The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how customers interact with brands. With the vast majority of Americans still working (and playing) from home, customers are searching for and choosing products and services in a whole new way. Even entertainment events have gone predominantly digital – the movie theater experience of driving to the cinema and choosing your snacks now seems like a distant memory for a lot of us. Many businesses are finding the need to be more creative than ever to reach their customers.
Just like the work-from-home model seems to be here to stay, the same can be said for virtual events. Not only is a virtual platform a way for businesses to stay connected to their customers in “the new normal,” but virtual events, such as trade shows, webinars, and conferences, can also be quite cost-effective and have the potential to reach a wide audience. Hybrid events are another option that represents the best of both worlds for many businesses, offering both a physical and virtual event experience.
The growing popularity of virtual events presents new challenges for businesses that don’t have experience presenting their brand in a digital format. Creativity and flexibility are a must when planning to participate in or organize a virtual event. Here are 5 tips to ensure that your events go smoothly and successfully.
1) Plan Ahead
With any virtual event, creating a timeline with ample time to plan ahead is key. If you are organizing your event, it is a good idea to begin planning your event approximately 6 months in advance. This will give you enough time to put in place the technology tools, guest speakers, and marketing and promotional materials you will need. It is also a good idea to put together a team who will be responsible for event setup and making sure everything goes off without a hitch. This team should include someone responsible for troubleshooting any technical or logistics issues that may arise. “Having time to plan the user’s experience will help to keep everyone engaged and will also minimize technical issues,” says Jennifer Durgin, Words@Work’s Marketing Manager and Event Specialist. “We also recommend that someone is designated to monitor the chat function throughout the duration of the event to address any issues that may arise and keep track of questions for follow-up.”
- Choose Your Virtual Event Technology
Whether you are planning your own event or participating in someone else’s, there are several technology platforms that can enhance the virtual customer experience. YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and Zoom, as well as new platforms specifically designed for virtual tradeshows, allow you to present in real-time as well as interact with your audience. With a virtual tradeshow, it is possible to provide an immersive experience that includes virtual displays with interactive screens, chats, pre-recorded videos, and more.
- Promote Your Event
Promoting your event ahead of time is essential to getting people to attend. Get the word out by posting teaser posts or videos on your social media accounts regularly, starting 4-6 weeks in advance, and make sure to tag the event name or venue. Reach out to your media contacts and provide a short blurb or press release to encourage press coverage of the event.
- Find Creative Ways to Interact with Your Audience
In addition to the information and marketing materials that you will be providing to participants, plan to include some activities that involve audience participation. Encourage your participants to have conversations with one another via chats or breakaway sessions and make sure there is a way to ask questions of you and the presenters. Another great way to engage your audience both before and during the virtual event is by mailing out something tangible ahead of time – a goodie bag, branded item, or another giveaway.
- Reach out for Help from Professionals
Lastly, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There are a lot of moving pieces and shifting priorities when planning a virtual event. A professional graphic designer can elevate your presentation by creating eye-catching visuals for your event. A promotional products company can provide you with swag to mail to participants before the event or hand out in person if hybrid. If this all seems like too much, leave the planning and promotion to us. We’ll coordinate with outside vendors to create a smooth and successful event. We’ve helped Kelson Marine, an ocean engineering consulting firm, to design and display their first virtual tradeshow booth at Seaweed Around the Clock, a global trade conference for the seaweed industry, so they could focus on new business. We have also helped The Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) to sponsor several hybrid conferences every year as well as to provide positive PR for the events, garnering the attention of local media.
Are you looking for help with planning your next virtual event? Let’s chat!