Just like all marketing campaigns, your virtual events need a higher business or marketing objective as their foundation. However selecting the right type of virtual event among the myriad of options can be daunting, given the unique opportunities and considerations inherent in each kind.
To help you achieve a high virtual event ROI, we’ll walk you through the different options and unravel the best fit for your business objectives.
What is a virtual conference?
A virtual conference (or virtual summit) is a real-time event that takes place in a virtual environment, allowing participants to attend from anywhere in the world. These digital events often span multiple days and include keynotes, panel discussions, networking opportunities, and interactive features, all hosted on a digital platform. Virtual conferences are becoming increasingly popular because they offer the benefits of traditional conferences without the need for physical travel or in-person attendance.
How do I know if virtual conferences are the right type for my business goals?
They’re ideal for businesses looking to achieve broader objectives beyond immediate revenue. If your goals include establishing thought leadership, fostering industry connections, or showcasing a comprehensive range of products or services, this type of event could be the right fit.
The following factors indicate a virtual conference would benefit your business:
- Target Audience: Your target audience prefers a more formal and educational setting over something more casual and interactive, or you aim to capitalize on a wider audience
- Content Depth: You plan to cover a wide range of topics with in-depth presentations and panel discussions, intend to feature multiple speakers, or want your event to be a multi-day experience
- Networking Opportunities: You want to provide extensive, simulated, networking opportunities for attendees, such as virtual lobbies or breakout rooms
- Brand Exposure: You’ll lean on sponsors and guest speakers to advertise your event (virtual conferences are large in scale and can often drive a larger reach compared to smaller webinars or workshops)
- Engagement and Interaction: You seek a simulated, interactive format that allows virtual attendees to connect easily with one another outside of scheduled sessions
- Lead Generation: Your goal is to generate a large number of top-of-funnel leads (because virtual conferences are educational in nature, they see high attendance rates of leads who aren’t necessarily in a buying cycle)
- Budget: You have a sizable budget for your event (virtual conferences can be more expensive to host compared to other virtual events, with costs including event hosting software, promotional efforts, and guest/keynote speakers payments).
- Resources: You possess a sizable support team, event organizers, and strong virtual event management to support this more intensive type of event.
What is a webinar?
Webinars are focused, online sessions and workshops where presenters can interact with a virtual audience through engagement features like polls, Q&A sessions, chat, and more.
How do I know if webinars are the right type for my business goals?
They’re effective for businesses seeking to generate leads, educate attendees, and support and encourage their audience through a buying cycle. As webinars are often a single session, they tend to be easier to host compared to other types of virtual events. If your business goals involve building trust, engaging your audience, and showcasing specific products or services, webinars are a suitable choice.
The below elements can help you determine if a webinar would fit your business:
- Target Audience: Your audience appreciates focused topics with easy-to-navigate software
- Content Depth: Instead of covering multiple topics, you want to delve into a single one
- Networking Opportunities: You seek easy ways for attendees to connect with not only each other, but also the host
- Brand Exposure: Your marketing activities can adequately drive awareness of your webinar across relevant channels
- Engagement and Interaction: You desire to build an experience that doesn't require attendees to navigate multiple parts of a software or tool; webinars drive engagement within the webinar room, without requiring virtual lobbies, breakout rooms, or other hosted spaces and include polls, handouts, chat, and live Q&A sessions to foster interaction.
- Lead Generation: You aim to generate leads throughout the entire buying (and owned) cycle (due to the specificity of the subject matter, webinars can often generate bottom-of-funnel as well as top-of-funnel leads)
- Budget: You have a smaller budget or are looking to make your first step into virtual events
- Resources: You need to do more with less (webinars don't require a huge team to build or launch and can even be recorded; in fact automated webinars are a great way to generate leads from a global audience)
Virtual Networking Events
What is a virtual networking event?
Virtual networking events recreate the experience of in-person ones in a digital space. They facilitate one-on-one or group interactions between participants to foster professional connections.
How do I know if virtual networking events are the right type for my business goals?
If building relationships and making connections are essential components of your business strategy, virtual networking events are the right choice. They’re particularly beneficial for industries where personal connections play a pivotal role.
These signs point to virtual networking events being advantageous for your brand:
- Target Audience: The aim is for event attendees to find value from personal connections with others in the space
- Content Depth: The networking itself is the event’s main draw
- Networking Opportunities: You want to host more of an experience as opposed to traditional content
- Brand Exposure: You desire to keep your event somewhat exclusive, with an aim to include certain segments of your audience
- Engagement and Interaction: You’re looking to facilitate an experience that enables industry audience members to come face-to-face to share best practices, make connections, and learn from one another
- Lead Generation: You prefer to prioritize the experience and value of your audience over lead generation for your business (a virtual networking event is often more beneficial to attendees than the hosting company, who serves more as a facilitator)
- Budget: Your budget is smaller or you’re ready to take your first step into virtual events?
