Virtual Event Strategies That Will Work in the Post-Covid World

Published by Patrick Anidi on

Due to the circumstances surrounding the covid-19 global pandemic, people have had to put a hold on any sort of event that would involve physical interactions.

 

Research from Gartner shows that 68% of CMOs needed to cancel or postpone customer-facing marketing events as a result of the global pandemic. While virtual events in the form of webinars have existed for a long time especially for companies who have a global customer base, the pandemic situation has forced the hands of companies who heavily rely on physical events.

 

This has been the case for several Salespanel customers as well. PourMyBeer, a tech company in the hospitality industry heavily relied on trade shows and events hosted in restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, military bases, etc. to expand their network of partners and customers. The pandemic forced them to come up with fresh ideas while hosting virtual events.

 

Physical events would be back as most experts believe but virtual events are here to stay. There is no better way for global companies (be it Startups or Enterprises) to connect to a large audience in a resource-efficient manner.

 

In this article, you’ll learn about creating winning strategies and content distribution to generate more customers using virtual events.

 

What is event marketing?

Event marketing is a type of marketing that involves the promotion of a brand, service, or product through in-person gatherings like conferences, virtual workshops, or seminars. In other words, event marketing provides an opportunity to build stronger relationships with customers and educate them about your product or service offering. Each type of event marketing can be tailored to meet a marketer’s goals and needs.

 

While experiential event marketing helps you reach prospects physically and create relationships with them, virtual marketing in the form of webinars and podcasts help in globally reaching a bigger audience with fewer resources and commitments needed from both the presenters and the attendees.

 

Virtual events and distribution strategy

Usually content comes first and distribution comes next. This time, however, we start with the distribution. You can plan and create the most memorable virtual event, but if no one gets to participate then all your efforts will be in vain. This is why promoting your virtual event the right way is very important for success. Here are 5 means to promote your virtual event.

 

1. Use email marketing

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that email marketing is on the list. 40% of marketers take email marketing as the most effective means for virtual event promotion. A list of qualified leads in your CRM or a subscription base is a good starting point.

 

It’s one thing to get your recipient to open your emails and it’s another to get them to take action (sign up or register).

 

Some important factors to consider:

 

  • A compelling subject line
  • Appropriate call-to-actions
  • Benefit-driven email copy
  • The right audience to target

 

You’d want to narrow down your list to the ideal audience you’re looking to invite to the event. Start with your existing customers and newsletter subscribers.

 

2. Linkedin

You may think of LinkedIn as a networking or job search platform, but it has more to offer. Linkedin has an event tool specifically made for B2B professionals that are looking to engage and grow their audience.

 

The event feature creates a virtual space where you can create and promote events. As soon as you’ve created your event, you can share and invite your network through a direct message. Or you can also share the invite to your feed with a visual banner and a visible CTA button.

 

With LinkedIn events, you can generate a customized landing page with a unique URL to promote to your audience.

 

Also, you still have the option of promoting your event through LinkedIn paid ads.

 

3. Leverage your website presence

With a considerable amount of real estate on your website, you can promote your event and engage your customers.

 

In this case, banner ad placements or pop-ups would suffice. If you have a SaaS app, you can share it through notifications or chat popups. Take a look at Intercom’s strategy for example:

 

 

Placing ads can be tricky. You have to display it in a way that captures the attention of your audience else they may skip past it. This is to say that your copy plays an important role in this.

 

Make use of a compelling headline that clearly states what your audience will benefit from your event and create a sense of urgency to get them to take action immediately.

 

For instance, instead of “register for our live sales webinar this weekend”, you can include, “get your crucial sales questions answered by industry experts”.

 

4. Cross-promotion

Virtual events like webinars and podcasts often have guest speakers. You can have one or more guest speakers on your webinar. And, if you are a B2B business, fellow speakers would be representing their companies. In that case, it is a good idea to have them promote the webinar as well through their social media and newsletters.

 

This will essentially let you maximize your reach based on the audience of guest participants. See this tweet from Hubspot for example:

 

 

5. Encourage word-of-mouth and incentives

One of the keys to a successful virtual event is leveraging any possible means to get the word out there, word-of-mouth is no exception. Once you have some customers signed up, don’t just let it end there. You need to find creative ways to motivate them to spread the word.

 

There are different ways to accomplish this. You can set up a referral system and offer ticket discounts for every referral that registers. You can also incentivize them by providing rewards for both participation and promotion.

 

You can also set up a dedicated social media group where attendees can interact and share ideas with a specific hashtag. It’d be best to do this some weeks before the day of the event, so as the build the right rave and anticipation for your event.

 

If you happen to get sponsors for your event, you can find a way to leverage their online presence to promote your event.

 

Strategies for Hosting a Great Virtual Event

Now that distribution is covered and you know how to get an audience for your events, we can move on to some of the best strategies to host a successful virtual event. Below you’d find 5 strategies that you can apply.

