We promised we would share some ideas and tips about how you could do virtual events in more unique and engaging ways, and we will (make sure you’re signed up for new posts!). But first and foremost, you need to nail the basics. Because if not then you’d be hard-pressed to find an audience that will take you seriously, let alone be wow-ed by your event!
Here are 9 virtual event best practices that will help you lay a solid foundation to set you up for your virtual event success. And if you're interested in diving deeper and learning more about unique tips and key insights, make sure you're signed up for future blog posts!
1. Understanding the fundamentals
2. Designing around where your audience is in the Buyer Journey
3. Incorporating ABM (for B2B marketers)
4. Deciding the right event type and delivery method
5. Selecting and integrating platforms
6. Organizing and executing an engaging event agenda
7. Establishing clear policies and reliable back ups
8. Setting up a marketing automation strategy
9. Marketing with sponsors, social media, and strategic collaborations
We've identified six fundamental pillars that can each make or break your event. We’re calling it a 6-ingredient recipe for event marketing success – a recipe because all the ingredients need to be incorporated together to achieve the best outcome.
We wanted to separate this point from the diagram above because it’s often overlooked. This aspect is especially important for B2B marketers because the buyer journey is usually more complex (or at least takes way longer) compared to its B2C counterpart. Nonetheless, relevant to both.
There are many variations of the Buyer Journey, but today we’re going to dive into an adaptation of Sirius Decisions' visualization, which separates the buyer journey into three parts: Discovery, Consideration, and Decision.
“Discovery” Stage Audiences
This audience is looking to better understand their problem, develop deeper points of views, and commit to improving their situation. Event marketers therefore must present themselves not as hard-sellers screaming, “Buy me! I’m better than everyone else!” (way too pushy, unrelatable and biased). Instead, make them feel understood. Take the position as a source of trustworthy information and credible thought leadership, for example by bringing in industry experts (e.g. professors, seasoned professionals, C-suite executives). People aren’t going to buy into solutions for problems that they aren’t even sure they themselves are experiencing. And often, people need help understanding their own problems. You can help articulate it for them.
“Consideration” Stage Audiences
This audience has done their homework on their problem. Now they want solutions. They’re not necessarily looking for a specific brand or solution provider yet. First, they want a picture of the larger ecosystem: What are the options? If for example you make bicycles, you offer just one option in the larger scheme of transportation. For instance, instead of a bicycle I could purchase my own car, take public transportation, or even walk. At this stage, you need to show audiences the amazing value of your bicycles in a world full of cars, buses, and pedestrian lanes.
“Decision” Stage Audiences
This audience already understands both their problem and what kind of solution they want for it. Now, they’re seeking the right company that can give it to them. This is where you can up your game promoting your company and how it stands out. How will your event communicate that what you’re offering is better than what the guy next door is offering? What unique value propositions can you put on the table?
Know where your audience stands in both in the buyer journey, then start designing your event around that knowledge.
For B2B marketers, it is critical to incorporate Account Based Marketing (ABM) across all three stages in the buyer journey. We’ll talk more about this on a separate blog post, but for now we’ll keep it simple:
Remember that your event success isn’t necessarily determined by the number of people who attend. What’s much more important is the kind people who attend, specifically in terms of their roles within or in connection to the “buying team” of their organization. How can you engage attendees in a way that doesn’t just capture their individual attention, but that also gets your foot in the door with their colleagues and higher ups? In other words, think about the Account rather than just the Lead or the Individual. How can you build a bridge, through individual attendees, to others in their company who are actually making the purchasing decisions?
There are several types of virtual events: webinars, workshops, watch groups (concerts, live performances, etc.), and more. To decide which one is best for you, first think about good old ‘SMART objectives’:
- Relevant (to your larger business goals or vision)
- Time-Bound (based on a timeframe).
Once you’ve established those, you can then better decide on both the right event type and the right delivery method. There are generally two types of delivery methods: Live Streaming and Videos On-Demand (VOD). It is also possible to try and get the best of both methods with a hybrid approach. For example, by repurposing live content into smaller chunks for on-demand viewing later on.
Here’s a breakdown of key pros and cons for both Live Streaming and VOD:
There are a lot of virtual event platforms to choose from, and again, the right one will greatly depend on your specific objectives. But to make sure you don’t miss out, here are other key considerations:
- Alignment with desired event type
- Suitability for future events
- Data and reporting capacities
- Design and visuals
- Engagement features (polls, questions, resource downloads)
- Multi-language translations
- Third-party affiliations and plug-ins
- Audience accessibility and ease of use for viewers
- Customer support capacities
- Pricing and packages
Your virtual event also needs to have a range of engagement tools that audiences can interact with. Basic examples to incorporate in your event include:
- Sections where audiences can chat live with your support team, ask questions, and take polls
- Pro Tip: Have a person or two working behind the scenes to organize your questions into topics, so that when it’s time for the host to address those questions later they can do it in an organized and seamless way
- Resources that audiences can click on and download
- Pro Tip: Make sure you’re capturing as much lead and engagement data as possible (e.g. the number of people who clicked on X link) for analysis and future programs.
- Interesting incentives and freebies
- To win prizes, coupons, discounts, certificates, insider access
- To learn from compelling speakers and hosts
- Other engagement tips
- Have artists or musicians perform during wait times or breaks
- Host games (e.g. trivia sessions) or partner with virtual gaming providers
- Consider multi-languages options (if applicable to your audience)
- Conduct live blogging to accommodate who cannot join the event but would like to read about it
- Incorporate topic-based time-stops (good for VOD later on, e.g. if people want to skip through)
For more tips on how to better and more uniquely engage audiences at virtual events, watch out for our next blog post!
There is always a chance that something unexpected will happen and force you to cancel or postpone your event at the last minute. Or, maybe while it’s already happening something goes wrong with your internet or your platform and you’re forced to make some switches. Have all of it ready: copy for an apologetic email in case you need to pull the plug; back up platforms, hosts, and activities; a clear refund policy; and so on.
It sounds basic, but these things are often overlooked. Especially if you’re in a rush to push an event forward!
Event planning and marketing automation go hand in hand. From registration to the final ‘thank you’ message, you should be capturing lead data and deploying relevant communications all the way.
- Spread the word on social media before, during, and after your event
- Build strategic relationships with collaborators and sponsors
- Leverage cross-promotions to co-boost branding with partners
- Ensure content is binge-worthy and share-able post-event
- Cut your event content into bite-sized chunks, polish them through post-production if possible, and publish them as on-demand content
- Don’t limit yourself to publishing your re-used content on a single content hub that’s not always where your audience ‘lives’ or interacts. Meet them where they are and publish relevant bits across a variety of touch points (e.g. on several pages across your website and not just one)
Et voila! Those are our 9 best practice reminders to help you event marketers get on the right footing for your event planning and execution. If you think we've missed out on something, don't hesitate to let us know! We always love hearing constructive feedback - we'd love to hear from you.
And if you’re keen to dive deeper and learn about how to better and more uniquely engage audiences at virtual events, watch out for our next blog posts! You can sign up by clicking here or filling in your email address below 👇🏾.