When the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading worldwide, many businesses were forced to cancel all their events. But as the pandemic persisted, many firms realised they needed to adapt and thus moved online.
Thanks to digital platforms such as Google Hangouts and Zoom, people have found new ways to comply with social distancing rules while still hosting their events. But while there is a lot to miss about in-person events, there are many advantages to hosting virtual events – accessibility and higher attendance being the most significant.
What is a virtual event?
A virtual event is just the same as an in-person event. It simply occurs online rather than in a physical location. A live virtual event can take many forms, from training on a specific topic to trade shows, product launches, or conferences. Many businesses use virtual events as a marketing strategy to gain momentum and engagement in a very short time. With a virtual event, you can grow your audience and make huge revenue for your business. So what does it take to host a successful virtual event in 2021?
How to host a virtual event in 2021
Start your planning early
A virtual event needs just the same time and commitment to planning as you would with an in-person event. You’ll need to identify your spokespeople, use effective marketing to attract attendees, and making sure your technology is up to scratch. Before you start planning, organise a meeting with everyone who will be involved in the event. To guide the session, put together a list of key considerations from hosting platform to attendance and who needs to attend.
Differentiate your event
Companies all over the world are promoting their services and products through virtual events. As a result, you need to make sure your event stands out from the crowd. You can do this by:
- Finding a niche. Choose one main problem you want to solve that addresses contemporary concerns and anticipates future issues
- Know your audience. Thoroughly research your audience and pay close attention to the devices they use, the social media platforms they are on, and what time of day they are most likely to engage
- Pre-event gifts. For those people who have registered early, send branded merchandise packages containing welcome cards, snacks, stationery, personalised lighters, and a lanyard to wear on the day to increase anticipation for the upcoming event.
- Choose strong speakers. As travel will not be an issue for your virtual event, be ambitious with the speakers you invite
- Leave people wanting more. Keep the session concise and end with a hook that encourages people to come to the next one.
- Offer free stuff. Offer digital tools and resources such as templates that provide even more value for your attendees
Make your event interactive
Audience interaction is what will determine the success of your virtual event. Your virtual event should invite the audience to participate actively and not just be a passive viewer. Refer back to your business’s past experiences of in-person events to identify opportunities to recreate the most valuable audience interactions. If you have previously hosted promotional training workshops, you may consider using live polls to help steer your virtual presentation in real-time. This will enable presenters to focus on what content the audience wants while keeping them engaged throughout.
The end of the event shouldn’t be the end of the attendees’ experience of your brand. When participants leave the event, or as in this case, log out, make sure you have a follow-up strategy already in place. While you can share highlights of social media events, you also need to reach out to attendees afterwards. Recapture their attention with follow-up giveaways that are the perfect finishing touch to your virtual event. Giving gifts to those who attended is a great way to show your appreciation for their time and engagement and refresh key takeaways. It provides a lead into additional sales and marketing efforts. Ideas for follow-up gifts include:
- Thank you card for attending
- Product samples
- Discounts to your next event
- Event recordings
- Exclusive access to virtual platforms, discussion, networking, and feedback
- Branded promotional items from Igo Promo such as stationery, water bottles, mugs, and gadgets.
You should also maximize your success with strong follow-up communications, which will likely be via email. Split your email list into those who attended and those who didn’t to tailor your messaging, and send a URL of the session recording to both lists. You could also include a short description of the session and details on how they can get in touch with any questions for non-attendees. For people who did attend, provide additional materials like downloadable case studies or guides, combined with strategic messaging to encourage them to take the next step in engaging with your business.
There are now far fewer opportunities to connect with audiences and existing and potential customers at in-person events. Until this changes, online virtual events allow brands to take a different approach with their event marketing strategy and take advantage of the new possibilities virtual events can offer.
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