The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has presented multiple unprecedented challenges for businesses across the globe, with the immediate adoption of remote work culture being one of them.
Nearly eight months in, virtual events are quickly replacing in-person events. With a larger number of people realizing the convenience of the former, it’s highly likely for virtual events to become a permanent fixture in future marketing strategies.
Marketers can gain control back to a large extent by planning online webinars, fireside chats, Q&As, focus groups, and other similar activities. These are definitely more time and effort consuming, but the generated brand devotion from this type of event can be quite helpful for business growth, enhancing customer experience, and initiating engagement around your offering.
Interestingly, nearly 70 percent of buyers have used B2B-produced webinars when making a purchase decision in the past 12 months. So adding virtual events to a proactive marketing strategy can also be a sales driver.
To help you understand the nuances related to virtual events, we’ve analyzed some of the best online programs that were held in 2020 until now, and exactly what makes them so effective.
Understanding why these virtual events were so successful
Business leaders are prioritizing delivering value in a virtual format, which has made us privy to a lot of creativity and innovation.
Here are some recent online events—many of which were originally scheduled to be in-person—to give you key insights as to what made them click:
SBC Digital Summit—Creating Immersive Environments
Recently, the SBC Digital Summit generated a lot of excitement when it announced that it will be taking virtual expo booths and networking tools a step further in the summit by designing a virtual space based on a physical conference center.
How it works is the home screen from which the attendees can access the different parts of the event is named ‘Lobby,’ complete with a typical background picture of a convention center lobby. In a similar manner, the ‘Networking Lounge’ will resemble an actual lounge, featuring chat windows that allow attendees to interact with each other.
Keeping in mind that thanks to the growing AR and VR technology implementations in marketing, the immersive environments of these virtual events are purposely given a similar flavor. Attendees can feel familiar aspects of event spaces despite the virtual format. Additionally, they’ll have something else to do instead of just clicking through screens and videos, which ultimately end up looking the same after some time.
As you take your business in a more virtual direction, you can also incorporate these elements when working with your team. The best virtual-based business tools make it easy to access information, allow you to control visibility through transaction logs, and create a natural environment for building rapport, which will encourage greater team participation and communication.
Adobe Summit—High Production Value Content on Demand (Pre-Recorded Events)
Live streaming is the most significant backbone of virtual events, and is an almost perfect replacement for in-person presentations and sessions. But you can always opt for other approaches according to your goals and scale of the event.
Adobe, for instance, swapped doing a live stream in favor of a pre-recorded event for their recent Summit. While the latter may lack real-time engagement, they can be edited or enhanced, along with lower possibilities of errors. Speakers can be more confident and hence, can enjoy a better image.
Pre-recorded events also eliminate the usual challenges of virtual events, such as time zone problems, connectivity issues, and so on.
Google SheetsCon—Providing Incentives for Greater Online Engagement
If you want to increase engagement with your attendees, opt for the tried-and-tested method of doing giveaways during your webinar. These might be a particularly excellent tactic to make work fun without compromising productivity.
A popular contest hosted by Google SheetsCon gave participants the opportunity to win one of the 25 swag bags that contained branded event shirts and stickers. To win, participants had to share something about the event on their respective social media using the dedicated event hashtag. Alternatively, they could also visit a minimum of five of the sponsor booth pages during the event.
Considering how social media can be the perfect vehicle for driving brand reach and sales, it was a win for everyone. While the winners got their goody bags, the event organizers of Google SheetsCon increased brand awareness and also engaged its attendees successfully.
The other thing that worked was how the event organizers took the extra initiative to make their web platform easy to navigate and user-friendly, especially for those attendees who may not be used to attending online events and would require help.
For this purpose, a short intro video was shown to attendees as soon as they locked into the custom event platform. This video was essentially a brief tutorial that familiarized attendees with the different features of the platforms, along with instructions on how to interact with the various pages.
Webinars remain one of the best resources at your disposal for generating leads because of the fact that they can reach wide audiences and make it easier to engage with people versus standard seminars. Once they are more comfortable and at ease with the platform, attendees will be able to take full advantage of everything the organizers have implemented, getting the most value out of the virtual event.
Salesforce’s World Tour Sydney Reimagined—Live Games or Competitions
A “battle of the apps“ competition was initiated between exhibitors called AppExchange Demo Jam, which was a part of Salesforce’s World Tour Sydney Reimagined virtual event. To boost the overall excitement level further, they had also introduced audience voting for choosing the winner.
Every Salesforce AppExchange partner was given three minutes to do a live demo demonstrating their apps. Once done, the audience was then asked to vote for their favorite using an exclusive link, which was accessible for 24 hours only. The winner was announced on Twitter the next day.
Not only was this an innovative and creative way to engage sponsors, exhibitors, and the audience, but it also generated post-event excitement. Even after the event was over, people continued to engage with the event’s social media page to see the results.
Quick tips to make virtual events better
Now that we’ve discussed insights and strategies, here are some tips to ensure a successful virtual conference or webinar:
Choose events according to the core audience and segment
Virtual events can actually be very flexible. Start leveraging your collected data through your marketing automation platform, and then build the perfect event strategy depending on your core audience.
Your event strategy can include holding an online conference or uploading a podcast – whatever you want. Make sure you have all the necessary and reliable instruments to shape your business, and that can make hosting and uploading the event on your channel easy.
The next step should be to start brainstorming ideas by analyzing your prospect and customer activity. Focus on channels that are garnering the highest engagement, and consider pain points, hot topics, and customer questions that could make for a great springboard for your content.
Deliver valuable content
A virtual event is somewhat similar to that of writing emails. Just as you want your emails to get opened, you want your attendees to attend the event and then participate wholeheartedly.
You should be to the point, offer something valuable, and make it personable for the attendees—exactly how you would when connecting with your email list. Work on making the gist of the content interesting and inspiring and most of the work will be done!
Make security a priority
Always make security a top priority when setting up any virtual online event. After all, 65 percent of consumers consider it risky to give a company their personal information, and advertising the security measures you have in place can help make people more willing to join your event.
The good news is that there are multiple proven strategies to greatly increase the security of your virtual event. Lock down your registrations by enabling individual links for each invited attendee (which also makes it easier for you to track activity and data), require all attendees to verify their identity via two factor authentication, and rely on a consumer-grade virtual private network that can encrypt customer data so it cannot be traced or hacked.
Each of these security measures are also highly affordable. Locking down your registrations and enabling two factor authentication can be done for free, and installing a VPN can be done for a few dollars a month. Ultimately, when you also consider the enormous financial and reputational repercussions of suffering a data breach, there’s really no excuse not to be using these kinds of security methods for your event.
Less formal, more intimate
Finally, encourage your speakers to have fun. This will automatically make the event less formal, making the attendees feel more comfortable when interacting with each other. You can also prepare some call-outs based on the interests and achievements of people attending your virtual program.
Virtual conferencing, webinars and other online events can be a great way to learn new industry skills, connect with people with similar mindsets, or simply recharge one’s battery.
These events create plenty of opportunities for engagement, but if you want to maximize results, you need to start being more creative and make the events more interactive. Following simple rules like limiting the event size and keeping it short can keep the attendees and speakers motivated to keep moving forward, despite the unique times we find ourselves in.