Virtual Events

How Event Professionals Will Build a Comeback Strategy

By Bob Birdsong

It’s pretty likely that large events are not happening in 2020. The types of events that use networking opportunities, sponsorships, product demos, or even live entertainment as major selling points are going to experience major losses, that, unfortunately, may never be fully recouped.

Those who host smaller events, however, are in a much different boat.

Because they’re able to be more nimble, many smaller events — those of a few thousand or less — have gone virtual, choosing to manage and facilitate different parts of originally planned events online.

While the change from live to virtual may have been a reluctant one, event professionals are slowly starting to see the new reality of what event hosting will be in the coming months.

Putting Virtual Events to the Test

Smaller events have found that live streaming or video platforms can efficiently deliver content normally given in-person. Likewise, cloud-based networking tools and breakout rooms are picking up the slack of personal interactions and private conversations. And all of this is being managed through new event marketing platforms that handle everything from event promotion to centralized calendars to collecting attendance data.

This new virtual model —though assembled as the plane was flying, so to speak — is proving to be a new lifeline for some businesses, pulling in revenue (albeit, drastically reduced) and helping organizations recoup partial plans and costs.

Pulling off virtual events for the long-haul, however, requires a much different approach, with different expectations, and completely different technology.

Defer losses, diversify revenue, and drive engagement with a virtual approach

Virtual events let you reach the same audience, just in different ways. Things like panel discussions, internal meetings, seminars, trainings, workshops, expert interviews, and lunch and learns can all be done online.

You can’t try to replicate live events online. The key is to own what virtual is. You can’t just put your three-day conference online. Break your agenda into manageable pieces over a much longer period of time. People learn and engage differently online — especially when we’re all getting much more screen time than before.

The point being, you can still charge attendance fees. You can still engage employees and fans. You can even open up new sources of revenue with recordings or one-on-one calls. You just can’t treat virtual like live.

Change on-stage expectations to match virtual event experiences

The tingle of a good keynote in a room full of people is gone. Hashing out contract details outside the conference hall is no more. Chance encounters at the coffee station are but a memory. But that doesn’t mean a version of these things can’t still happen.

Event planners simply need to set new expectations for virtual events to ensure a positive experience.

Be clear with your attendees (and yourself) about what to expect. Consider that a lot of people will be new to all of this. You might need to set some seemingly obvious ground rules for engagement.

  • Will they be given a chance to ask questions? How will that happen?
  • Should they stay muted?
  • Will there be breakout sessions?
  • How should they share information with each other?

You get the idea. Virtual events require you to get way more explicit than you would have to be, otherwise.

The clearer you can be about how sessions, interviews, and workshops will run — whether for your employees or paying attendees — the better experience you’ll create. After all, isn’t that what a good event is all about anyway?

Getting your audience to show to virtual events up using new technology

While the processes of registration and marketing might not differ much between live and virtual, the technology you need does.

Virtual event technology requirements are getting more complex. Most registration and event marketing technologies are purpose-built for live events. But you need ones that are designed for virtual.

If your goal is to have a number of events under one roof (so to speak), you’ll want to explore centralized calendars, giving people a way to find multiple events from a single company in one place. This “discoverability” will be a big factor in attendance.

You’ll also want to consistently brand every landing page, email, notification, reminder, and social media post. Any whiff of a disconnect and you’ll lose attendees.

But what about internal events, you might wonder. (Good question, by the way). You still want employees to show up to your events, right?

While the branding piece might not be as important, you’ll need to spin up multiple landing pages, crank out emails with details and links, and send reminders, notices, and follow-ups (in addition to making sure you’ve got presentations ready, a streaming platform that’s reliable, and remembering to hit the record button). Templates and automation will be life-savers.

Survive today, thrive tomorrow

While they will never replace the magic of being in a room together, virtual events are saving the day. To some, they’re not as sexy, not as fun, not as cool, but that doesn’t mean that can’t be just as effective.

Take the time to form a new approach, set clear and different expectations, and be willing to explore some new technologies that are designed to work specifically for virtual events.

One day soon, when we’re allowed to gather again, things will undoubtedly look different.

If you’re nimble enough to survive now, then three (six? twelve?) months from now you’ll be in a position to thrive.

Oh! And if you’re in the market for a virtual event marketing platform that offers fully-branded landing pages, centralized calendars, and automated emails and social media posts, check out Localist. We’re sort of built for this kind of thing.

Schedule a free demo of the Localist platform.

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