the event, is it promotion of a product or service? Sharing of best practice? Bringing the community together? Or something else? Once you clearly defined the purpose of the event, you should consider your audience. What will encourage someone to come and spend time in an online environment with you? What would they find engaging and maintain their interest? What can we use from the event to market it to them? What will encourage them to register and then actually attend the event?
Content is king but there is so much more to it than just having someone speak at a screen. Think about:
- Format of sessions – these will likely need to differ to your traditional in-person events. People will need more breaks, and content will need to be broken up into manageable chunks so it can be consumed better and to ensure you don’t lose attendee attention and interaction. Some formats you could explore are live speaker sessions, on-demand webcast, podcasts and online radio, shorter ted-style talks and breakout rooms.
- Types of content – use a range of content and interactive moments to keep the audience engaged: using a poll, asking questions and using one-word check-ins can all help.
- Technical quality of presentation – this is especially important in the digital environment. Make sure speakers are comfortable and check their sound and video quality in advance. Review their slides, remember they will no longer be presenting on a large screen as they might have in a live event. So, content may need to be condensed, images and infographics may make it easier to consume the content on a smaller screen. Finally, check their backdrop and ensure their camera is positioned well. Head over to our article Lights, Camera, Wi-Fi: A Guide to Speaking Virtually to read more.
- Resonating with the audience – ensure speakers are quick to get to the point and they are engaging in a virtual environment. It is not always a given, that a speaker that is able to command the room and hold the audience’s attention in a live event, can do the same in an event that is virtual. An engaging host can also help drive the session and retain the audience interest, particularly during the Q&As. A dual speaker session can also improve audience attentiveness, as the speakers are able to bounce off one another.
- Scheduling – consider the flow, intensity, and pace of the event. Remember a proportion of the audience is probably still working from home and factor this into the format planning of sessions.
The way you capture the event can set it apart from others which will not only make it more engaging, but it will also provide you with a marketing hook to drive the audience. You can use all your traditional in-person tools such as lighting, music, AV, and set-up to create more of a live-feel.
If you consider your event more like a TV show, you are more likely to retain your audience during the event. There is a range of ways you can capture your event from live-studios, to pre-recorded sessions at a venue, or sponsor-hosted hubs. The more flexibility on what you share and how, the more interesting your event will be.
Only once you have thought about the content and consumption should you think about a platform. A platform should work hard for you! Consider how you want people to engage during the event, whether it’s through a live chat or Q&A feed, or a virtual networking environment, there are platforms that can aid you.
When starting to develop your event, share your ideas with your stakeholders and sponsors, think about whether you have expertise, time, and resources in-house or whether all, or specific elements, need to be outsourced?
Don’t forget physical touchpoints, even if it is online. Provide off-line experiences for a part of the event. Make the virtual event mobile, for instance can you get people going for a walk – listening to an audio only session? Or take them into the kitchen to network over cooking lunch together. Think creatively and engage attendees throughout the event.
Only once you have considered the above and designed an event you would be excited by should you think about marketing the event. Your event should make the job of marketers easier.
To find out more about how Outsourced Events can achieve your vision for virtual events, please get in touch now firstname.lastname@example.org.