There’ll be many mediocre virtual events this year. Don’t be one of them.
You’ve decided to put on a virtual event this year. Maybe you do virtual events all the time, and this is nothing new to you. Maybe your in-person event can’t happen anymore because of… well, we all know why. Maybe you’ve just never considered virtual before, but all the hype around it now is piquing your interest.
Whatever group you belong to, it’s important to note that competition is tough.
A survey we conducted recently polled about 500 B2B companies which host upwards of 5 in-person events a year. Nearly all of them said that these events played a medium to significant role in their marketing and lead gen strategies, and nearly all of them are going to be putting on live events this year.
Your competition is not just the organisers who put on virtual events every year, regardless of public health and economic concerns, but all event organisers around the world.
Like I said, shit’s tough.
But luckily for you, it’s not so tough that success can’t be guaranteed. Many, if not most, organisers don’t put a lot of thought into the various touchpoints of their in-person events, and virtual events have many more - which means more opportunities for them to screw up, and for you to gain a competitive edge.
Here are 5 tips to help you along.
1) Be heard above the market noise - stand out.
Regardless of your industry, regardless of how niche you think your event is, chances are you’re not as unique as you may think - yet.
Find that thing, that speaker or that exhibitor or that feature, that’s going to turn a visitor to your website into an engaged and captivated visitor to your virtual event.
Remember, your personas are unique.
The 28-year-old software engineer who shares an apartment with a stoner and a confirmed bachelor is very different to the 45-year-old IT Director struggling to juggle between keeping his wife happy and sucking up to the CIO in the hopes of a promotion - even though they’re both “in IT”.
Find out why these people would even go to your event in the first place. Capture their voice, and then make sure that whatever marketing gets in front of their faces is repeated back to them in their own voice.
Try to really understand why people even go to in-person events in the first place: get speakers who will have your crowd excited and inspired, not just the same big names who speak at all events in your sector.
Position your event so that your prospect can’t think about attending any event other than yours for this particular need.
2) Get to know your audience better than you know yourself.
Your target audience is more than just the personas you’ve come up with. They’re real people, with real opinions and needs.
Use carefully-crafted surveys to determine if they want what you’re offering, and if you’re offering it in the way that they would be most receptive to it.
Use heatmaps to see how users behave once on your website, and polls to determine which features need optimizing.
You could be leading a thirsty horse to water, but if it doesn’t want to drink, there’s something wrong with the water supply.
It’s possible to create that feeling of belonging to the “in” group, even from behind the barrier of isolation and social distancing - use market research to find out how.
3) Streamline your agenda
Even the best virtual events are mostly attended by people sitting on their ass. Getting an attendee’s attention is only the first step - keeping that attention for the duration of your virtual event is what will separate you from your mediocre competitors.
If you’re translating an in-person event to virtual, compact your agenda (like Ray Bugg did with his virtual event).
Do this by conducting market research on the different elements of your agenda, and decide which ones are worth keeping and which ones get canned.
Your audience is most likely at home, longing for the good ol’ days of being able to go outside and interact with interesting, thought-provoking people and ideas.
They’re captive, but they’re also accessing your event in the same way they access Facebook, YouTube, and shows about tigers on NetFlix. Make sure that - at least for most of your event - your attendees are more interested in what you’re offering than they are by these other distractions.
This means making your event interactive.
Allow engagement between the audience and speaker. Incorporate breakout sessions where smaller groups can brainstorm on a particular topic or challenge. Create incentives for them to interact by introducing gamification. If you have a virtual exhibition hall, create discounts or limited offerings available to select attendees of a particular keynote.
You’re restrained only by your own ingenuity.
4) Embrace the global village by going digital.
You need to stand out from the competition, and it just so happens that that competition is now global.
Your high-quality, carefully-worded product offering, with the fancy landing page, optimised registration and visually pleasing content needs to get out in front of more than just the people who live within a 50km radius of the event venue.
Markets that were previously inaccessible to you have suddenly opened up.
Harness the power of digital - via paid campaigns (Google Search as well as social media ads) or campaigns with little to zero cost-to-company (such as social selling or communities on LinkedIn).
A digital marketing strategy that screams efficacy takes a lot of time and effort, and a lot of organisers understandably can’t commit to this. However, many organisers forfeit this commitment without even considering how a marketing strategy could be streamlined and optimised without sacrificing quality.
5) Leave nothing untested.
Incorporate testing in everything you do. Split-test your ads and landing pages and see which ones drive the most high-quality conversions, and in this way you’ll ensure that the marketing of your virtual event is optimised.
You’d be surprised by how many organisers and their marketing teams hardly - or never - optimise the different points of their funnel. Conversion Rate Optimisation is a highly sought-after skill, but you needn’t be an expert to understand that a higher rate of contextual conversions at any point of your funnel will result in a higher rate of conversions at each subsequent point.
After your event, consolidate the data you’ve gathered from your attendees and their behaviours, and use this to fine-tune your next campaign.
One of the biggest advantages of virtual events is all the digital touchpoints that are created.
After each event, you’ll (ideally) be learning more about how to deliver a product and service that your target audience craves.
In-person events will most likely remain a fond memory until well into 2021, so we should get used to the idea of virtual events sooner rather than later.
These events could result in significant returns, but only if they’re done correctly.
Expertly position your event.
Conduct in-depth market research.
Compact your agenda.
And test all your marketing elements.
Seems simple enough, right? So go ahead and do it already.