The COVID-19 pandemic has made traditional event marketing difficult because large in-person gatherings are potential health hazards, leaving marketers with no choice but to move conferences online. Before the pandemic, online conferences were an anomaly, with marketers preferring to attend events in person. The focus was on face-to-face marketing and standing out at trade shows. COVID-19 forced marketers to reevaluate their outreach efforts. The past year brought massive changes to trade shows and other in-person marketing events.
Events Became Live and On-Demand
No longer are attendees forced to travel or pick between two interesting breakout sessions held at the same time. Online sessions are recorded and posted either after the session or the entire conference. Some conferences prefer to send the recordings only to those who attended a session. Other conferences offer live attendance options and make the recordings available for a week or more after the conference’s end date, allowing those who paid for access the ability to watch at their own pace.
Virtual events can be larger than in-person events. Conference organizers are not limited by venue capacity. Anyone who pays the attendance fee and has internet access can attend. It is cheaper to attend an online conference because travel expenses are not a factor. The more people who attend your event, the more people will know about how your services can benefit their business.
Networking Is Still Possible
Networking is hard in normal times. In a time of social distancing, it is even more difficult.
Events that place an emphasis on networking need to embrace breakout rooms. Breakout rooms are a way to allow likeminded attendees to connect without speaking over a hundred other people. Breakout rooms of five to seven people allow attendees to meet in small groups and have the conversations they would typically have at an event-sponsored meal. In a breakout session, you can also privately message a fellow attendee who has similar interests and connect afterward.
Plan breakout rooms in advance and change them up each day of the conference. Once people connect, they do need to repeatedly meet with each other. Any matches would have each other’s information to stay in touch.
Keeping It Interactive
Virtual events should not be boring. Presenters do not need to feel like they are lecturing into a void. Ask your attendees questions. Use polls to find out your attendees’ opinions. Encourage people to raise their hands and ask questions. Actively ask for responses. Offer prizes for answering questions correctly. If presenters and attendees interact this way, they will be more engaged.
Giveaways Are Important
Everyone loves free swag. In-person events typically have sponsor tables filled with trinkets like hand sanitizer, tumblers, and notebooks. Online attendees do not have to miss that part of the event experience. You can send those same items through the mail as a physical reminder of the event and your company. Online events make it easier to provide free digital tools and documents as well, because attendees’ emails were collected at sign-up.
If your online events are not a hit, make them more interactive and consider incorporating some of the above methods to give attendees the experiences they miss from in-person events. We will likely be social distancing for a long time, and it will help you stay competitive if you master the art of the virtual event.
Author: Allison Lips