Virtual conferences drive key marketing goals for large enterprises and small companies alike. Organizing and presenting effective conferences online has become mission-critical for organizations the world over. What are the current best practices for virtual conferences? And how do you choose the right platform and format to make the most of your events budget?
We turn to the experts for answers. And not just one expert — we’ve gathered a roundtable of experts in their fields. Discover the secrets to great online events in this recorded Art and Science of Virtual Conferences webinar featuring four virtual conference specialists. This episode is part of the ongoing Success Series of webinars brought to you by Virtual Intelligence Briefing.
Get proven tips and techniques
In today’s episode, Tom Riddle, director of survey and research solutions at ViB, is joined by four guest panelists: Lisa Dawson, Senior Manager, Field Marketing Events at Ping Identity; Belinda Joseph, Senior Director, Marketing Events at xMatters; Robin Travado, a seasoned virtual events consultant; and Mirza Baig, Director, Digital Marketing at Quadient.
Listen in as Tom and his guests reveal everything you need to know about successful virtual conferences, including:
- Formats and platforms for virtual conferences
- How virtual events differ from in-person conferences
- KPIs for virtual events
- Best practices for promotion and execution
- …and much more!
Learn the different formats of virtual events
When it comes to formats, “virtual conferences are almost as varied as live events,” says Lisa. You can produce a small roundtable event using the Zoom platform, for instance. Or you might opt to replicate an entire live conference. With the proper planning, you can produce a “complex standalone event that’s going to have breakouts and keynotes and virtual booth spaces.”
There’s also a hybrid event “where some of your content is going to be presented live, but some of it will be held virtually,” she says. The challenge of the more complicated hybrid events is “to keep those two intertwined and both audiences engaged.”
Find out how virtual conferences differ from physical events
Belinda explains that with virtual events, “you do miss out on being able to have one-to-one human interaction with people” in the same way as a physical event. But there is an upside. “You have the opportunity to really expand your reach,” she says, “and hopefully bring in more attendees than may have been able to attend in-person.”
According to Belinda, “with virtual conferences, your possibilities are really endless.” For one, “there’s so much technology out there” that lets you reach new audiences in new ways. “People are constantly innovating,” she says.
Ways to engage your audience virtually include videos, chats, and even gamification. “You can still network and connect with other attendees,” Belinda notes, “but from the convenience of your living room.” Plus you don’t have to “worry about the additional time and expense that might go into attending in-person events.”
Identify your key goals for virtual events
According to Mirza, your “number one KPI should be how much marketing-generated pipeline you are driving through your virtual event.” Use your marketing automation platform — Salesforce, Marketo, or Hubspot, for example — to keep track of how your event feeds prospects into your sales funnel. Types of question to answer, he says, include “where are these registrants, where are these attendees, where are these no-shows ultimately leading into a funnel, and then within that funnel, is there a sales handoff?”
Remember that the purpose of marketing “is to generate revenue back to the company,” he says. “What are you giving back to the larger organization in terms of a handoff by holding this event?”
Along with driving pipeline, Robin mentions another goal: “driving brand awareness.” Perhaps most important, however, is tracking conference attendees that result in future closed deals. Depending on the nature of the conference, closed deals can be “the golden nugget that we are looking for,” she says.
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Discover best practices for networking and promotion
It’s important to be able to network at a virtual conference. Belinda says that networking is “one of the top three reasons our attendees would come to our events.” One way to incorporate networking into a virtual event is to use tools like Slack. “We created a dedicated Slack group” for a virtual conference, she says. That group included a channel where attendees could ask product or technical questions.
She also had a speaker channel set up in Slack. “We saw a huge engagement with this,” she says. “People were spending an extra 15 to 20 minutes after the event ended just to continue a conversation with the speaker or with other attendees.”
Promotion is also key, especially now that people have a large amount of virtual events to choose from. Belinda says to consider offering incentives like gift cards, or charitable donations. “We found a lot of people actually love that,” she says. Especially during this difficult time, attendees appreciate a “give-back component.”
Another option is to create content for your event speakers and sponsors to “share across their channels,” she says. And don’t forget working with sales reps and customer success teams to spread the word. “There’s nothing like personal outreach” to boost event attendance.
Plan and execute a great virtual conference
Whether you’re thinking through your first virtual event, or getting ready for your next full-scale online conference, it’s time to execute like a pro. Find out more by listening to the entire episode, “Art & Science of Virtual Conferences with the Even A-Team.” Improve your planning, perfect your process, and get great results from your next virtual conference.
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