Breaking Down Virtual Events: A Guide to Virtual Event Marketing and Production
Virtual event marketing
When COVID-19 hit, event marketers had to adapt. If you weren’t doing virtual events, you started. If you were, you doubled down.
This left many of us scrambling, trying to figure out how to handle virtual event marketing. There was no clear path so we had to evolve. While transitioning to a world of only virtual events appears daunting, it doesn’t have to be.
Virtual events can be an excellent resource for generating leads, developing relationships, and driving pipeline. So read on, gather your team, and start producing impactful virtual events.
Benefits of virtual events
There are many reasons to love virtual events. For starters they can cost less to produce, they can take less time to plan, and they’re easy to adapt.
Additionally, virtual events can provide your team with evergreen marketing content. Record your webinar so you can run it again as on-demand. There’s no reason to let good content be one-and-done.
Transcribing your webinar gives you brand new content that can be used to get people to listen on-demand, build on your SEO, and/or drive additional lead generation through gated content.
Virtual events make it easy to garner registrants from all over the world. Your in-person happy hour at the local pub might be great if your audience is from the area, but if your audience is international, virtual events are a great way to keep them engaged and interested.
Additionally, it can be difficult to replicate that in-person experience when you have an international target audience. Virtual events can be a cost-effective way to connect with your audience on their schedule, wherever they are. With everyone joining virtually, no one feels like they’re getting the short end of the stick.
Virtual events give you an opportunity to easily gather insight from your audience. In real-time, you can see who is attending and--more importantly--who is engaging. You can even see which part or parts of your event drove people to join or to sign out.
Regarding feedback and follow-up info, attendees may be quicker to fill out a poll or a survey if they can do it online as part of the event itself.
“...you know how many people watched the video, how many questions were asked, and how many polls were answered. These are really good metrics, because even if those registration numbers and those attendance numbers aren’t there, if you have a high level of engagement from killer accounts, it was worth the investment made.” - Meagan Dollins, Senior Partner Marketing Manager
Insights from hosting virtual events
As we’ve adapted to the world of virtual events, we’ve picked up a few things. Two of the most important: Learn and Adapt. Learn from your partners and your peers. Adapt your strategy to your audience.
Producers play an essential role in your virtual event. The producer manages the operational aspects of the event (A/V, run-of-show, Q&A) so the host can focus on running the event and keeping people engaged.
We found it’s useful to introduce the producer to the attendees at the beginning of the event so they aren’t thrown off when the producer comes in to run Q&A or has to step in as a back-up host.
You need to have a contingency plan. Murphy's Law applies to webinars and you’ll be thanking yourself for over-prepping when things start to break down. Write out your contingency plan (or plans) and share it/them with every member of your team.
Also, be sure to run a tech rehearsal. A play would never go on without a dress rehearsal and you should prepare for your webinar the same way. Chances are there are a few unknown hiccups that can be taken care of before the event simply by running a tech rehearsal.
And just like with live events, the show must go on. Things happen. Your attendees aren’t going to revolt because of a slip-of-the-tongue or a minor technical difficulty. Prepare your contingency plans, have back-up options ready, and stay calm as you put out the fires.
A final takeaway from our first virtual panel: It’s ok to not talk about your product. There’s a lot going on in the world right now and it’s not always appropriate to plug your brand.
Customers want to know they can trust brands to do the right thing and to be there for them when needed. So pick your moments and remember that any interaction is still exposure for your brand--whether your product is the focus or not.
It’s imperative to select the right virtual event format for your content and your audience. There are several options and each offers unique benefits.
- Multi-Day Conference → Allows for content variation through keynotes, industry and/or topic tracks, best practices, and networking.
- One-Day Conference → Provides a focus on content and networking with room for multiple speakers.
- Webinar → Delivers a classic arena for thought leadership.
- Happy Hour → Permits a fun focus on networking, as well as a light-hearted opportunity to learn about your organization and services.
- Demo and Activity → Show off your product while offering some virtual fun (i.e. wine tasting, cooking class, yoga, etc.).
- Lunch & Learn → Enables both you and your attendees to learn more about your product and services while making meaningful connections.
