In our last blog we discussed the Benefits of Virtual Events and you’ll be pleased to learn there are lots, so if you’re considering bringing your physical events into the virtual space you definitely should, but just how do you execute a great event experience in a virtual world?
Here we share the key elements of a successful virtual event
Start with Why
Don’t just decide to do a virtual event because everyone else is, make sure that your event is aligned with your overall business and marketing goals and be ready to ask yourself a few questions before you start. Why are you doing the event? What kind of experience do you want to deliver, what will the content be? Will you have speakers? If so, how many, where will you source them from? Will you have partners or sponsors, how do you intend to promote the event? How will you measure its success?
A virtual event is marketing activity just like a physical event so don’t be blinded by the ease of hosting or the low cost, only do it if it works for your business and you have a clear objective.
Choose the right tech
Put simply, you can’t do your virtual event without the right tech but before you jump into using a particular platform it’s important to take a step back and think about what you’re trying to achieve with your event and how the platform you choose will help you do that. You’ve probably attended a few online events by now and used technologies like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, affordable and intuitive, these are great tools for hosting virtual events and their technology has been harnessed by some of the biggest organisations in the world but they’re not the only option. So, if you have a more specific need, for example, you’re running a conference then it’s definitely worth exploring other more purpose-built options.
Focus on event experience from the start
Most online meeting or event platforms will allow event delegates to sign up with the platform and receive a link to join the event and that process needs to be as seamless as possible so it’s worth considering whether or not the platform you’ve chosen makes this experience both smooth and enjoyable.
Remember that every interaction with your event is a brand touchpoint and so consider if a generic sign up and confirmation are something you are happy with. Can you make that experience nicer? Many platforms offer integration with CRM systems allowing the option to apply some brand to your event, make data collection simple (and legal, don’t forget the General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR) and to set up things like confirmation emails and follow up to come directly from your business rather than via your chosen tech platform.
Comms are Critical
Your event is in the virtual space and so too should be your marketing. When you’re promoting your event be sure to focus on the key selling points it has to offer, there’s a lot of noise in the virtual event space so you’ll need to be clear and consistent with your message. Make sure you share all the useful details in your social media posts: date, time, booking link and leave those engaging with your comms in no doubt as to what your event is about. Consider the channels you’re using just like you would with a physical event, just because your event is now virtual doesn’t mean your audience has changed or moved, focus on the platforms you know.
And don’t forget your delegates
When your event is virtual you need to be even more focused on keeping your delegates engaged before the event, just because you’ve got them to the registration form and they’ve signed up doesn’t mean they’re a dead cert to ‘turn up’. Many virtual events are free (which is great) but it does impact delegate loyalty, even a free physical event will suffer from a 50% drop out rate so accountability is low when it comes to virtual events but there’s plenty you can do, from making sure you confirm their booking, to keeping them in your marketing loop so they know about new speakers or other changes to the event, asking them to submit questions ahead of the event, sending email reminders and letting them know you’re looking forward to seeing them these all help to keep your audience engaged.
Support On Social
Social Media Platforms are built to support virtual events, almost every platform has a live feature which can be used to share your event to a wider audience. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram all have live options making them an option for streaming your event but if you’ve already chosen to use another platform there’s still the option to integrate with the main social channels, for example, you can live stream a Zoom webinar straight onto Facebook.
Stimulate online discussion by live-tweeting your event, asking questions or hosting a Q&A during the event, take questions from your social media audience and feed them through to your event host – this is simple to do and creates engagement across audiences for your event.
Add to the experience
Think about some of the great events you’ve been to, what added to the experience? Was it the warm welcome? Funky music playing as you arrived, was it the resources you received during or afterwards? How can you emulate this for your virtual event? What about streaming a playlist or branded video as your delegates arrive? Was your event supposed to be a physical one? Would you normally give everyone a notebook or a pen? Can you still send them out (safely of course) or can you create some amazing virtual assets to share with your audience?
Test The Tech
We cannot stress this point enough. Test the tech, then test it again. Test every layer of your event journey before you GO LIVE. Test your social links, test your booking form, test your confirmation emails, joining links and run a practice session on whichever platform you’ve chosen to host your event, at a physical event a minor hitch can be covered up but in a virtual setting, mistakes are far more obvious so practice – as much as you need to and ensure your virtual event goes off without a hitch.