- Resources: Coordination is the cornerstone of these kinds of virtual events, so you should have resources that can support the virtual event planning and organizing (in most cases, you don’t need a special hosting platform; you could easily launch on LinkedIn or another social media platform)
Virtual Trade Shows
What is a virtual trade show?
Virtual trade shows bring the traditional trade show experience into the digital realm. These events highlight exhibitors inside virtual booths, enabling businesses to showcase their offerings to a global audience.
How do I know if virtual trade shows are the right type for my business goals?
If your goals involve reaching a broader market segment with your services and products without the logistical challenges of physical events, virtual trade shows are the right fit. They’re excellent for product launches, lead generation, and establishing a global presence.
The ensuing criteria should guide your decision to invest in virtual trade shows:
- Target Audience: These types of events are common in your industry, and your competitors would likely attend
- Content Depth: Your event content focuses on your product and services, with less emphasis on thought leadership and high-level discussion
- Networking Opportunities: Your desire to network is specific to the context of your product and services
- Brand Exposure: Your target audience, competitors, and the press have a history of attending industry-relevant virtual trade shows
- Engagement and Interaction: You aim to speak to an audience from more of a sales perspective than a marketing one
- Lead Generation: You need to generate intent-driven leads
- Budget: You have to budget necessary to exhibit your brand at a virtual trade show, which is less expensive than an in-person trade show but more costly than other types of virtual events
- Resources: You have enough skilled personnel to man a virtual trade show booth and provide audience members with demonstrations
Virtual Job Fairs
What is a virtual job fair?
Virtual job fairs connect employers with job seekers. These online events facilitate virtual candidate screening, networking, and hiring decisions, making the recruitment process more accessible and efficient.
How do I know if virtual job fairs are the right type for my business goals?
For businesses focused on talent acquisition, virtual job fairs are a strategic choice. They provide a platform for connecting with potential hires, conducting interviews, and building a strong employer brand. Further, they save time and energy by condensing the interview process into one day of multiple screenings, compared to the traditional time frame of weeks or months.
Use the proceeding list to decide if a virtual job fair would be beneficial to your company:
- Target Audience: Virtual job fairs are common in your industry, and your prospective candidates are likely to attend
- Content Depth: You have a firm understanding of what makes a successful candidate, as well as the value prop you offer to job seekers so you can clearly tell your company’s story, weed out inadequate candidates, and clarify applicant criteria
- Networking Opportunities: You want to gauge market talent
- Brand Exposure: Virtual job fairs would enable your brand to support its vision and mission and showcase your company’s DE&I initiatives, philanthropic initiatives, and company values
- Engagement and Interaction: This type of experience would provide an easy way for you to evaluate candidates
- Lead Generation: In your industry, virtual job fairs see an impressive success rate, and other brands have secured prospective candidates from them
- Budget: You’ve allocated enough budget for recruitment efforts (the cost to participate in a job fair is lower than for a virtual conference or virtual trade show but will still require capital to have a booth)
- Resources: You obtained buy-in from hiring managers, HR, and other stakeholders to participate
In conclusion, selecting the right virtual event type is crucial for aligning with your business goals and maximizing return on investment. Whether opting for virtual conferences to establish thought leadership and foster industry connections, webinars for lead generation and targeted audience engagement, virtual networking events for relationship-building, virtual trade shows for global product showcases, or virtual job fairs for efficient talent acquisition, each option offers unique advantages based on your specific objectives. Careful consideration of factors such as target audience, content depth, networking opportunities, brand exposure, engagement, lead generation, budget, and available resources will guide you in making an informed decision. Regardless of the chosen format, structuring the virtual event meticulously and leveraging interactive features on a reliable platform like Demio can enhance the overall experience, ensuring a successful and impactful virtual event for your business.
Frequently Asked Questions About Virtual Event Types
How do you structure a virtual event?
Structuring a virtual event is a meticulous process that involves several key steps. Begin by defining your objectives, whether it's lead generation, brand awareness, thought leadership, etc., then choose the right type of event based on your goals. Curate engaging content that adds value to your audience, select appropriate speakers, and invest in a user-friendly virtual event platform.
The structure should facilitate seamless navigation for attendees and help hosts evaluate the event’s success. Be sure to consider virtual event trends as well to help you identify what works for other brands like yours.
What is an example of a reliable virtual event platform?
Demio is an engaging, data-driven virtual event platform that’s 100% browser based. It offers a robust suite of features, including customizable registration pages, attendee engagement data and insights, and seamless integrations. Its versatility makes it suitable for running different kinds of virtual events, providing an engaging and user-friendly virtual experience for both hosts and attendees. If a high ROI is your goal, look for a platform that can help you track your events’ progress against your virtual event metrics.
How do I make a virtual event interactive?
Interactivity is at the heart of a successful virtual event. Leverage virtual engagement ideas and activities like live polls, Q&A sessions, breakout rooms, and networking opportunities to drive audience engagement. Encourage attendee participation through discussions, chat features, and workshop sessions. The goal is to create an immersive experience that keeps viewers engaged and invested in the event.