4 Steps to Reinvent Your Events
With marketers scrambling to cancel, reschedule, and change the format of traditional events and event attendees moving to remote working environments, it’s a good time for us to take a breath and evaluate why we do events in the first place.
The importance of the social connection at events is apparent now more than ever, but how can that be recreated in the virtual environment? Thankfully we have a myriad of tools to help us along this path, but we have to start at the core reason of why we did face-to-face events in the first place and understand the value we were getting out of each of them.
Understanding the objectives
Successful event planning and marketing requires clear objectives, measurements, and accountability. Defining the event goals and objectives is the starting point to determining how a different format can still meet those objectives.
As we move away from the multi-day tradeshow model, event managers should review the reasons that they hosted or sponsored each event. Was the original goal to build thought leadership through education, or is the focus on networking and brand building? Having a candid conversation about why these events were part of the marketing mix should be followed by a detailed discussion on whether or not they met their objectives.
Going through this exercise may mean that some events end up on the cutting floor, but others may be worth reinventing. Understanding the objectives of the event will make it possible to produce a virtual event that delivers on those same objectives through a different format.
Replicating face-to-face collaboration in a virtual environment
Virtual environments may not ever fully replace the traditional event experience that we are accustomed to, but they can be strategically designed to build similar, and in some cases, stronger relationships, using different channels.
Video conferencing teams have the ability to simulate an event setting that is more focused and intimate than a trade show floor. Going remote quickly levels the playing field by removing hurdles that can be put up because of competitors’ booths, intermittent floor traffic, and competing educational tracks. It also eliminates the expense of travel, time away from the office and reduces attendance and sponsorship fees.
However, event leaders must be more thoughtful and diligent about facilitating and encouraging discussion and participation within a virtual environment. Having everyone in their home office environments creates a comfort level that tends to bring out more honest discussions and problem solving. You may find that even introverts will be more apt to join the conversation, because the pressure of a face-to-face meeting feels like it has been minimized.
Make it Interactive
We hear about the “Death-by-PowerPoint” sessions, and the same goes for the virtual environment. Most webinars are one or two people presenting a PowerPoint presentation to an audience on mute. Planning a roundtable event, instead, can be done successfully in a virtual environment with the right preparation and setup. An important first step to planning a virtual roundtable is to designate appropriate and engaging panelists and moderators, then have the necessary prep calls to flush out the conversation points.
When setting up the registration form, ask questions, up front, to find out what attendees expect to get out of the virtual conversation. During the event, challenge the status quo by unmuting the audio line, and have a real conversation with participants. Unmuting the line might seem like a scary thought, so consider taking baby steps, like including live polling and Q&A though a chat window to make participants feel like they are a part of the event. Interactive Q&A and polling can be done easily through event apps, and live streaming through social media apps can enable participation and commenting.
Also, invite some vocal industry experts onto the call and encourage them to speak up and ask questions. Don’t forget to survey the audience afterward to get a sense of the quality of the content, presentation format and additional needs they may have that your company can meet.
Follow-Up! Follow-Up! Follow-Up!
We discussed event follow-up in our article, 6 Trade Show Pain Points and the Road to Revenue. Your team’s job for a trade show is to generate qualified, targeted leads from marketing and attendance efforts. Virtual events are no different. Lead generation should be a seamless hand off to sales, and they should be ready to follow up with leads immediately after the event concludes. Use synched CRM, Workflow Rules and Marketing Automation technology to document, track, follow-up and report on event lead generation.
The future of the hybrid event
In the current climate, with travel bans in place and limited budgets, a lot of attendees appreciate the opportunity to connect, listen in, and feel like they are a part of the conversation. Hybrid event experiences have been popping up over the last few years, where a virtual, live streaming component is connected to an in-person seminar or tradeshow. (Typically, the keynotes are streamed live for an online audience to view in real-time.) Diligent planning, employing technology, facilitating roundtables, and exercising strong follow-up methods can help you reinvent your events.
(Thank you to our legal tech/marketing executive/ghost writer for co-authoring this article with RPC Strategies!)