As the new year begins it seems an end to the global pandemic may well be in sight. We can’t wait to see our venue booking up with live meetings, conferences, weddings and parties, but we’re also expecting to see a large surge in virtual events. The world has learned that although there’s no substitute for face-to-face events, live streaming and virtual events are also an incredibly effective, cost-efficient way to connect with people you can’t share a physical space with.
For lots of organisers their first involvement in a virtual event was in 2020. It’s also possible that said event was supposed to be a live one and its transfer onto a digital platform was planned in ‘crisis mode’, with little chance to give its marketing the time and effort it needed.
Now that virtual events are here to stay, we thought it might be helpful to offer our top tips on how to market your 2021 virtual event when you’re not doing it on the back foot.
One thing you need to be aware of during the planning of your virtual event is that you’re going to be communicating with potential attendees with a range of digital expertise and experience. You’ll need to carefully consider your audience’s level of technical knowhow to ensure you strike the right balance between not getting overly techy with your wording, but ensuring you sound like you know what you’re talking about to those in the know.
If you’re using the same format, software or digital solution as in a previous event, you could consider splitting your invite list into two sections - newbies and returnees. You could then tailor your wording more appropriately for your different audiences.
Booking and registration
You’ll want to capture all your attendees’ data in one place to make your post-show analysis as simple as possible. Using the same online platform for booking and registration will make this easy. This will also give you a head start on next year’s marketing as you’ll be starting off with warm leads.
It’s worth at this early point in the planning journey to think about your post-event analysis. Does the platform you’re using give you the opportunity to create a questionnaire for your delegates so you can assess the success of your event? If not, it might be worth sourcing one that does.
The tightening of data protection rules and regulations (GDPR) back in 2018, means that everyone, hopefully, now receives less spam and junk mail than before. This is great news on many levels, particularly for marketeers and organisers wanting to contact delegates who are genuinely interested in their correspondence.
There are several things to consider when using email marketing:
- Ensure your data is clean by having unsubscribe links on every mail out
- Make sure your event/business name is easy to view in people’s inboxes - i.e. before they have clicked through to your email
- Use catchy subjects, but make sure you deliver on any teasers (and don’t use this tactic too often!)
- Only send emails which are of value to your audience, not just for the sake of it. You might have a new speaker to announce, a competition for them to enter, a voucher for a discount from a sponsor… your email recipients need to know that when they see an email from you, there’s always going to be a good reason to open it and engage with your brand
- Pictures and videos are a great way to liven up a text email, so use these freely
- All of your pre-event marketing contact should be concerned with building excitement and creating a buzz, so think creatively as to how this can be achieved
- Encourage engagement as much as possible before the event itself, as having an active community will help with interaction on the day
Digital and print advertising
Explore the online platforms that your would-be attendees use, including social media. Due to the ability to track your online ads it’s a very accountable way to advertise, so you’ll be able to see quite quickly which websites are working for you and which ones aren’t.
Don’t forget though, that although you’ll be hosting a virtual event, you may well want to attract attendees whose preferred method of communication is print. Don’t leave these potential guests out in the cold and look properly into some more traditional forms of advertising.
It won’t come as a huge surprise that social media is a brilliant marketing tool for virtual events. If you don’t already have any social media accounts, have a look at the big ones, find out which ones your would-be-delegates prefer and which ones would suit your brand and content best. You don’t need to occupy all platforms but you do need to cover your bases.
Lots of event organisers opt for a single channel on their chosen platforms dedicated to their brand on which separate events are allocated year-specific hashtags. This means that you can build followers year-on-year, but they can filter through your posts to specific events should they wish.
Social media is a great way to build a following and get your attendees interacting with each other ahead of, and during your event. As well as breaking the ice before the big day it also encourages networking, one of the harder aspects of a live event to recreate in an online format.
Live events give organisers all sorts of opportunities to create ‘shareable’ picture and video moments. Entertainers, beautifully presented food, bumping into contacts, guest speakers and celebrity ‘spots’. This is such a powerful way of spreading the word about your event and showing people who couldn’t make it what they’re missing out on. It not only gives outsiders a glimpse of the event you’ve created, but it comes with the endorsement of one of your paying ticket holders. What could be better? These moments are not quite as likely to naturally occur during a virtual event for obvious reasons. Think about how you can create opportunities for your attendees to ‘share’ their experiences with their followers online.
By creating a mobile phone app for your virtual event you can encourage your delegates to find each other and digitally meet up. Granted, it’s not the same as doing it face-to-face over a glass of something at the post-show party, but the results could prove to be just as productive. An event app is also a great idea to help your attendees create personalised schedules and to post questions to speakers and answer polls at specific talks.
Your next virtual event
If you’re looking for a venue in which to host the speakers for your next virtual event, The HAC has all the AV facilities and technical support you could possibly need to create a slick, glitch-free production. We also have ample space and catering facilities if you’re keen to offer your attendees a hybrid event, with some guests attending in person and the others remotely. Whatever your requirements, our in-house team of event planners will be able to give you all the help and support you need, just give them a call on 020 7382 1533.