Making the Most of Your Pivot to Virtual Events
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many virtual events were held in the form of hybrid events— a combination of in-person events and virtual, where online participation is done through chat or video conferencing. But since COVID-19 has limited human physical interaction, holding entirely virtual events has become the new norm for the foreseeable future.
The exciting thing about this development is that virtual events bring tremendous opportunities to event organizers, speakers, participants, as well as partners and sponsors. Among other benefits, there is a reduction in costs per lead and an increase in ROI. Events organizers can also extend the reach of their events and have more people participate than before.
As you plan to transit to virtual events, below are effective ways to make the most of your transition:
- Use the Most Suitable Technology and Platforms
- Increase Participation and Reach
- Track Useful Data at Multiple Points of Your Events
- Increase The Lifecycle of Event Content
- Create Opportunities for Networking Via Mobile Event App
1. Use the Most Suitable Technology and Platforms
Making the most of your virtual events requires that you use the most versatile technology and platforms. This is because your entire event thrives on the premise of technology. Your choice of event platforms and/or event mobile apps may enhance or limit your virtual event experience and that of your audience. Here are some things to consider in your choice of a virtual events platform:
Is it a template-based or customizable event platform?
While some template-based events platforms have features that can suit general event needs, there is nothing compared to having a customized event site for your organization. You should ask your virtual event platform provider if customizable services are available. This would give you more flexibility, especially if your events require multiple features.
Does it have interactive, communication, and feedback tools?
Basically, an event platform should have all those but you still have to check that all essential communication, interactive, polling, and audience engagement features are available on the platform. It should have features such as Q&A, live chats, live polling, etc.
Is it a full service or self-service platform?
A full-service platform will have a dedicated support team to provide all technical assistance the event requires from ‘cradle to grave’. On the other hand, self-service means that your team creates and manages your events independently with only minimal support from the technology provider.
Is the platform optimized for accurate analytics and reporting?
You can make the most of your virtual event if you have a system that stores data from user interactions. You need data insight from all aspects of the event so you should confirm that the platform has robust features for analytics and reporting.
Does it have a mobile event app?
Mobile event apps can be used to create remarkable event experiences and track the corresponding data. Most virtual event platforms provide mobile event apps but you should also check if this has to be sourced separately.
2. Increase Participation and Reach
The good thing about virtual events is that there are no physical boundaries and anyone from anywhere around the globe can participate. What this implies is that you can leverage technology to get more people to participate in your virtual events. Below are some ways you can achieve this:
Widen your audience
Virtual events give you the opportunity to include new demography in your event. This can mean a specific age group or income-level group. You can also reach the people who are usually hard to attract to live events. For example, C-level executives who ordinarily might not have the time to attend live events due to the constraint of busy schedules.
Reach out to new regions (aim for a global audience)
Chances are that your previous events had been limited to a particular region. Going virtual can help you to expand your reach and find new additions from around the globe. You can target the same category of people or demographics that you have had success with in terms of events registration and attendance in your past events.
3. Track Useful Data at Multiple Points of Your Events
Maximize the opportunities virtual events present to generate useful data for your organization in order to connect data with your strategy. The following are some useful metrics to track:
What categories of participants are your targeting efforts able to bring? Do you have a regular pattern with a particular age group, gender, location, or income group? Tracking demographic data of your event attendees can reveal that information and even more.
Track the results of your marketing strategies
To know the effectiveness of your marketing strategies, keep an eye on your results. Conversion rate is one important metric you should track to measure the efficiency of your marketing effort in growing your event attendance. If your marketing effort is multi-channeled, the conversion rates should be tracked across all the channels.
This includes, for example, tracking conversion from your registration page (webpage), email marketing, paid digital advertisements, etc.
For the registration page, compare the number of people that registered to the number of people who visited the webpage. For email marketing, consider the email open rate and click-through rate which on average should be between 21 – 30% and 3.1 – 5%, respectively.
For paid digital ads, conversion can be measured by tracking your click-through rate (CTR) which is a measure of the clicks your ad received per number of views or impressions. CTR shouldn’t be less than one percent to be considered successful. Consequently, you can determine the conversion rate as the percentage of event registrations you got through the ad clicks to the number ad clicks you recorded.
Your tracking results will show you what you need to adjust. For example, for the registration page, you may have to simplify your registration process to increase conversion on your webpage. For email marketing, you can test different email subject lines, sender names, call to action (CTA) or recompiling your email list to get better results. For digital paid ads, you may drop the ads that are not successful.
Track Event Session Registrations
Apart from your preliminary research, you can know what content participants are willing to consume from the event sessions they are signing up for the most. When you have events with multiple sessions, take note of the ones with higher patronage and the ones with lower patronage. This helps to know the content areas to focus on for future virtual events.
Create live polls and post-event surveys to get feedback
Apart from what you can track yourself, you should also hear directly from your audience concerning your platform, event production, content, sponsors, and what they hope to get in future events. You can create interactive live polls and post-event surveys to get the opinion of your attendees.
Monitor social media engagement
Share stories of your event on social media and encourage event attendees to do the same using specified hashtags. This can make your event trend on social media and you can use that to increase brand awareness. To make this effective, you can reward attendees whose posts got the most engagement on social media.
4. Increase the Life Cycle of Event Content
One of the advantages of virtual events is that you can keep your content relevant for a longer time. You can use presentations during the event for other occasions. When you remove date and time stamps from your content, it can be relevant for a long time.
Turn your virtual event into a content hub
You can pre-record content that may or may not be presented during the event to be accessed and downloaded through your mobile event app. They could be additional in-app purchases. If someone had enjoyed a particular session, they would be more open to an offer to learn more.
Aside from making extra content for sale, you can also market the main event content to a wider audience outside of your virtual event.
5. Create Opportunities for Networking Via Mobile Event App
No event is complete without networking and this includes virtual events. Virtual events offer significant opportunities for networking, especially via the use of mobile event apps which can have features such as live chats, appointment scheduling, contact exchange, etc. Essentially, your technology should provide opportunities for the following connections:
Connections between attendees
Attendees should be able to connect with one another beyond live chats. To make this happen, you can ask attendees to complete their profiles during or after event registration. Such profiles should include their key professional details as well as contact details. Attendees should be able to view these details and initiate conversations with one another, and they can take that beyond the platform.
In the same manner, attendees should be able to access the speakers and establish connections with them.
Sponsors definitely want to connect with attendees at your event to generate leads. One of the ways you can establish this connection is by creating virtual booths where attendees can meet with sponsors and exhibitors in a manner similar to what is obtainable at live events.
Your entire virtual event depends on technology, and that often requires that you invest more in platforms that can give you the best interface with attendees. You can re-invest some of the overhead you would have used for a live event into creating a robust virtual event environment. You will find that the gain is really endless when you put effort into your virtual event production.
Jordan Schwartz is president and co-founder of Pathable, an event app and website platform for conferences and tradeshows. He left academic psychology for the lure of software building, and spent 10 years at Microsoft leading the development of consumer-facing software. Frustrated with the conferences he attended there, he left Microsoft in 2007 with the goal of delivering more value and better networking opportunities through a next-generation conference app. Jordan moonlights as a digital nomad, returning often to his hometown of Seattle to tend his bee hives.