Virtual events are everywhere. In 2021 alone, Demio supported more than 600,000 webinars on their platform. What’s more, Content Marketing Institute found virtual events will continue to grow, with 33% of B2B organizations planning to increase their investment in digital events.
With more and more virtual events competing for your target audience’s attention, it’s essential that yours stand out and provide them with an engaging and memorable experience.
Continue to read for insight on:
- The Benefits of Hosting Virtual Events
- Common Virtual Event Challenges
- Tips for Creating Engaging Virtual Events
- Fun Virtual Event Ideas
The Benefits of Hosting Virtual Events
Virtual events require a lot of work, but they’re worth it. You can produce a successful virtual event with just a handful of tools, including:
- A smartphone/camera
- Internet connection
- Quality audio
- A virtual events platform
And, most importantly, a topic your audience cares about.
When done right, virtual events enable marketers to hit their goals and drive revenue results. Content Marketing Institute found webinars, webcasts, and web series produce the best content marketing results for B2B organizations.
Still need convincing about the power of hosting virtual events? Here are a few things to consider.
Expand Your Event’s Reach
In-person events are often regional or depend on the audience taking time from work and traveling to attend. With virtual events though, audiences can attend right from their home office. Location is no longer a limitation, so you can access a wider audience.
“Work-from-home forced us to do more webinars instead of live events, which ended up increasing our actual audience 10x. And not a junk audience either, but a relevant audience that we weren’t reaching before.” - 12th Annual B2B Content Marketing. Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends; Content Marketing Institute
Here are a few other ways you can expand your reach with virtual events:
- Expand your audience targeting to include your ICP (ideal customer profile) from more locations
- Create virtual events for every stage of the buyer’s journey
- Run automated virtual events throughout the day to optimize for different time zones
- Run on-demand virtual events so attendees can watch at their convenience
- Make it easy for your audience to refer their network to join an event by adding a share feature in your confirmation page and emails
- Utilize incentives like lunch and coffee gift cards to increase registrations
- Host influential guest speakers
Check out how event marketing supports every stage of the buyer’s journey in the Banzai blog — Mapping Your Virtual Events to Today’s Buyer’s Journey
Create Content That Lasts
Virtual events can impact your pipeline long after the last live attendee signs off. Once the live event ends, you can turn your attention to the people who registered, but didn’t show up on the day of. Event content should be replayed, repurposed, and reimagined to connect with audiences that couldn’t attend live.
Here are a few ways to get the most out of your virtual event content:
- Incorporate the on-demand recording into a marketing campaign
- Share the recording in an email series
- Break up your recording into shareable clips for social media like this one:
- Create a blog series about key takeaways from the event
- Turn it into sales enablement content for the sales team
The post-event plan for webinars and virtual events shouldn’t be an afterthought. Make it a part of the initial planning so your event makes the biggest impact possible.
Common Virtual Event Challenges
Audiences are increasingly attending virtual events, which leads to high expectations about the quality of virtual event platforms, content, and event engagement (and rightly so). Below are a few challenges every marketer should plan for.
Demio discovered virtual events happen every hour of the week. Audiences receive event invitations by email, phone, social media, paid advertising, word of mouth, and more.
Competitor virtual events are not the only obstacle marketers have to contend with. Since the majority of audiences work from home, events need to stand out from other meetings, Slack messages, multitasking, growing to-do lists, and more.
This means it’s up to marketers to make sure their event topics attract audiences with valuable information they can’t get anywhere else.
A lot of technical issues are out of your control, but there are also many steps you can take to prepare yourself for whatever is thrown at you.
A few ways to avoid the dreaded technical snafu that lands you in the hot seat include:
- Make sure speakers are connected directly to a hardline instead of wireless. A hardline guarantees an internet connection that’s less likely to drop.
- Test all audio and video before the event. Simply testing prior to going live will help avoid a speaker accidentally having distracting background noise or a bad microphone.
- Have more than one member of the marketing team support the event. For example, one person is responsible for answering attendees' technical questions while someone else moderates the Q&A.
- Have a clear run of show. An event outline or run of show will make sure your speakers and events team are on the same page and know what’s coming next. Additionally, in the event of a technical issue, everyone will be prepared and can keep the event moving or pick up where they left off.
- Have a backup plan. Understanding what happens if a speaker drops out last minute or a video won’t play will help everyone involved in the virtual event feel confident handling the unexpected.
Zoom fatigue is real (and a real pain). A recent study from Stanford reported 5.5% of men and 13.8% of women feel extremely fatigued after video calls. Asking audiences to spend even more time and energy watching and attending virtual events means they need to be worth their while.
Marketers have learned a lot about hosting engaging virtual events since 2020. Chat and Q&A are no longer nice to have features that are saved for the end of the event. Facilitating audience engagement needs to be a priority if marketers want to produce effective virtual events.
Like the tree in the forest adage, does a virtual event actually happen if there’s no effective follow-up plan? Too many great virtual events miss their goals because follow-up was an afterthought rather than a priority. When planning your next virtual event, ask yourself these questions:
- How will attendees and registrants be segmented after the event?
