Can you count how many Facebook live stream events or Zoom webinars you’ve been to over the past years? Virtual conferences are now a regular part of people’s online lives as the world moves towards remote participation.
But what is a virtual event, exactly?
An online or virtual event is just like an in-person event, but it occurs entirely online instead of in a physical location. Unlike webinars that are basically value-laden single sessions, a virtual conference can have multiple sessions for three to seven days.
You can conduct various online events, depending on your specific goal. It can be a simple meeting or conference with like-minded people. It can be a virtual trade show or a job fair. It can even be a virtual summit, which brings together top industry experts to deliver presentations that attendees can watch and participate in.
Other virtual events that you can host include product launches, sales conferences, training hubs, and even town hall meetings.
Many businesses use virtual conferences as a marketing strategy to quickly gain momentum and engagement in a short time. An online event can grow your audience and generate tons of revenue for your business.
As a business owner, what makes virtual summits an attractive option over, say, a live event? Check out the following reasons why virtual events are going to be the norm in 2020.
Why are virtual events taking off?
Livestreaming is on the rise
Data from Marketing Profs show that Facebook users comment ten times more on live videos than pre-recorded ones. The same goes for other social media channels that allow live streaming, such as Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Likewise, a survey conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau had 44% of the respondents saying that they prefer watching live-streamed events on their devices than on TV.
Marketers who want to generate buzz for their events and leverage people’s FOMO (fear of missing out) are now broadcasting some aspect of their corporate events on their company’s social media accounts. Some companies are even doing hybrid activities to include live and remote audiences, while others are switching to purely virtual fairs.
Thus, it’s easy to see why live feed webinars, discussion sessions, tutorials, and product launches are going to take center stage in 2020.
More people are doing peer-to-peer virtual campaigns
Back then, running a marathon for charity seemed like something that can only be done physically at a group event.
But now, such fundraising activities from nonprofits can already be accomplished virtually, as the popularity of fitness tracking devices makes it easier for supporters to participate in their own time, wherever they are.
In the United Kingdom, events like Running Down Dementia by Alzheimer’s Research UK and My Marathon by the British Heart Foundation were done as virtual peer-to-peer campaigns.
With this trend, software companies are now investing in the development of fundraising apps that sync with wearable devices so that users can raise funds remotely. Other developers are making apps that allow users to build their own DIY campaigns or participate in virtual fundraising activities.
Despite being virtual, these events still offer a sense of community while allowing supporters to participate remotely at their convenience.
Virtual events are measurable
Tracking attendees and evaluating event performance has always been a challenge for event organizers. But with virtual summits, it becomes easier to track leads, measure event performance, and gauge event ROI.
Virtual event hosting apps can track event attendance, visitor traffic patterns, and engagement statistics that can all be easily translated into ROI.
Virtual conferences allow for hyper-personalization
Customizing the whole event experience to attendees is important for event marketers. It is particularly essential during post-event follow-ups, as companies send out personalized content to their visitors based on feedback they collected during the event.
With virtual events, it’s easier to collect reports on user engagement that can help companies share relevant material with them during follow-up sessions. A company’s follow-up strategy should have high-value calls to action that are relevant to the audience for them to act upon them.
Aside from tracking user behavior, virtual events also allow for polls and surveys to be conducted, enabling them to capture detailed information and insights about their attendees to further make their follow-up strategies more personalized.
Best practices in hosting a virtual event
Planning to host your virtual event? Here are some best practices and tips to remember to make your virtual summit successful.
Pick a specific topic
When it comes to organizing virtual summits, the riches are in the niches.
Don’t just go for broad topics like health, wellness, or fitness. Narrow it down to, say, strength training for women or healthy eating during a pandemic.
When you niche down, you get to target the specific needs of your audience, enabling you to communicate more clearly and get more opt-ins and sales. It also positions you as the go-to expert in your industry, much faster than if you go for a broad topic.
To help you narrow down your topic, it’s crucial that you first know WHY you’re doing a virtual event. Doing so helps your event stand out from the rest of the summits out there and attract your target audience.
Choose a topic that you’re passionate about so that it will be easier for you to push through with it until the end.
Get your technology in order
You may have the best virtual summit content in the world, but if your connection is choppy, your attendees won’t stay until you’ve got your tech figured out.
Before the event…
- Hardwire your internet connection to avoid any issues with an unstable connection.
- Test your audio to ensure that the microphone and speakers are working.
- Minimize background noise by conducting your event in a quiet place. You can also use a mic or app that has noise reduction features.
During the event…
- Wear business attire so that you’re dressed to impress. Use solid colors and avoid too much jewelry or accessories because they can create noise when you move your hands while expressing yourself.
- Open the virtual conference five minutes early to allow your attendees to get settled and start the event on time.
Ensuring all these things can help your attendees have an overall favorable experience in your virtual conference.
Create a unique hook and offer for your virtual event
Making your summit stand out from the rest of the pack is crucial if you want your event to be successful.
You have several ways to do that. For one, you can do a virtual summit that’s never been done before, such as having the highest number of speakers or doing the first online event for a specific industry. You can also create a unique theme or have a different format.
But aside from an attractive hook, you also have to craft an irresistible offer—one that would zero in on your target audience’s needs so that it would become a no-brainer offer that they can’t refuse.
For instance, you can have an all-access pass for your virtual summit that includes irresistible bonuses, such as session transcripts, action guides, private mastermind, Q&A sessions, and other special offers from partners and sponsors.
These bonuses should help your attendees apply the content they learned at your virtual conference so that they can generate results faster.
Plan your event in detail
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” And that adage also applies to virtual summits.
Have a clear outline of what needs to be done to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Start with deciding how long your event will be, which dates you’re picking, when the promotion will start, how many sessions you’re going to have per day, what the format will be, and the tools and budget you’ll need. You also have to decide if it’s going to be live or pre-recorded and if you’re going to need a team to help you.
Being clear and organized about all these things can help make your virtual event a booming success.
Invite the right speakers
When choosing which influencers to invite, spend some time consuming their content first to see if they’re engaging, entertaining, and interesting. More importantly, their message should align with yours to know if they’re a good fit.
Research their work by following them on social media, checking out their website, subscribing to their email list, and discovering who they interact with.
But don’t just invite them to your virtual summit. You should also build an authentic relationship with them before you actually need them. Bring value to them by leaving comments on their blog, sharing their content, and interacting with them on social media. These will make it easier for them to say YES to you when you ask them to become a guest speaker in your virtual conference.
Provide actionable content
Make the whole experience educational and easy to act upon so that your audience can implement what they learned straight away.
One thing you can do is cut your intro for every speaker short and jump onto their content as quickly as possible so that it’s jam-packed with value. Your speakers are also more likely to promote your virtual event if they know that they shared their best possible content on your summit.
Have a plan after hosting your event
Once you’re done with your virtual summit, you can continue leveraging the momentum you got from your event to ensure consistent business growth.
Make sure that you continue sending nurture emails to your attendees so that they still get value from you even if the event has already ended. If, in the future, you want to launch a product, online course, or coaching program, it’s easier to tap your list because you’re a valuable resource to them. You can also promote relevant affiliate offers and generate more revenue.
Virtual events are one of the best ways to connect with large audiences in the digital age. Make the most of this rising trend by delivering a high-quality and value-laden virtual event experience to your audience.