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Virtual events create lasting connections

Your attendees are waiting to join: Virtual events create lasting connections

The beginning of June usually sees the great and the good of the media and marketing world preparing for Cannes Lions and relishing the thought of soaking up the sunshine on La Croisette. This year will be somewhat different, with major gatherings including Cannes postponed or cancelled. But a lack of live events doesn’t mean the industry should lose its voice. At the current time, it’s more important than ever to be a thought leader and drive the industry conversation. And a new crop of virtual events are providing an outlet for these discussions.

As a B2B technology PR agency, we understand the importance of these virtual shared moments – whether it’s a webinar, podcast, video panel session, virtual conference or full-on digital festival. If you’re hosting a virtual event, here are our top tips on how to make the most of the occasion.

Match virtual events to your audience

It’s important to know your audience, and how to get your message across in the most effective way. For traditional live events this may dictate location, venue size and the type of sessions on offer. The same is true of virtual events.

If you’re sharing new research with potential clients you might choose a webinar format, with vocal commentary only and charts or key takeaways as your visuals, so the data is the star. If you want to attract hundreds of attendees to a discussion on a pressing industry topic, you are more likely to want your speakers on camera, with introductory slides, music and video accompaniment. Some organisers are creating large scale event experiences, using artificial intelligence (AI) to match speakers and delegates, allow for inbound requests and meetings, and create virtual booths for product demonstrations and launches.

At a physical event, visitors make a conscious effort to be there, so they will be automatically invested. With a digital event, your audience is less ‘captive’ and can switch off with a click, so keeping them engaged is key. On the plus side, virtual events can be opened up to a much wider audience, with the ability to cater for last-minute or casual attendees. Organisers can also be more nimble with content strategies, reacting quickly to industry needs and trends.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before

With the wealth of virtual events now taking place, it’s important to make yours stand out from the crowd. Having a high profile headline act will help, but not everyone has access to Sir Martin Sorrell. Just as effective is someone with a great story to tell, or whose experience is especially relevant for the topic under discussion. Getting industry bodies on board will give weight to your sessions, while panellists with interesting career journeys or those who can present unique case studies or business models leave a lasting impression. And at larger virtual events, having a diverse range of speakers with varied experiences and perspectives is key.

When it comes to content, by all means talk about a big industry topic, challenge or trend – it will generate interest – but approach it in a new way. Do your research. If there are three other brand safety sessions scheduled, think carefully about whether to join such a crowded market. If this is your core messaging how can you add value and ensure your event is the biggest draw?

Backing up your content with data is a great approach that can be achieved by launching a report or timing your event to discuss newly released industry figures. Having high quality visuals – particularly video – can bring virtual events to life. So, if you are talking about an ad campaign, showing it on screen will help connect with your audience. Build interactivity into your sessions – from Q&As and online chats to participant polls – as these will focus your audience’s attention and make them feel involved.

Build it and they will come

With your content in place, you need to market your virtual events. First that means finding your audience. You should use every avenue at your disposal: personal contacts, client database, trade media, other industry events and social media. Often the most effective way to reach your audience is by direct mail or message, perhaps an email about the event including a link allowing them to register. Make the registration and sign-in process as simple as possible and give your attendees enough notice so they are not already signed up to something else. Send regular reminders – although not too frequent – with updates on the agenda and speakers.

When setting aside budget and resources for your event, bear in mind you may need to market it through paid advertising or promotion on other platforms as well as your own channels. You may want to offer branded content around your remote event, either to speakers or outside sponsors.

Getting the tech right for virtual events

It’s no use spending days booking guest speakers, creating exciting content streams and signing up attendees if your technology isn’t up to scratch. There’s nothing worse than missing half a panel session because of a poor connection, speakers being interrupted or muted because of incorrect settings, or joining a session to find you’ve been sent details for a different time zone.

Again it’s about doing your research to ensure you use the best virtual event platform for the size and demographic of your audience and the type of content you are providing. Allow yourself plenty of time for testing and setting up, and have a clear strategy in place to deal with any issues that arise during the event itself. For example, have a generic access code ready if individual ones don’t work and have a channel set up for attendees to report issues during sessions.

Sharing doesn’t stop with the event

Just like their physical counterparts, virtual events are as much about forging future relationships and starting conversations as they are about keynotes or roundtables. Organisers can create the perfect environment for long-lasting connections by setting up post event forums or discussion groups, perhaps through a social platform.

Sharing presentations and links so attendees can revisit the sessions is also a useful way for the organiser and speakers to stay front of mind with the audience post event. Securing coverage with trade media – particularly if the event is linked to a specific publication – or on company blogs is another way of showcasing its content. Some publishers are dedicating whole sections of content to speakers and other relevant companies so they can discuss the topics linked to an event. If write-ups are sent to participants they can share them with their own networks, increasing the reach of the event.

Feel good about your feedback

Once your event is over, you want to understand how successful it is. Getting post event feedback from attendees is a crucial part of this, whether through online surveys, social media messaging or direct mail responses.

AI technology within a virtual event platform can also be used to understand which content attracts most visitors, which sessions online generate the greatest responses and how many views any branding receives – information which can be shared with speakers and sponsors. Any learnings from this can be put into future events. And acknowledging attendees and participants in this way will help forge relationships that go way beyond your event.

For more information on planning virtual events, or to find out about the other technology PR services we offer, please feel free to get in touch at hello@teamgingermay.com.

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