Virtual Event Strategy
Are you wondering why you would want to host a virtual event? Virtual events provide you with a way to connect with new prospects, existing customers and internal employees online… when traveling to a live event is not possible or cost-preventive. Virtual events allow your attendees to experience your brand and your content without having to be there in-person.
In order to achieve a positive ROI (Return on Investment) from these events, you need to be sure you have a defined Virtual Event Marketing Strategy.
How to Host a Virtual Event
Virtual Events are a great way to connect with potential clients, existing customers or internal employees. Virtual events allow you to showcase your product, announce product launches or hold workshops, without you or your attendees having to travel.
Whether you are hosting a webinar, online workshop, an internal sales and marketing meeting or a 3 day online course, there are a number of elements you need to plan before launching your event. The success of your event relies on strategic planning, systems and follow up.
Create Your Virtual Event Marketing Strategy Plan
Creating your virtual marketing strategy involves a series of three stages:
Stage 1: Virtual Event Planning
This stage occurs before you build out your systems or promote your event.
Step 1: Determine your goal for hosting the virtual event in the first place.
- Will the event be for existing customers, potential clients or internal employees?
- Are you trying to gather new leads, release a new product, boost sales?
There are a number of potential goals and you need to decide on a specific, measurable goal for this event.
Step 2: Determine the type of virtual event you want to host.
There are five main types of virtual events to choose from:
Webinars have become very popular as an educational resource. Webinar are typically 45 to 90 minutes and can be offered for free or for a nominal charge. Attendees can join worldwide utilizing popular video conferencing software and can be presented live or pre-recorded (evergreen).
Live webinars that include ways for the audience to engage with the presenter are more successful. These engagement methods include live Q&A, polls, raising hands, and live chat.
2. Online Workshops
Online workshops can span 1-3 days and are usually presented for 4-8 hours. Online workshops are simply a virtual version of an in-person workshop, allowing more attendees and/or people outside of the immediate geographic area to participate.
Online workshops utilize video conferencing software where they can see either live video or screen-shares. Utilizing a system with a built in white board component can be useful for engaging with your attendees. You can also allow them to share their screens if it is helpful for the workshop atmosphere.
3. Virtual Summits
Virtual summits provide a unique opportunity to gather a panel of experts to present over a period of time, usually 1-3 days. Each speaker is assigned a specific time when they are presenting and the presentations can be either live or pre-recorded and uploaded to the virtual summit platform.
Virtual summits require a lot of planning as you have to stay on top of your speakers to ensure you receive the elements needed on a timely basis. These elements include the title of the presentation, their bio, their head-shot, their recorded presentation or scheduled time to present and more.
One of the benefits of virtual summits is lead generation. Typically the other speakers will also advertise the summit to their lists, so as people register for your summit, your list will grow exponentially. You need to ensure that the speakers are providing valuable and actionable content for your audience.
4. Virtual Conferences
Virtual conferences have a very similar structure and schedule to a live, in-person conference… they are just virtual. They still have an agenda that includes keynotes, breakout sessions and more. Multiple breakout sessions are often scheduled at the same time and all sessions require the ability to have audience engagement. Engagement can include polling, Q&A, live chat and more. Interaction with other attendees is also crucial.
Virtual conferences often have sponsorship and exhibitor packages that are incorporated into the virtual event.
5. Hybrid Events
Hybrid events can be held for internal or external audiences. As the name implies, hybrid events include a mix of live and virtual event elements. For example, keynote sessions may be provided in a live setting while breakout session may be pre-recorded and then “livestreamed” to attendees. Similar to virtual conference, you can segment your audience into different rooms or groups based on what they are allowed to participate in.
Internal hybrid events are useful for when your organization has a number of employees offsite… either in another country or virtual employees. We have created internal hybrid events for internal sales & marketing meetings as well as product launches. Other ideas for internal hybrid events include internal training, sales launches and departmental meetings.
External hybrid events are created for those outside of your company or organization. These events are often provided as an “add-on” to a live, in-person event. Attendees typically are unable to travel to the event for a variety of reasons, so event organizers will offer a livestream option. These events require quite a bit of video production support.
Depending on the complexity of the event, hybrid events may require a software solution more complex than a basic video conferencing service.
Step 3: Determine your budget for the event.
There are a number of costs when you host a virtual event. Even though virtual events are less expensive than live, in-person events, there are still costs. You need to run the numbers to make sure that even with the expenses, that the virtual event will be profitable for you in the long run.
These costs include, but are not limited to:
- Event Technology
- Hourly cost of team members
- Event advertising
Stage 2: Plan Your Virtual Event Systems
When it comes to virtual events, having the correct system to support your event is crucial. If you don’t plan, you have the potential to sink your entire event.
Step 1: Decide what type of system you need
We discussed the different types of events above. Hosting a webinar requires a much simpler system setup than hosting an internal sales and marketing hybrid event.
Types of systems
1. Video Conferencing software – i.e. Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams
2. Live Webinar software – i.e. Zoom webinars, WebinarJam, EasyWebinar, WebinarNinja
3. Evergreen Webinar software – i.e. EverWebinar, StealthSeminar
4. Membership portal – i.e. Memberium, Kajabi, Thinkific
5. E-learning/Online learning portal
6. Virtual Events software
Step 2: Plan your event from a systems perspective
Once you know what type of virtual event you are hosting and what software you are using, you need to plan the event from a systems perspective. That means looking at the system capabilities and how that relates to the layout of your event. For example, if you are hosting a live workshop that will have livestream video but also needs downloadable worksheets on the same page, you may be using a membership portal or online learning portal. You will have to plan out your “lessons,” what order they are presented and where the content needs to be housed.
There are so many considerations when it comes to choosing the right software program. Here are just a few:
1. Does the content need to be gated or is it accessible to anyone?
2. Does the software handle attendee registration?
3. Does the software have a post-registration email capacity?
4. Will you need live-streaming or video on demand capabilities? (or both?)
5. Do attendees all get the same access to content or are they segmented based on ticket type or internal departments?
6. Does the software provide attendee engagement tools such as chat, Q&A, polls and more?
Identify the elements you need and choose the software based on those needs.
Stage 3: Always Follow Up
Step 1: Implement your post event marketing strategy.
Like any event, you need to follow up with the attendees of your virtual event. The system you used to host your virtual event should have a way to track your leads from the event.
Whatever you promised to your attendees in terms of follow up… be sure to deliver it. For new leads, that could be a worksheet, an e-book, or an online training. For internal employees, that could be slidedecks or recordings. Follow up right after the event… don’t wait weeks or months.
Step 2: Be ready for the long game
The length of your sales cycle from a virtual event may be longer than your typical cycle. You may have some early sales or early adopters, but the rest of your attendees may take longer to convert. Continue to stay in touch and connect with your attendees.
Step 3: Evaluate your post show ROI
After the show has ended, evaluate the success of your virtual event. Compare your immediate results to your initial goals. If you have a longer sales cycle, you may need to complete another evaluation 30 days post event or even quarterly.
Need assistance with your Virtual Event Marketing Strategy? Contact us today to plan your next event.
© 2020 ElectraLime Marketing®, LLC All rights reserved.
DISCLAIMER: These results are not typical. You may experience different results depending on the effort you put in, your experience, your background, your personality and your current business level. Our average client who implements our strategies generally increases the number of leads and sales they receive from exhibiting at an event.