It’s been a tumultuous year in the events business. The global lockdown meant that almost all major ‘in person’ events were cancelled from March, with Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress becoming the first major casualty. And it wasn’t just the big industry events that had to go online at very short notice: product launches, networking events and press conferences all had to go virtual too.
The hope is that ‘in-person’ events will make a return at some point in 2021. But the ‘virtual event’ is not going away, and this year has served as a crash course in what works and what doesn’t when events go online.
eContact Services has been supporting its clients on virtual events for many years, and understands how to leverage events to drive business objectives. Below we share some of our do’s and don’ts based on the online events we’ve attended this year:
- Assume your tech will go wrong, and plan accordingly. The biggest challenges in online events are likely to be of a technical nature, either on the host side or the participant side (or both). Technical glitches will always occur, but you can mitigate against problems by not over-complicating your offering. It’s the one area where you should play it safe.
- Keep it short and sweet. Big industry events tend to last several days, but no-one is going to sit on a Zoom call for that long. Plan your content in short, snackable bursts that keep participants engaged.
- Do it differently. The move online has lowered the barriers to entry and heightened competition for delegates. What’s your event’s USP? To stand out, you’ll need to be bold – don’t be afraid to try a new approach!
- Know your audience. This remains true, whether real or virtual: understand your audience and tailor your programme to suit their needs. Do they want to hear from the CEO or the technical guys? If it’s a press event, do you have news? (and just because your CEO is the most important person in the company, it doesn’t make him or her the best presenter!)
- Get the right people to the event. Your event will fail if the objective is sales leads and the only people you get tuning in are your competitors! You’ll need an expert partner – someone like eContact Services in fact – to ensure you are inviting the right participants.
- Interact with your audience. A virtual event should be a two-way experience that enables interactivity with your audience. The ability to ask questions, vote in real-time polls and even offer prizes can drive audience engagement.
- Figure out how to network. This is the biggest challenge when transferring in-person events online, but could be key to long term-success. Think about how to build a community around an event and how to allow participants to connect with each other.
- Online events aren’t just for 2020. Physical events will hopefully return but online events won’t be going away, and the future will be a hybrid of the two. Aim to develop a long-term plan that develops your online events offering over time.
- Marketing matters. Just because you’re online, you’ll still need to invest in marketing. And if delegates don’t have the draw of a few days away in a city such as Barcelona, you’ll need to be innovative in how you promote and position your event.
- It’s early days – keep experimenting. No company or event has got this 100% right yet – but keep an eye on best practice and innovations, and keep evolving and improving your offering as you go.
Our view: Ensuring a return-on-investment from a third-party virtual event can be challenging, especially if a sponsorship package delivers the vague promise of ‘brand awareness’ and not much else.
Online events organisers are coming up with innovative ways to replicate the trade show experience, but investment in lead generation services is always a more effective solution if the end goal is securing qualified leads for your sales team.
Meanwhile, the move to virtual events has loosened the grip of the big events organisers, prompting many companies to host their own events in a bid to connect directly with their customers and prospects. The success of these events – no matter how professionally delivered – will depend on getting the right people to attend. Hiring the services of a specialist company that can identify and target the right audiences and drive them to your event should therefore be a key investment. We’re a lead generation company with 20 years’ experience in the telco space. You should be speaking to us.