Here’s my new slogan: An event is an event is an event. We live in a technology era. Embrace it.
Virtual/online events have been around for a long time, and are an essential part of the event marketing mix. Hybrid and Virtual events are a way to extend the reach of your audience. Marketers who view a physical audience as the only audience that matters, are missing the boat. Online audiences not only extend the reach of your event, online audiences are relevant, an online attendee has literally the same value as a physical attendee. If you are an Event Marketer who embraces technology then you will learn how to bring your physical and virtual attendees together during a live event to collaborate, share, and learn.
For those faced with replacing a physical event with a virtual event, don’t worry. Face to face meetings are not going away forever. During this extraordinary time in history, some of you will look at how technology can increase the number of attendees you are reaching, how technology can deliver higher attendee satisfaction scores, and how technology can provide you with more visibility into your attendee engagement, helping you to help them become more valuable and loyal customers.
Use Basic Event 101 Best Practices. Don’t get hung up on whether your audience is physical or virtual. Follow a strategic methodology to ascertain who your audience is, what they care about, where they fall in the awareness, preference, loyalty funnel. I have a methodology we’ve been using for years. Works like a charm everytime. Takes the guess work out of how to project results. Allows you to have more confidence in your event plan. Don’t pick a technology until you have figured out WHY you are doing the event.
Budget – If you are adding cost to the budget with a virtual component, congratulations! However, if you need to reduce event spend, consider limiting physical attendance to invitation only, and opening up the virtual component to everyone else in your target audience.
Visibility – A multi year commitment is a physical event benefit, to lock in the venue and negotiated discount pricing. Why would you lock into a multi year deal with a technology platform vendor? If you do, I hope you have a crystal ball about who will be on top one year from now.
Of course you want to measure impact, business value and cost-benefits. But if you don’t know what you are measuring and how you are going to achieve it, then you will probably not see a strong result. This is also where many companies underestimate the resources they need. If you are engaging your customers in an event, virtual or physical, top notch strategy and communications skills are required.
Do They Work? YES. If you are measuring success as being able to meet company objectives, help promote sales, inform customers, and attract target audiences, the answer is yes. But you will only achieve this with a strategic plan and if it’s your first virtual event, you should consider working with someone who has the experience to guide you the first time.
Will They Care? Will They Come? This is where the rubber hits the road. This IS where content is king. Marketers who have good content, quality speakers, you know who you are. You don’t have to bribe your folks to register. Your content is premium stuff; people want it because it focuses on the attendee care-abouts, it’s never a boring sales pitch, it engages and entertains.
If you are someone who spams away on huge database lists, stop it. You will burn your list. Don’t be a Tom, Jullie, or Harry. You need to be Walter Chronkite (or maybe Alec Baldwin). You attendee will reward you with their loyalty, and they will come back again.
How about that social media stuff? If you don’t understand how Twitter, Facebook, and blogs drive success metrics for events, send me an email. Social Media is the absolute game changer. I could write another 1000 words on that.
Marketers do need to brace for all these factors,and have a strategy for ensuring virtual events add to a great ROI.
The face of events has forever changed. Embrace the new world of Hybrid Events and you will win the game.