Virtual Events: Are you doing it right with these 4 basics?

Before online events become a higher quality industry standard — and I do think we’re getting there — there’s plenty of opportunity to pave the way. Today, it’s still rare we see a brand or organization knocking it out of the park.

So I challenge you — take this opportunity to become a leader in planning, promoting and conducting your virtual event, online conference or plain old webinar.

Are you already covering these four online event must-haves?

  1. You’re taking advantage of the upsides of virtual events vs in-person
  2. You’re treating event messaging as importantly as date or platform
  3. You know a signup is not an attendee; it takes work to get people to show up
  4. You recognize how to use video before, during and after the event

A lot of these are of strategic importance for in-person events as well. But seeing as we are trying to get more creative, constructive and effective at virtual right now — join me in donning our ‘online conference’ caps and let’s make sure your team is doing the following correctly.

1. Are you taking full advantage of virtual event upsides?

Obviously, there is a pretty big benefit to virtual vs in-person — no need to get bogged down in the costs and logistics of a physical experience. Seemingly back-of-the-mind aspects like the location, ease of commute, and even coffee quality are actually reasons people may or may not sign up to an in-person conference.

But that’s not really the true advantage we care about. Doing this online means it’s more exciting to delve into the digital possibilities of capturing data around the experience itself.

Once your attendees cross the threshold of an in-person event, it’s much more complicated (and expensive) to figure out how the person is enjoying it, what they’re taking advantage of, which sessions they attended, when they tuned out, what they were really into. Hey, if you’re lucky, there’s an active conversation happening on some Twitter or Instagram hashtag.

With virtual events, you have access to:

  • Monitoring attendance — both at main events but also session breakouts
  • Data about how long they tuned in to sessions — did they leave and join others?
  • Accurate stats on how they accessed, from which country, how long
  • Commenting, reactions, rating — easy to leave feedback while otherwise engaged on the event page
  • Interactive experiences during the event, easy to get to — like live polling, simple ways to collect Q&A, and leveraging presentations in a way where the audience can get involved with the speaker

Most importantly, these data points lead to better, higher quality follow up. By creating an attendee profile based on what they actually watched, interacted with, for however long — you can segment your attendees with more specific calls-to-action, leading to more focused and accurate relationship building.

2. Are you clear about who this event is for — and why?

Get your messaging very, very straight. Be as clear as possible so that the people you’re targeting understand why this conference is for them.

Do an internal exercise with your team and clearly note:

  • What is the theme of the event?
  • What is your goal by having it?
  • What will an attendee walk away with after having attended?
  • Who is your audience? How will you reach them and communicate the above?

Especially regarding the third point: literally write down what you’re attendees will have access to, will receive, will benefit from. Make it as tangible, concrete and actionable as possible. Imagine it’s the swag. Then, format it and tell them. For example:

From this event, you’ll access:

* Concrete ideas about how to prep for a shifting food industry landscape in 2022.

* Insight into the mindsets of <insert company or qualifier>’s executives on the frontlines of this frontier.

* An opportunity to ask Q&A live, as well as receive access to the event recording.

3. Are you making sure that the registered become actual attendees?

Just because you get a registration doesn’t mean you get an attendee. How do you get your registrants through the virtual ‘door’?

First step: Know who you want in attendance so you can target well and not waste time on attracting irrelevant eyeballs who won’t show.

Next step: Be very clear about what they will get out of it; while it may be ‘easier’ to attend virtual events, it’s harder to be convinced it’s actually worth your time to show up. The more you lay out in advance about what they have to gain, the more important it will feel to actually show up.

Finally: Tease it. Just because someone signed up for your online conference last month doesn’t mean she remembers why or cares to actually show next week. Send a teaser with speaker highlights, content previews, or even at the very least, reiterating the concrete takeaways she’ll get by showing up.

4. Are you leaving no content behind by using video properly?

Video is a great tool throughout the event lifecycle:

Use short snippets for teasers to give people a tangible idea of what you’re offering. For example — use snippets of past events to promote this one, even if that one was in-person — if you can deliver a message that the vibe, energy and takeaways will be as good, it will help solidify the registration. Focus on quotes that are meaningful and good visuals — your online event will be way more visual by default.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACtO22W_oxs

Everyone’s expecting Zoom quality, uncharismatic speaking, and excuses to multitask while the event is happening. Opening with a video is a chance to set the virtual stage; kick off the event with the kind of energy you want your attendees to have. Opening with a video means laying out expectations, both in theme and style. That’s true for any breakout session, too. But always always keep them short — two minutes tops.

The event recording is precious — whether a Zoom webinar or a full-scale TV studio production. It’s actually what is going to double down on what you paid for to hold the event. Cut it up and create bite size content you can use on your social media, in your emails, on your website, in your PowerPoints.

If you’re not doing this, you’re leaving a ton on the table. Think of it this way: even if someone watched all X minutes or hours of your event, they will still be enriched by an isolated statement or point they see later on in a different context. Tap into that, for months to come.

And you don’t need a professional (though it’s certainly nice) to attain this. Use free software like iMovie or Movie Maker to make cuts. Or subscribe for a month license of Premiere or other tools. There are plenty of online tools to help with subtitling. Check out Just Press Record for resources on how to DIY this kind of video. It’s actually easier than you think.

Playlists of snippets of virtual event recordings by OurCrowd — it’s endless, and catered to specific topics

Ready for a better online event outcome? If we’re paying attention and applying lessons learned, then we’re getting better at virtual events as this pandemic wears on. I do feel they are here to stay, beyond the current crisis, and have a valuable place in a marketing strategy. Have other ideas? Share! Comment or tweet me. Looking for more on this topic? Check out my previous article:

This post was inspired by my podcast interview with Ephraim Gopin, the nonprofit strategist behind 1832 Communications. The episode is here, and check out his nonprofit newsletter and nonprofit podcast.

Meanwhile… a meta image of me, on stage, at an event, speaking about marketing events. Nostalgia.

Taking notes. I’m curious. Hetz Ventures. 50:50 Startups. I write insightful articles with career, marketing themes. And personal topics at lizraelupdate.com.

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