It won’t be news to any event industry professional (or any individual who hasn’t been living under a rock throughout most of 2020) that there has been a huge increase in virtual events as of late. The way the industry – organisers and delegates alike – has adapted to the new world of digital meetings and events has been nothing short of remarkable. And although we are all keeping everything crossed that next year will see a return to something resembling our pre-Covid 19 lives, it’s safe to say that virtual events are here to stay.
The ability to bring together people from all over the world without the expense and carbon footprint many live events incur has been a revelation to many. So, if you and your business are planning on holding any virtual events next year, make sure you take advantage of not having to do it on the back foot (a la 2020). Getting the marketing right for your virtual event is going to be an essential part of its success. Our ‘how to guide’ will show you the way…
As with any marketing campaign, defining a target audience is an essential first step. If your virtual event is taking the place of a live event that you are moving online, remember not to leave your old delegates behind and don’t forget to include potential audiences who were once out of reach due to geographic limitations. It might be that you need to target old and new invitees in different ways, so be prepared to create as many different ‘personas’ as you required at this stage of the planning.
Sending out personal invites by email is a quick, easy and cheap way to get in touch with lots of possible attendees. If you ask that all tickets are bought through an online registration tool, such as Eventbrite, you can then ensure you’re sending targeted messages once people have bought their tickets, giving them more detailed information about the event. Follow up emails can then be sent to just those still to commit – ensuring you aren’t bombarding people who’ve already bought their tickets. This kind of personalised marketing can go a long way to ensure you aren’t ‘spamming’ anyone with irrelevant emails which could harm your relationships.
While it’s not always necessary to use every single social media platform to market your event, you need to make sure you’re covering the ones most used by your target market. It’s also important to ensure that your messages are consistent and co-ordinated across different platforms. This doesn’t always mean they have to be the same. Research the behaviour of your potential attendees and see how best they like to engage with their preferred social media sites. They might like to see videos rather than pictures, or perhaps they like to participate in chats or enter competitions… make the most of each platform’s best bits and try to get your messaging across in a variety of ways.
If you’re using your event to showcase or launch new products, produce some clever teaser videos. Without giving away too much information that might jeopardise ticket sales, try to lure potential sign-ups with tantalising clips.
Short interviews with your speakers touching on the subject matters that will be discussed during their talks will also help to give people a flavour of what they can expect if they sign up for your virtual event. As well as helping to entice people to buy tickets, these mini-intros can also help break the ice for all of your delegates, many of whom may be engaging with your business or brand for the first time.
Another way to reach out to delegates at your virtual event is to circulate an online questionnaire. It would depend on the nature of your event as to what this would comprise, but it could be a good idea to venture into a few contentious subjects that might come up at your event. Getting people fired up about the discussions to be had at your event is a great way to create buzz and start conversations before the day itself.
Your event may be a virtual one, but that doesn’t mean all of your potential attendees exist in a digital bubble. Don’t leave anyone behind just because they prefer print media or other more traditional communication like paper invites. Hopefully your target market research will have identified any groups of individuals who you may need to reach off-line.
In real life, the promise of meeting like-minded individuals, potential clients, new contacts and friends and acquaintances is a big draw for live events. This can still be a part of a virtual event too. In fact, online networking can be far more easily manipulated and efficient than hoping that in a room full of other people, the right connections are being made. Spend some time and effort working out a process by which you can aid mutually beneficial introductions after your talks and seminars.
There is definitely some benefit to connecting your audience before the event as building a sense of community around your brand or company is great for encouraging loyalty. But make sure you’re going to be offering something extra in terms of networking for those who buy tickets.
Although we’ve all got very used to using Zoom and Teams while working from home, there are likely to be attendees who aren’t familiar with the platform from which you will be hosting your virtual event. Reassurance about the tech side of things is a good message to have running through all of your marketing. If possible, you could even invite confirmed attendees to have a practice run with the software, just to allay any fears they may have about not being able to access the seminars on the day.
It might also be a good idea to have a troubleshooting chat or telephone number so that anyone experiencing problems can access support while leaving the speaker to get on with delivering their content. Again, this should be communicated to your confirmed audience for their peace of mind.
The people attending your virtual event are one of your most powerful marketing tools, so give them everything they need to help you. Gentle nudges from your speakers to share content and easy access to the videos or pictures you’d like to get out there could really help spread your reach and get your message to new contacts.
Using and encouraging your delegates to use your social accounts during your event, even during the talks and seminars, is a great way of fuelling the FOMO of those who didn’t buy tickets this year. Hopefully your marketing plan will have included an event-specific hashtag which should make it easy for everyone to keep up with all the comings and goings of your virtual event.
The great thing about a virtual event is that it’s not out of the question that you’ll get delegates deciding to join you right up until the morning of the event. With no travel to organise or personal logistics to arrange, there’s little to stop last-minute sign ups, so make sure your marketing messages don’t fade out as you approach the big day.
The occasional surprise guest speaker or unexpected will also help create ‘shareable’ moments and conversations around your virtual event.
Talks or seminars followed by Q and As are likely to make up the bulk of your content but it pays to get creative by some elements of the day. Just because you can’t host any post-show drinks or a dinner, it doesn’t mean you can’t make food and drink a part of your event. You could organise a virtual wine and cheese tasting event for your delegates after the show. By grouping your delegates into thoughtfully-curated ‘tables’ of six, send hampers of cheese and wine samples to everyone before the day and let your attendees relax and unwind together.
As with any live event, follow-up marketing should play an integral part of your plan. Building on the success of your virtual event will help create traction for next year. With live events, photo sharing is a typical way to encourage your delegates to help spread the word about what a great time everyone had. To encourage your attendees to share selfies and screenshots of any fun, virtual networking you’ve set up, you could offer a prize for whoever can achieve the most likes or shares for their picture.
We’re always happy to talk to organisers and discuss any upcoming plans they may have, so give our team of friendly event managers a call on 020 3313 1606 to talk though your next project.