As the world adapts to the lasting effects of COVID-19, virtual events are becoming the “new normal” — and they are not going anywhere anytime soon. Since COVID-19 began shutting the world down back in March, the number of virtual events have doubled, replacing traditional in-person events such as trade shows and conferences with online seminars and even virtual galas. In fact, almost 8 in 10 marketers surveyed reported that they are currently running some type of virtual event. For those who have not yet made the transition to virtual events, the notion of planning, promoting, and orchestrating virtual conferences, webinars, and Q&As can feel intimidating — but not to worry! This guide will help ease your worries about planning virtual events and give you some insight into how to get the most out of these crucial marketing tools.
What are the benefits of virtual events and why should you invest in them?
Though the unpredictable events of 2020 have forced many companies and industries to restructure their priorities, the goals of marketers remain largely unchanged. Crucial marketing goals including converting leads into customers, strengthening the company’s position in relation to competitors, raising brand awareness, and increasing revenue from existing customers are just as important — if not more important — than ever. By taking advantage of virtual events, marketers can unlock these priorities and more.
Not only do virtual events provide value to marketers by allowing them to achieve goals such as keeping customers connected and informed, maintaining consistent and valuable programming, and attracting new customers, but they also provide valuable advantages to customers that in-person events simply do not. Pre-recorded virtual events allow customers exclusive opportunities to connect from anywhere in the world at their own convenience, giving them control over their own calendars. Virtual formats also provide the opportunity for more people to take advantage of your event, since there is no limit of people that can attend events and no travel cost.
Plus, virtual events such as conferences and workshops with several speakers and topics are more customizable than ever, allowing viewers to join as many or few of the events as they please.
Additionally, virtual events provide the perfect networking opportunity (for introverts and extroverts alike). Participants can connect with more people (more comfortably and conveniently, from the comfort of their own homes) with others around the world in chat rooms and virtual happy hours. Due to these reasons and more, it comes as no surprise that over ⅓ of marketers currently consider virtual events to be a part of their core strategy that they plan to utilize regularly for the foreseeable future.
How does the cost of virtual events compare to in-person events?
An undeniable benefit of virtual events is their lower cost when compared to their traditional, in-person counterparts. In fact, 84% of organizations that have held virtual conferences and webinars reported that they spent less money on virtual events — while at the same time gaining comparable value in terms of brand awareness, converted leads, and content engagement. Virtual events are proven to be a great way to engage audiences at a low cost, so it’s unsurprising that so many companies who have adapted to virtual programming are satisfied with the results!
Different types of virtual events
Virtual events can be more diverse than just live-streamed conferences and pre-recorded webinars — virtual events can be as creative as you want them to be! From podcasts and product demos to industry workshops and Q&As, if the events achieve your main objectives (such as keeping customers connected and informed, maintaining relevant content, and raising brand awareness), they can be deemed a success!
In terms of pre-recorded vs. live-streamed content, both types of virtual events are meant to complement each other, allowing for participants to choose which ones fit best with their schedule. Keep in mind that the best time for virtual seminars is 11am PST, as it best accommodates everyone on each coast.
How to set up virtual events
From planning and promotion all the way to the logistics of the actual event, virtual events can look significantly different than live ones — but the goals remain the same. The goal of high engagement — whether that looks like high registration turnout, participation in Q&As, or interaction within networking chat rooms — is a good place to start.
Social media is a crucial tool for promoting your event and working towards your goal of high audience engagement — but its usefulness does not stop there. According to a survey conducted by Event Manager Blog, 89% of event planners use social media to engage their audience before the event, 49% of event planners take advantage of it during the event, and 38% use it for feedback after the event. Social media can be used to poll the audience on which topics they are most interested in seeing at the event, to allow participants to ask questions during the event, and to gauge success of the event afterwards. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your posts on social — now is the perfect time to experiment with new types of posts, and your audience will appreciate your efforts towards creativity!
When planning the event, be sure to provide participants with a clear and easy-to-follow agenda that clearly shows which events are live and at what time and which are pre-recorded. Also be sure to set time aside specifically for questions and discussions. Whether that looks like a live hangout before the event, Q&A’s during the event, or surveys after the event, it is important to give your audience a chance to connect with you so you can better understand their needs.
Another crucial detail when setting up virtual events is to ensure that each speaker (whether live or pre-recorded) has great microphone and video quality. Bad connections will undoubtedly lead to an unsuccessful event. Be sure that live speakers at your event have prior experience with similar events — this way, they will know to be on the lookout for any audio or video disruptions and they will know to prioritize great lighting and a neutral background when speaking.
Challenges to consider
No event is free of challenges, and virtual events are no exception. Common challenges that are inherent to virtual events include not having enough time to plan and promote a virtual event, not having enough content to fill up an event, trouble sparking interest in your audience for the event, and audience members not being tech savvy enough to engage in virtual events. While these challenges can seem intimidating, they are no match for a savvy marketer. If you effectively invest your time in engaging content and speakers and properly promote your event, your virtual events are sure to be a success.
In an ever-changing world, marketers’ embrace of virtual events illustrates how to effectively adapt to unexpected challenges in the marketing world and beyond. Contact Anvil if you’d like help navigating the virtual world.