There seems to be near unanimous agreement that not only will virtual events be with us throughout the remainder of 2021, but even as in person events return, they will live on as a more cost effective way to connect with your desired audience.
That is not to say virtual events are inexpensive to make. Just as with live events, you can and should work to increase the ROI of your virtual event and feed your sales and marketing team for weeks and months to come by repurposing and repackaging event content in a variety of ways. That means thinking bigger, marshalling your resources, planning ahead and project managing.
Run a virtual event that isn't terrible with the event planning workbook.
A Content Opportunity
Any event, whether live or virtual, is content, and an opportunity to create more content. Events can generate news, ideas, and memorable moments. Cover your event like a journalist would, capturing it in words and images. Think beyond the time and space boundaries of the event itself about how you will broadcast your coverage on different channels to different audiences--social media, your company blog and email campaigns for starters. You may want to add some of it to a repository of sales assets; use it to generate PR, or for the website for next year’s event. Maybe you want clips for a podcast. Brainstorm all the possible opportunities for your company and your audience and make a big list of your ideas.
Gather Your Resources
As with all content creation, mining your event for content requires resources, so you’ll want to have a realistic budget, and recruit help.
Written content is typically the easiest and least expensive to do, and most companies these days have a writer or two that can join the effort. If you’re planning a big event, you might want to supplement your writing team to make sure you can cover all the highlights. You will probably also need the services of a graphic designer, a web designer, a copy editor and your SEO person.
Depending on the nature of your virtual event, you may also need a videographer (yes, you can make video virtually, and many videographers have now spent a year perfecting that technique) and a social media writer. For a big event with a lot of components, consider appointing or hiring an editor in chief to project manage all the content and make sure that everything aligns with your themes and messaging.
Plan, Plan, Plan
The most important thing you can do is plan ahead and take a disciplined approach to project management, rather than waiting until after the event is over and then trying to create content. This is the key to getting the most high quality content you can out of the event, and in a timely manner, while memories of the event are still fresh and people are excited to relive it, see what they missed, and share.
Identify the pieces of content you want to create out of each component of the event, for what channels, and what assets you’ll need for each. Do as much work as you can up front. For example, have your graphic designer make branded templates that you can drop quotes onto as your speakers drop the knowledge live, and then share them on social media. Break your work into before, during and after the event. For example, here are some ways you might plan to leverage event content before the event:
As you are collecting speakers and panelists and finalizing session content, get your writer or writers involved. The same conversations you’re having about content for the speaking session can be leveraged for a brief Q&A with speakers that can be written up as a blog post to help both your organization and the speaker’s organization promote the event. Have your graphic designer create a graphic with a speaker headshot, session title, date and time to promote on social media. After the event, you can swap out the day and time with the words “Now available on demand” to promote the recording.
If you are having a game or contest, or other interactive component, create some fun graphics to promote them on social media. If you are building virtual rooms or booths, ask your designer or graphic artist to create a few behind the scenes sneak peaks that you can drip out to tease the event.
All of these assets can be used in social posts and email campaigns promoting the event.
If you are planning to make videos of sessions available on demand, create that web page now, and if you have session information, write up the titles with the help of your SEO team member. Include a meta description that gives a short summary of who the speakers are, what company they are from, and what the video is about. Naming the speakers and companies increases the likelihood that they and their colleagues will view and share the video. One thing you may want to consider for a virtual event: pre-record some of your content for higher production values and add it to the library now. All of this groundwork will help you get the video content out to attendees shortly after the event ends.
Creating Live Content
There are two aspects to creating content during the event: The planned for, and the unplanned for. The more you can have assets ready for the things you know will take place, the more you will be able to report out live on the unplanned moments--the photo ops, the memorable quotes and magical moments. Here are some ideas for generating content during the event that you’ll want to prepare for:
Plan to capture as much of the event as you can on audio and video and with still images. Make sure someone is on point to do this. If you don’t have a big team, or a lot of budget, prioritize which components of the event are likely to yield the meatiest ideas and the most interesting visual images.
Some of these will be used during the event to broadcast live on social media, to reach your audience there, and to provide fuel for your attendees to share with their social networks. Be prepared with the names, titles and handles of all your speakers, sponsors, etc. so that copy can be written quickly on the fly. Have some branded backgrounds ready to drop quotes and statistics into as they are presented. Create a “shot list” for visually presenting the event on social media as it is happening. Creating a stunning virtual environment? Make sure to queue up some social sized graphics to show it. Consider making a video tour of the virtual setting.
Be sure to get transcripts of the speaking sessions, as these will help you turn them into written content, as well as discover seeds for new content.
For a multi-session event you may want to write a recap of the day, hitting the highlights of the keynote, panels, breakout sessions and even the social events. To do this, you need to recruit team members to attend key sessions, and deputize them as reporters who will listen for news, themes, nuggets and quotes and connect afterwards with your writer, who will compile them all into a recap for your blog.
Memorializing Your Event
Give your event “legs” by sharing out the content from the event, and then identifying new content ideas that you can tie back to the conference. Here are some ideas for post-event content.
After the event, take your videos and add the headlines and metadata you created earlier, and put them into the library your web designer prepared ahead of time. Then share the link with the conference participants. But don’t stop there. Share them directly with each of the people in the video, thanking them for their participation. Look for ways to take the longer video and make short clips that you can put in different places on your website, share on social channels, include in your demand gen campaigns and give to sales to use in their emails. Be sure you have gotten permission up front to share publicly.
Take the transcripts of your speaking sessions and do a blog post or two or a few. For panel discussions, a blog post in a Q&A format is easy to do, and has the added benefit of including more people, all of whom can share on their own channels and social networks. Be sure to give them and their company a shoutout when you share the blog post on your own social channels. They will appreciate the mention, and may even reciprocate. All of these are great ways not only to reuse content, but to reconnect with your event participants and keep building those relationships.
Squeeze a little extra mileage out of visual assets from the virtual display or social event by making one last photo montage for social media: Had a blast at our event; see you next time!
If your event was a multi-day event, do a recap of the final day for your company blog, including as many people in it as possible. Be sure to mention them all when you share the blog on social media.
Begin With the End in Mind
Putting on events, even virtual ones, is a lot of work, and in the crush of deadlines and logistics, it can be a challenge to carve out time to think strategically about a content strategy beyond the event. It seems like just one more thing on an already too long to-do list, and becomes an afterthought.
Then you end up only getting some session recordings and a few social posts out of it. With all the content planning you’ve done for the event itself, and all the involvement of guest speakers and internal experts, that’s really an underuse of resources. You end up looking back and thinking, gee if only we’d captured those remarks on video, or followed up with an interview, or thought to take a photo of that scene.
Don’t live a life of regret. With proper planning and a well-resourced team, your event can live beyond the moment in time, and yield a significant amount of evergreen content that can be shared and re-shared for many months to come.