- What’s the follow-up plan for attendees?
- What’s the follow-up plan for registrants who didn’t attend?
- What’s the follow-up plan for attendees who watch on demand?
- How will event engagement data be incorporated into the event follow-up?
- What content will be shared after the event?
- How will registrants be nurtured on an ongoing basis?
Tips for Creating Engaging Virtual Events
Whether your virtual event is 10 minutes or 90, it needs to keep your audience engaged from the moment they log on until the final sign-off. Audiences not only remember engaging virtual events, they also sign up to attend future ones because they know what type of experience to expect. Creating engagement elements doesn’t have to be complicated, it just needs to be done right.
Here are some simple ways to improve your virtual event engagement.
Keep the Audience Involved
Audience involvement can be as simple as asking everyone at the start of the event to add where they’re from in the chat, or more involved like inviting an attendee to turn on their camera and join the conversation.
Inspire attendee participation through questions and polls and use their responses to direct the flow and focus of the event. Virtual events are also a great way to encourage networking and group participation: Build in an activity so the audience can work together, such as a workshop, a puzzle, or solving a problem related to the event topic.
Demio’s Run Webinars That Work workshop is a great example of how to incorporate the audience into your virtual event.
Finally, avoid saving questions for the end. Consider having a member of the team actively moderate the chat so questions can be answered in real time or pushed to the speaker to answer live.
Share Content Before, During, and After Your Virtual Event
It’s often impossible for a virtual event to cover everything about a given topic. That’s where additional content comes in. Access to relevant content can help build event anticipation, encourage engagement during it, and support event follow-up. You can utilize content to increase engagement in multiple ways and at various points:
Before the virtual event:
Send the audience a reminder email with all the information they need for the event, plus a pre-read to introduce them to speakers and help them prep questions.
During the virtual event:
Incorporate opportunities to share relevant content based on the presentation. Links to content can be shared through the chat or with designated CTAs built into a virtual event platform.
After the virtual event:
Send all registrants the event recording immediately after the live session ends. This is also an opportunity to send them any relevant presentation materials and content mentioned during the event.
People don’t want to take an hour out of their day to hear information they could have read in an ebook. Whether it’s a customer sharing their experiences with a product, or a thought leader discussing how they overcame a challenge, event presentations should be built around stories. Good stories have a natural arc (a beginning that builds, a climax in the middle, and an ending resolution). They set up a problem and share how it was resolved. A powerful presentation developed around a story keeps audiences invested and interested in learning more.
Make It Easy To Attend and Participate
Engaging with virtual events should be simple for attendees. As an event marketer, it’s important to remove all barriers that might prevent someone from participating. Browser-based virtual event platforms make it easy to log in without any downloads.
Attendees also want to see other people participating. Consider having some of your regular attendees, team members, and/or guests start conversations in the chat or ask the first question.
Here’s a short checklist of must-have and nice-to-have engagement features to look for in a virtual events platform:
Fun Virtual Event Ideas
Virtual events are a great opportunity to get creative with content. As their popularity grows, it’s essential to think outside the box and run events your audience won’t stop talking about. Need some ideas? Check out a few of our favorite, fun virtual event ideas.
A Battle Between the Experts
Does your industry have hot, debatable topics? Consider having two or three experts assume a point of view and debate the issue during a webinar. Keep your audience on their toes with stimulating back-and-forth between industry leaders. See how it’s done with the Banzai Battle series.
Battles are a great way to tap into your experts’ networks and reach new audiences who may be unfamiliar with your product.
Ask Me Anything (AMA)
Line up an industry expert to answer questions directly from your audience. You can solicit questions ahead of time by reaching out to your registrants and querying your networks. Keep the event light and fun, and make sure to have some backup questions to keep the conversation moving.
AMAs can be used throughout your buyer’s journey. Host high-level sessions focused on industry topics, feature customers answering questions about their journeys, or dive deep with product experts.
Cupcake Decorating Competition
Host a virtual cupcake decorating competition to give your audience a fun, well-deserved treat. Send your registrants all the necessary supplies and encourage them to invite their kids and families to participate. The judges can be top customers or industry experts. Make it easy for your attendees to chat with judges throughout the competition. Can the topic be creatively connected to cake decorating? Consider weaving relevant content in between decorating steps.
Virtual events built around fun, competitive activities can be an effective tactic to reengage prospects and customers who you haven’t heard from in a while.
Food and Beverage Pairings
Invite a chef and a sommelier to discuss food and wine pairings (or whiskey and dessert). Incentivize your registrants to attend by sending the food and drinks ahead of time. You can break up the tasting with a brief presentation from an industry or product expert.
Virtual events like these are perfect for treating your top prospects and customers to a special event that fosters brand affinity and gives them the opportunity to hear directly from members of your team.
Divide your audience into teams and host a trivia competition that’ll get everybody thinking. There are plenty of virtual trivia platforms to develop the questions and rules, and run an incredible event. This is a great way to facilitate networking among your target audience.
Still need ideas on how to run a great virtual event? Check out our workbook on how to run an event that isn’t terrible.