Virtual events are rapidly growing in popularity. Whether it’s for lead or demand generation, global sales training, or for recruiting employees, real-time, interactive, virtual events are returning real value to a growing number of businesses, vendors, and attendees alike. With the growing popularity of virtual events, Internet Evolution asked me to share some dos and don’ts for hosting one.
Just like live events, virtual events will often feature live conference sessions with Q&A, sponsor and exhibitor booths filled with rich media, and live interaction among attendees, booth reps, and presenters. By hosting an event virtually, you can basically replicate what you’d bring to a physical event, while eliminating the stress and costs of hosting that same event on site.
Despite the similarities between virtual and physical events, however, there are certain best practices one must keep in mind before hosting an event in a virtual space. The FactPoint Group, a Silicon Valley research and consulting firm, recently completed a study of 200 virtual events and wrote a research paper entitled “Best Practices in Virtual Events: How to get the most from virtual events” (if you would like a copy of the entire paper, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org). The following includes some tips covered in that paper, as well as best practices Unisfair has picked up along the way:
1) DO create compelling content.
“Content” in a live event refers to the speakers and the topics they address. Keynotes, panel sessions, product demonstrations -- all of the usual fare one sees at a physical event -- can be even more easily produced in a virtual environment. But in either case, it is the content that draws audience, and it is important to match the content to your audience.
2) DO promote the virtual event.
The only way anyone will appreciate the compelling content you create is if your virtual event is successfully promoted. Success is all about bringing audience to your event, thus making your sponsors and exhibitors happy. In addition to simply using traditional promotional methods (email blasts, banner ads, search engine marketing, and editorial content) you must promote repetitively, and track your methods to see what is working -- and what is not.
3) DO Drive attendees to sponsor and exhibitor booths.
Attendance alone, even in the thousands, is not enough. You will want to drive your attendees to sponsor and exhibitor booths to be sure they collect marketing data and interact with sponsors in real time. One way to do this is through sponsor branding. Successful sponsor branding will allow you to redirect your attendees straight from a session to a sponsor’s booth.
4) DON’T underestimate planning.
Successful virtual events require proper planning and execution. Leave yourself enough time to pull together the right content (speakers and topics), generate audience (promotion), and to recruit sponsors and partners. While a virtual environment can be created in days, best practices dictate 12 to 16 weeks to pull off a successful event.
5) DON’T stop promoting the event.
The beauty of virtual events is they don’t end when the live portion ends. While the live event scheduled for a specific day and time provides live interaction among audience, presenters, and sponsors and provides the marketing focal point necessary to generate interest, the virtual event can live on demand for an extended period of time. Unisfair clients generate an additional 20 to 30 percent of their leads during the on-demand portion of the events, and many companies are now moving towards having their virtual environments open year-round as a lead generator.
— Guy Piekarz, President and CEO of Unisfair