Great news! It’s easier than ever to host a virtual event.
Not-so-great news! Every B2B brand you’ve ever heard of is ALSO hosting virtual events. And most of us are sick to death of staring at a screen 24/7.
That doesn’t mean to not do virtual events. But it does mean we have to be more strategic about putting one together. You have to bring all of your marketing might and prowess to bear in order to make sure your event is attended, and that the attendees have a great experience.
Let’s take a look at a few things you can do before, during and after a virtual event to kick it up to the next level.
13 Top Strategies for Virtual Events
From content marketing to organic social, a successful virtual event uses every tool in your marketers’ toolkit. In addition, there are a few considerations that are unique to this particular channel.
Before the Event: Strategy & Promotion
1 — Set Goals
Start your event process by setting goals for the business purpose you want to achieve. For example, if you’re raising awareness of the brand, you’ll want to have influencers and thought leaders that appeal to a broad audience. But if you want attendees to book a demo after attending, you’re looking for a smaller but highly targeted audience. This is the first decision that will shape your promotion strategy and even your content.
2 — Choose a Platform
There’s a potentially bewildering array of virtual platforms out there right now. They range from something as simple as live-streaming on Facebook or Instagram, all the way to enterprise-level virtual conference halls with multiple customizable rooms.
We find LinkedIn Events to be a good middle ground between these extremes. There are plenty of easy-to-use tools built in that make it more customizable and interactive than a flat live-stream, but it doesn’t have budget-busting bells and whistles.
That said, if you’re an enterprise looking for an all-inclusive hosting solution, there are plenty of options. This blog post has the rundown on some of the most popular.
No matter which platform you choose, make sure to have a backup plan in place. If your LinkedIn Livestream fails, for example, be ready to roll on YouTube.
3 — Pre-Record and/or Rehearse
A virtual event doesn’t have to be 100% live — in fact, it might be a better audience experience if it’s not. You can present a few pre-recorded sessions livened up with b-roll and music, to balance out the talking heads.
Whether you choose to pre-record or not, it’s a good idea to rehearse your segments before the event itself.
4 — Plan Your ‘War Room’
During the event, you will want to have a team of folks coordinating behind the scenes (more on that next section). Now is the time to figure out who will be on duty, which tasks they’ll be taking care of, and how the team will communicate if you’re working remotely. Some of our clients work with an instant messaging platform, combined with an internal video call to keep everyone connected.
5 — Set an Agenda
Your virtual event should be highly structured — guests should know exactly what they’re getting, and be able to plan for the times they want to attend. When you set the agenda, make sure to plan for interactive segments, too. Give the audience a chance to add to the conversation and be active rather than passive.
6 — Promote & Amplify
The above tips will help make the webinar run smoothly. Now it’s a question of getting people to attend. Start with a little content marketing: Use your blog to introduce the speakers and subject matter. Add a notice to your newsletter, too.
On social media, post organic posts asking your audience to submit questions, and consider paid ads to register for the event. If you’re on LinkedIn Events, you can offer a seamless registration process.
And of course, our agency always includes influencers as part of the promotion strategy. Equip your presenters with social media images and messages they can use to amplify the even to their audiences.
During the Event: Support and Engage
7 — Screen Questions and Engage in Chat
I mentioned the ‘war room’ up above — during the event, there should be a few moderators devoted to managing audience engagement. These folks can ask for feedback in the chat, post key takeaways in real-time to social media, and screen audience questions for a Q&A. This team makes it easier for your presenters and host to focus on what they’re doing, rather than trying to engage the audience.
8 — Have a Dedicated Socializing Space
One thing that makes a virtual event feel more like a physical one: A place to chat, socialize and network. Some virtual platforms have these spaces built in — they’re virtual rooms with spatial audio that allows people to break into small conversation groups.
9 — Keep Promoting throughout the Event
Just because the event has started, doesn’t mean the promotion work is done. Your team should be posting on social media — especially Twitter, for immediacy — sharing takeaways and linking back to the event itself. You can keep inviting people to join as long as the event is running.
After the Event: Review and Repurpose
10 — Debrief Your Team
While the event is fresh in everyone’s mind, have a meeting to discuss what went well, what could go better, and what you can improve for next time. It’s also a good opportunity to pull out key takeaways and spot opportunities for repurposing.
11 — Create a Highlights Post
Round up the key takeaways from your virtual event into a blog post. You can share the post with your influencers to reactivate them and start raising awareness for your next event.
12 — Share Influencer Highlights
Create social media posts with images that feature quotes from the event. Make sure to equip your influencers with images and messages they can use to promote the takeaway blog, too.
13 — Send a Thank You Email
If your virtual event required registration, you now have an email list that can be used (judiciously) to promote future events. Send an email thanking people for attending, and allow them to opt into emails from the brand, or just emails about future events, or to opt out completely.
A Virtually Perfect Event
Virtual events have evolved a lot in the past two years — it turns out necessity really is the mother of invention. As long as you approach a virtual event with the same depth of strategy that you would use for an in-person one, you can make it memorable for your guests and worthwhile from a business perspective.
Check out Lee Odden’s post on virtual events, podcasting and Clubhouse to learn more.