- Roundtable → Facilitates group participation with a focus on networking and discussion.
Getting your outreach timing right is imperative to the success of your event. You need attendees, not just registrants. For your event to succeed, people can’t just sign up, they need to show up.
Digital traffic is overflowing. Everyone’s inbox is stuffed these days--especially with virtual event invites. If you aren’t able to break through the noise and differentiate yourself, your event can end up in the proverbial junk box of doom.
Give people time, don’t blindside them. If you reach out to someone the day before your event, chances are they’re not going to rearrange their schedule for you. But if you grab their attention a few weeks out they can plan on attending your webinar without having to rearrange their schedule.
Additionally, the more time you have to figure out audience size, the more time you have to plan and adapt. You’ve got to get to know your audience and what they respond to.
At Banzai, we strive to provide you with as many qualified registrants as you can handle and there are lots of variables that impact our strategy. For example, audience profile, content, event size, and time-to-event all play major roles in determining our outreach strategy.
In general, we tend to base our outreach start time on how many registrants are desired:
Like other aspects of virtual event marketing, there is no one right way to conduct outreach. Some professionals prefer to register close to the event date while others want time to schedule. These differences occur over geographic regions, seniority, job type, and more.
“A lesson I learned is that events are very different across different regions. And a lot of the best practices we’ve learned from one place are not applicable if you are targeting another region.” - Bianca Hu, Account Director, Digital Marketing Strategy, Delightful Communications
Banzai international event success stories
Here are some examples of successful international events and their outreach timing and percentage towards their registration goal.
Just remember to consider your audience, remember your end-goal(s), and stay ready to adapt.
As you begin designing your virtual event program, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, you need a solid platform. There are lots of options out there, so ask yourself these questions when deciding which is right for you:
- Do you plan to create your own registration page or use the platform’s registration feature? If using the platform, can it be customized?
- Does it integrate with your CRM and marketing automation tools?
- Can you easily share resources with your attendees?
- Is there a registration limit?
- Does the platform allow for recording and viewing on-demand?
- Can you produce more than one webinar or event at a time?
- What is your budget?
Next, you need to prep your team. Establish and assign distinct roles. Banzai has three main roles for every virtual event:
Producer → The producer is the event’s point person. They are responsible for:
- Setting up the event within your platform.
- Building the Registration and Thank You pages.
- Managing the live event, which includes launching the event, hosting Q&A, and dealing with any technical issues (they will come up).
- Wrap-up, including setting up the event on-demand and hosting a post-event team meeting.
Host/Presenter → The host of your virtual event leads the content and presentation.
- The host may moderate a panel, introduce your guest speaker, or present your organization’s own best practices and thought leadership. They work closely with your speakers to make sure your event’s content hits the mark.
Campaign manager → The campaign manager will lead the promotional efforts around your virtual event.
- They support the event by building email, social, and other outreach campaigns. They also own event follow-up and promotion of the event on-demand.
To help keep these responsibilities straight, use an event prep doc to keep all your event information in one place. This will help you ensure your team is prepared, your speakers and guests feel confident, and your overall event is set up for success.
Thirdly, and possibly most important, keep in touch with your audience. It isn’t enough to register them and call it good. Send them reminders, send them calendar invites, and definitely send them Thank Yous post-event.
People are busy and if you’re lucky enough to get them to attend, you need to make sure they stay engaged. Otherwise, what was the point of all those outreach dollars?
Give your attendees something actionable to take back with them. Even if your goal is to sell, delivering useful content free-of-charge will build trust among your audience and position you as a thought leader in your community.
Finally, as you have these conversations with your attendees, MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF THEM.
Ask when they want to be notified about events. Simple feedback like when they want to be invited is easy to acquire because it’s helpful to them and you--it keeps their inboxes clean and keeps your invitations relevant.
So take things in stride as you navigate virtual event marketing. We’re all figuring this out together and no one is going to stumble upon the key to it all. Learn from your audience, learn from your peers, and always be ready to adapt.
If you’d like assistance with your virtual event marketing efforts, or you just want to learn more, check out our upcoming webinar Getting Your Event Promotion Right on 7/31.