Can a digital event really replace a physical one?

event n. something that happens, especially something important or unusual.

virtual adj. almost a particular thing or quality.

Does this mean that a virtual event is less important? Or less unusual? Well that’s up you. Today, we’re looking at what it takes to deliver a successful virtual event and how the preparation for one compares to that of a F2F one. 

The starting point is always the same – set your objectives.

1)     What do you want your event to achieve?

2)     What does “good” look like?

Good questions to ask before embarking on weeks or months on planning and preparation. Answering them focuses the plan and aligns the team behind the goal. Every element of the ensuing plan should now incorporate a virtual spin:    

The Target Audience – Will customers attend as teams or will they share out the agenda to cover everything? What do they want to learn and what’s the best on-line medium for providing it? Do they want interaction with your company, your customers, or even each other? And how can you fulfil that? What technology platforms are they using? What channel should you use to reach them? How are they “meeting” these days?

Deadlines – You’re still very much at the mercy of the event plan deadlines and they’re likely to be even tighter if it’s virtual. Your virtual project plan will need to accommodate much more testing and recording in advance. 

Supplier management – It’s likely you’ll need fewer “logistics” companies but you’ll probably replace them with a completely new breed of supplier; technology companies. These will provide everything from on-line meetings to powerful event software. Sourcing reliable companies who can accommodate your needs will take time, research and lots of testing.

The booth – Although a great cost-saving, lack of a booth means you’ll need really powerful on-line content and imagery if you’re to stand out from the crowd. So you’ll need even more creative support than in previous years.

Speakers – Now that travel isn’t an issue you should aim to engage more customers and audience-pulling personalities to take to your stage. Scope out your content and brief your speakers early so they’re really well versed in using the virtual event software. They’ll benefit from the chance to rehearse more and you can ensure they’re on brand and presenting as powerfully as possible.

Networking and customer interaction – In this new virtual world your booth team will be your on-line experts. You’ll need to arm them with the capability to run “chats” with customers, deliver mini presentations and even provide consultative whiteboarding sessions. Think about how you could start with a twitter feed to get those conversations going.

Marketing materials – most companies won’t run with hard copy at the moment. But creative use of targeted DM could be a chance to stand out from the crowd.  

Market your event like never before – paid social, hashtags, speaker bios, email invitations, email reminders, website advertorials the list goes on. Don’t let your audience assume that events aren’t happening. Get everyone in your company behind it, give them the content and share, share, share.

Outreach campaign – Of course, e-mail invitations are the norm, but why not take the opportunity to follow-up with outbound calling and SMS just to create some dialogue. It’s important to make sure delegates know how to join so be sure to provide them with clear registration instructions and then keep the communication going. Remind attendees a couple of hours before the event to avoid the last-minute drop offs.

Something unusual - Vary your customer engagements to keep them interested and more importantly keep them coming back – here’s some food for thought:-

·       Set up an “ask the expert” session

·       Provide a series of interactive workshops covering areas of your expertise

·       Interview an industry influencer or a high-ranking member of your team

·       Create a “question time” feature using a panel of experts and customers

·       Share a solution demo

·       Host a series of presentations on a technical subject – e.g. modernise your infrastructure

·       Run a question and answer session about your products – e.g. cloud management

·       Record a customer “case study” interview

When everything’s in place – test it, test it …then test it again. Remember, not everything needs to be “live” so record what you can and rehearse the rest.

Measurement - The beauty of the virtual event is the whole thing is recorded and capturing customer data is easy. And as with most things you can always find ways to make it better next time. Results analysis helps in the scoping of the next one. By tracking KPIs and calculating ROI you’ll learn what works well and what doesn’t. You never know, a mixture of virtual and F2F could be the new norm when the lockdown ends.

Follow-up – Now that you’ve captured all of that rich customer data and you know down to the finest level of detail who attended which session, you have the perfect platform to nurture any leads and start closing any opportunities.

To find out about how The Marketing Bee can help you make your virtual event important, unusual and successful, contact Sophy on +44 (0) 7985 198 386