 

1. Establish the goal of your virtual event

The first step to a successful virtual event is to establish the goal of your event. Are you looking to generate more qualified leads? Build brand awareness? Or nurture customer relationships?

 

Once you have a detailed picture of your goal, then you can decide what type of event to host as well as the type of content to create. If you’re looking to build your brand awareness and acquire new leads, then an appropriate content type would be a webinar. Or if you want to build customer relationships, then a virtual workshop can be ideal. You also need to look into the type of tools and software that you would need to host your event.

 

The type of content is especially important. Don’t end up offering a sales pitch for your new product, when your attendees expect to watch a webinar that solves a problem. Ensure your content is value-packed and delivered just as your audience would expect.

 

2. Encourage audience engagement

Keeping an audience engaged has been the greatest barrier when it comes to hosting a successful virtual event. You don’t have to let your attendees sit and watch for hours at the risk of getting bored.

 

There are some ways you can get your audience engaged. For example, you can offer a variety of session types such as keynotes and Q&A sessions to spice up the event. Additionally, the engagement tools provided on various social platforms are great options to get your audience to provide feedback and ask questions.

 

3. Provide networking opportunities

As social beings, our instinct is to interact with each other. Providing networking opportunities is another strategy that increases the value of your virtual event. You get to provide your audience with an in-person interaction atmosphere and create room for more engagement. So how can you incorporate networking opportunities into your virtual event?

 

One way is to pair a group of individuals with similar interests for 1:1 zoom chats. With your registration data, you can create a dedicated slack channel where like-minded individuals can interact with each other and help each other. Remember we mentioned PourMyBeer at the start of the article?

 

They did exactly that:

 

 

4. Provide actionable content to your audience

One thing to avoid at your event is offering vague content that your audience may not find practical. The best content type is one that your audience can practice. Aim to provide your audience with content that will help to improve their skillset and knowledge.

 

Another recommendation is to offer your attendees shareable content. It could be a pdf containing a summary of the key points of the event topic. You can also share the slideshow that you cover on your webinar which will help your viewers have something for reference. VWO does this:

 

 

Give way more than your attendees would expect. This will help build your authority and increase the chances of having many returnees for your next event.

 

5. Make room for feedback

In most cases, it’s advisable to take a step back and evaluate the total laydown of your event. A way is to ask your attendees to share their experience at your event.

 

This is important so you can continuously provide more value to your audience at your next event.

 

Some questions you could ask them:

 

  • What do you think we could do better?
  • What session of the event was most valuable to you and why?
  • What would you like to see more at the next event?

 

You may get uneasy during this process, considering that you may face criticisms but it’s necessary to learn what works and what doesn’t work. The goal is to view criticisms objectively and as a means to step up your virtual event game.

 

Examples of B2B Virtual Events

So what does a virtual event look like? Below you’ll find 2 examples of virtual events that will not only inspire you but will also provide a great learning experience.

 

1. INBOUND by Hubspot

The unexpected pandemic outbreak didn’t stop HubSpot from hosting one of the most anticipated events of the year. Before their event started, Hubspot applied one of the best strategies to build anticipation. With a dedicated inbound Facebook group and an outpour of social media content, they were able to get attendees to connect, start conversations, and share ideas.

 

The HubSpot team went further to make the event more valuable and exciting by providing posts session debriefs for attendees to catch up on missed sessions. The attendees also had the opportunity to hear from presenters such as Bob Iger and Kerry Washington. To learn more, you can watch a recorded session of the Hubspot inbound event.

 

2. Salesforce World Tour Sydney Broadcast

Though Salesforce was a bit held back by the onset of the pandemic, they managed to go digital with their world tour Sydney broadcast. With over a million views and 80,000 live stream attendees, the Salesforce team was able to create a connected customer experience. 1:1 engagement was prioritized throughout the event and attendees were able to hear from keynotes speakers like Yvonne Weldon, Billie Jean King, and Meggie Palmer.

 

 

Final Thoughts

Though virtual events may not have the same impact as in-person events, most marketers can still make the most of a digital event setting. As we mentioned before, virtual events help you reach bigger audiences while spending fewer resources. Hosting a virtual event means we don’t have to miss out on audience engagement, networking opportunities, and brand building.

 

Remember, having the right plan and tools can increase the chances of a successful virtual event.

 

Important points to consider about virtual events:

 

  • Audience engagement is key. Before the start of the event, build anticipation by encouraging attendees to connect and share their thoughts through social media groups.
  • Evaluate your goals and needs before you choose the type of event, platform, and content type.
  • Do your research before you outsource any event-related work.
  • Be open to learning from your audience’s feedback to know what works and doesn’t work.

Patrick Anidi

The article has been written by Patrick Anidi and edited by Nilangan Ray.