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Author: Lauren Mooney
Job Title: Senior Events Executive

How roundtable events have proved to be successful in the virtual world.

When you think of ‘events’ your mind may naturally wander towards big groups of people. Whilst we do indeed manage events with thousands of people, we also have and manage a portfolio of smaller and more intimate events. This article focuses on one format that has proved to work well in the virtual environment; roundtable events.

The purpose of a roundtable event is to host thought-provoking discussion within a closed group of people around pre-determined topics. A moderator/chair is present to ensure that the conversation flows and to address any questions for the speakers or panellists.

Like any event, there are some key considerations to ensure that we are meeting the brief when planning a roundtable. Whilst the group is small, this highlights the importance of guaranteeing the right audience for the day and ensuring that both the attendees and the client benefit equally from the event.

These are our key considerations and recommendations when planning a roundtable event:

  • Goal: What are we trying to achieve by running this event?
  • Time: How long should the event run for? We recommend 1 hour to keep the audience engaged
  • Content: The topics of discussion need to drive attendance and engagement. It is best to have an agenda to follow.
  • Virtual Event Platform: Which platform should the event be run on? Do you have an existing license, or do you need to purchase one?
  • Format: Do you want audience participation? Would you like the speakers to be set up as a virtual panel?
  • Audience: Who is your target audience? How will you ensure that you engage the right people to attend?
  • Speakers: Do you have budget for a paid speaker? Do you want someone internal or a customer to speak? Having a credible guest speaker can really boost registrations.
  • Frequency: Is this a one-off event or will you run them sequentially?
  • Post-Event: Will you transcribe the event? How will you use this content for future marketing?

Whilst some of these points are consistent across many event formats, there is one element that I’d like to highlight the importance of when planning a roundtable event; audience acquisition.

Audience acquisition:

A key part of any event is how we can drive attendance. In the physical event world, there are often incentives to join an event including desirable locations, dinners, and networking. It’s a lot more challenging in the virtual world to incentivise people to attend an event, especially one in this format which typically targets decision makers and C-suite attendees. The purpose of a roundtable is to create insightful content that those attendees want to take time out of their busy schedules for – so sending a branded pen and notebook to this crowd might not do the trick!

Building a successful LinkedIn social campaign helps to drive attendance, whilst also providing valuable insights and reporting. It can also help control registrations by building out specific target audience profiles. To begin the targeted campaign a budget is allocated, and the pre-determined criteria is built in. In all cases, the following would be selected: location, job function, job seniority, and company size. This can be modified throughout the campaign so you can make it more/less specific once it is live. The campaign is tracked against expected KPI / benchmarks – most recognisably the click through rate (CTR) which averages 0.3%.

Our experience:

At the beginning of this year, we managed two roundtables for a multinational technology client. The timeline for planning and executing each event was 8 weeks.

As highlighted, there were many key considerations to identify during the planning process. Once the event budget was confirmed, we allocated 20% of this to securing a credible guest speaker which was highly important in driving attendance (with an increased frequency in online events and the effects of virtual fatigue, it’s crucial to make your event stand out now more than ever). At the same time, we secured industry and customer speakers, and a facilitator to complete the panel. “The panel was excellent and the approach to address the current issues for retail was very pragmatic. A lot of valuable insights were brought to the discussion” (attendee feedback)

Another 20% of the budget was allocated to the social campaign spend. Once the target audience was defined, the campaign was set up to go live 3 weeks before the event date. We reviewed the spend throughout the campaign and tweaked the audience profile to ensure registrations were meeting the brief. The overall results of the campaign were superb with an average CTR of 0.33% and 123,964 social impressions. Final registrations for this event were at 180% of targeted registrations and actual attendance was 66% retention – higher than the average of many physical events.
We briefed the speakers ahead of time and ran rehearsals to ensure that the content delivered on the day was insightful. The level of engagement throughout the event showed that the format and platform chosen successfully enabled participants to feel comfortable and ask questions within the environment. “According to the Covid-19 regulations the format was well organized. It was a nice open discussion with good information to collect. I liked it, well done!” (attendee feedback)

One of the most beneficial things for our client was the content these events provided them, allowing room for further opportunities. The transcripts from the events can be used to write up blogs and create content for whitepapers. It’s amazing what a one-hour event can provide in the long-term!

If you would like to discuss running your own roundtable events, please do not hesitate to get in contact with a member of our team today on info@outsourcedevents.com.

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