This last week has been a major test for field and event marketers. Events are one of the top channels for driving pipeline and hitting top-level business objectives. Many now face the tough decision about whether or not to cancel their in-person events. The great thing about marketers is that they are incredibly resilient and adaptable.
We are already seeing major conferences make the decision to go virtual. Docusign was able to make the switch from a live conference to a completely virtual event in under a week. But what about roadshows and smaller field events? Before you make the decision to cancel or postpone your event, consider hosting a virtual roadshow instead.
Run a virtual roadshow that isn't terrible with the event planning workbook.
Benefits of Hosting a Virtual Event
Hosting a virtual event can be a cost-effective way to get in front of your audience. They allow you to meet your attendees on their terms (at home or at the office, live or on-demand) and do not take the same amount of resources an in-person event. Other benefits include:
Expanded Target Audience
In-person events can be restricted to prospects and customers in a certain region or mile radius. Hosting a virtual roadshow means your audience can attend from wherever they live or work. Even if your event has a regional focus, you can still expand from your original target. Instead of only inviting registrants that are within a 25-mile radius of your roadshow, you can widen your targeting to include anyone in the state or region.
Virtual events mean your team, your speakers, and your audience do not need to travel. This can be a huge cost savings and determining factor regarding whether or not someone will attend. Everyone will be able to attend your event from the comfort of their own home or office.
There are some great tools for hosting webinars and virtual events and one, if not a few of them, may already be a part of your marketing tech stack. If not, there are a variety of cost-effective resources available that can be launched quickly and effectively.
Some of the leading tools include:
- Zoom Webinars
- Adobe Connect
One of the best things about virtual events is their ability to be viewed on-demand. You can use the recording in a variety of ways, including being featured on your website, repurposed in email campaigns, and used as inspiration for future blogs and case studies. On-demand also provides your attendees with the ability to participate on their schedule.
Can Your Roadshow Go Virtual?
Not all event formats lend themselves towards virtual events. An activity like a movie screening or a networking event may need to be rethought or postponed. BUT, there are a lot of great options for producing a virtual roadshow.
Here are few ideas to consider if you want to go virtual with your upcoming field marketing event:
- Stream your sessions - Record and stream your speakers on stage just like you would at your in-person event. DocuSign kept the conference feeling at DocuSign Momentum by having their presenters speak to their virtual audience from their event venue.
- Host a virtual roundtable - Panel discussions can work just as well in a virtual environment as they do in-person, and no one has to travel! Encourage your speakers to turn their cameras on and it will feel like everyone is in the same room. Your moderator can also manage the questions from the audience using your platform Q&A feature.
- Host your virtual event for different time zones - The “live” aspect of an event can be an important factor for some. Take your virtual roadshow on the road by hosting your event live in the time zones of your audience. This may mean hosting the event multiple times, but it will encourage live attendance and engagement.
- Send your attendees branded collateral - Roadshows are a great way to get branded collateral into the hands of your attendees. Instead of having water bottles and notebooks at the table when attendees arrive, send them the items ahead of time. This will serve as a great reminder of your upcoming virtual event.
- Encourage your partners and sponsors to participate - Your roadshow sponsors and/or partners can introduce your virtual sessions and manage the Q&A. They will get strong visibility with live attendees and continued visibility if your session is on-demand. They will be viewed as key contributors to the event.
- Establish a virtual community - A huge benefit of in-person events is the opportunity for your attendees to meet one-another and network. This can be a challenge when it comes to virtual events, so create a virtual community (LinkedIn group, Slack channel, or internal community) that allows your attendees to continue the conversation and collaborate even after your virtual event is over.
Steps for Hosting a Virtual Roadshow
So you’ve decided to turn your in-person roadshow into a virtual event. Great! Here are the steps you can take to create a great virtual experience.
1. Pick a Platform
Working with your event marketing and marketing ops team to determine if you already have a tool you can use to host your virtual event. There are a lot of great options that allow you to pay monthly. This is important for those wanting to test out a virtual strategy before committing to a year-long contract.
2. Update Speakers and Key Stakeholders
Update your team and speakers on the change. Share with them an updated run-of-show and what they will need to do day-of.
3. Get the Word Out
Send an email and have your account reps and SDRs follow up with all registrants to let them know about the change and how they can now access the event. This is also a great opportunity to expand your invitation list and reach out to prospects that may have not been able to attend your regional event.
4. Host a Run-Through
Relying on technology to run an event can always be a little nerve-racking. Host a run-through for you and all of your speakers and production team. This will help everyone feel comfortable with the tool and know what to expect the day of your event.
5. Day-of Virtual Event
Make sure to login early and test, test, test! Have a member of your team login as a guest and a presenter to make sure audio and video works. We also recommend you and all your presenters connect to a hardline for your internet. The last thing you want is for your internet connection to be temperamental the day of your event.
6. Have a Contingency Plan
Like all in-person roadshows, virtual events still need a contingency plan. Have a clear understanding of what to do if a speaker cancels last minute or if your internet goes out (can your speakers present via the phone?). Having a plan b (and even a plan c) will make sure you are set up for success, no matter what happens.
Field and event marketers are amazing under pressure. They produce quality events and experiences no matter what the circumstance. Over the next few weeks and months marketing leaders will have to make tough decisions around the in-person roadshows they work so hard to produce. Switching to virtual events is a great way to keep the momentum from current event marketing programs and help teams hit their business goals.