By Innovate Marketing Group
As the live events industry awaits COVID-19 regulations, guidelines, and phase rollouts; innovations and digital opportunities arise, virtual events take center stage, and the importance of an events agency and planner sustains.
Why go virtual? Virtual events have proven to be an effective and efficient way to convey content and engage attendees. Experts shared that future events will incorporate a digital aspect as a hybrid-type model as the events industry seeks to widen their audience and maintain contingency plans. Events will see more virtual aspects embedded into their programs moving forward.
Going virtual also brings market share and new opportunities.
“Some companies that were previously on hold to wait out COVID-19 have either pivoted to virtual or seriously considering since the recovery is so uncertain. Business still needs to go on. Leadership conferences, educational and training are still vital for companies,” said Amanda Ma, chief experience officer of Innovate Marketing Group.
All of the different elements of a virtual event need to be coordinated into one impactful and engaging experience. The event agency’s role includes helping guiding businesses to pivot to the new normal, advising and adjusting contract changes, applying event strategies to help meet goals, vendor coordination and recommendations, program management and managing multiple tracks, marketing and communication, incorporating sponsors and stakeholders and the guest experience.
Some of the many benefits of pivoting to virtual include:
- Cost savings and lower cost per guest attending
- Access to a wider audience and reach, and not limited by location
- Replay capabilities and reusable on demand content
- Lower carbon footprint and less impact on the environment
- Attendee engagement
- Opportunity to get creative and engage viewers in new ways
- Metrics, instant data tracking and capture, and gaining new insights
- Virtual events eliminate the need for a venue, catering, rentals, stage, décor, photographer, videographer, transportation, etc.
- Taking action – calls to action link in right away; connect, survey, polling, Q&A and donate
Some challenges in comparison to a live event include emotion and energy, stimulations such as touch, taste and smell, memory and recall, networking, and viewer attention span.
Innovate Marketing Group also shares top best practices in going virtual, such as setting your goals on information, education, message, attendee and sponsor engagement, networking, etc.
Format: Determine your virtual event format – webinar, webcast, pre-recorded sessions, simu-live, live streaming, networking, exhibitors.
Registration: Reconsider the registration process, including number of users who will be accessing the website, personal data, payment processing safety, and customized questions per data you would like to collect.
Keep Your Audience Engaged: with tools such as live polling, question and answer sessions, networking opportunities, gamification, live leader boards, rewards and social media feeds. Maintain your event experience by making your guests feel involved and connected to your program. We are in the planning stages of a 3,000 people walk/run event, and one of the ideas is on the day of the event to have a virtual DJ play during the walk and the organization lowers the volume if messages need to be communicated. The music is based on what the organizers want. This way while people are walking, they can stay connected as part of the program.
Pre-Event Communication & Marketing: Communication and marketing are key. Unlike an in-person event where they must get dressed up, drive to the event, and spend more time to prepare for the event, a virtual event is simply a login to a platform. Therefore, it is very important to send out reminders and build up the anticipation of the event. In a recent virtual event, we advised the client to ask for the attendee’s cell phone number.
So, in addition to email reminders, the week of event and day of, a text notification was sent out to all attendees. We received great feedback for putting that in place. It reminded folks the virtual event is coming up and to tune in. Digital marketing, promotion, advertisement, and video content is still very important for a virtual event, before broadcasting on your event day.
Surprise and Delight Before the Event: Sending a swag bag prior to the event with items relevant to the event. For an upcoming conference, we are sending a box with a blue light blocking glasses, candle, custom door handle, notebook, T-shirt, and a coffee tumbler. We have a special note to go along with this kit to kick off the conference mindset. On the day of the conference, we asked everyone to wear the shirt provided. One less worry about what to wear on “top.”
Content is King: Offer educational, relevant, timely and meaningful content that people will want to hear. It is vital to create content that captivates guests, sparks their creativity and results in productivity.
Do Not Try to Replicate Your Live Event: Instead, look for new opportunities but stay true to purpose of your event. Keep principle of why your guests were coming together, and make it part of the equation.
Test, Test, and Test Again: Technical difficulties may occur, and it often distracts from your event. Have a run through with your speakers and moderator in advance and test the virtual release on your platforms.