I’ll be the first person to say that I love in-person events. I love the production element. The activations that surprise people and make them excited about being there. The settings that add to the excitement when you’re in such prime locations as New York, New Orleans, and Cannes.
But in-person events aren’t happening right now, and they may not happen for quite some time. That means you need to transition to virtual.
It may seem easier to retreat—something many brands are tempted to do in times like these—yet it’s critical to stay connected with prospects and customers right now. In fact, you should be staying in even closer contact than before.
In the current climate, your audience may be looking for helpful resources, and you can provide that in an educational format that also allows for a sense of community and shared experience. In addition, a virtual event offers an opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership. You can spotlight internal thought leaders or bring in an industry luminary who nicely complements your key messages and product differentiation.
So how can you create a virtual event that is a success for your attendees and your brand? Here’s some advice I’ve given our clients.
1. Make your virtual event as valuable as an in-person event.
OK, you may not be able to host people in one of your favorite venues or provide delicious themed cocktails. But those are bonuses, not the real meat of an event. Your content is still crucial. Although the delivery is different for a virtual event, attendees will still garner substantial value if you can tell a great story in an engaging way.
2. Bring strategy to your storytelling. You should focus on immersive storytelling. This can bring your event to life. And if you do it right, you’ll have a digital experience that extends beyond the event itself.
In addition, think about more than just a single event. Taking a campaign approach is more effective for your investment and your audience.
3. Increase attendance and engagement with creative tactics that will activate your audience.
How can you get people to come to your event—and stay? You include activations that are equivalent to what you’d do for an in-person event. Here are a few ideas to kick off your brainstorming:
Leverage a celebrity! Celebrity speakers can be a great draw—but do make sure they align with your brand.
Add a form of entertainment, such as holding a virtual concert with a well-known band or livestreaming an artist painting a mural.
Give away cool swag to attendees.
Add a gamification program to digital experiences, rewarding attendees for behaviors such as attending a breakout session or asking speakers a question.
Encourage social sharing using a hashtag. Step up the community management game with shout-outs to the most engaged attendees.
Run a contest or sweepstakes with a sweet prize for all the attendees who join virtually for more than half of the event.
Send care packages—snacks or other thoughtful little items—for your attendees to enjoy during the event. As things open up and teams are able to get together in one place, you can even send things like pizza to a group.
Basically, surprise people and connect with them in a more personal way.
4. Provide the ability to connect. Speaking of connection….
While it can be tough to replace the experience of being in person, sharing live video can make a big difference in how connected people feel during a virtual event. You want to ensure that your event’s technical capabilities are up to par so that the experience is seamless. When it’s appropriate, offer interactive features like allowing people to comment, ask questions, vote, and upload things.
Another big part of in-person events is the opportunity to network, so be sure to enable 1:1s or small group video chats when suitable.
5. Gather data.
Data helps you understand if messaging and content are resonating, which can help guide and optimize your efforts when planning future events and other marketing strategies. Typically, you’ll want to know how many people registered, how many attended the event, how long they attended, and how engaged they were.
Don’t wait for in-person events to come back. Use these tips to create engaging, valuable moments for your audience—moments that they’ll remember and connect with your brand.
If you need any help, please reach out. My team and I would be more than happy to create an incredible event with you.