Your event is scheduled in the coming months, and you have likely paused paid marketing efforts as your prospective attendees grapple with the global pandemic that has captured all headlines.
Your company is likely in the midst of some challenging scenario planning as it tries to further its mission on behalf of its members while keeping the health and safety of the community at the forefront of every decision. The impact of an outright event cancellation is a painful option with extensive ramifications that go beyond financial considerations.
So what can you do to continue to get business done, provide attendees with answers to questions, and facilitate networking among your key stakeholders?
Creating a Virtual Event Strategy
Like every other product in your industry, there is a natural point in the product life cycle where it becomes due for reinvention.
The benefits of going virtual instead of canceling speak for themselves:
- Mitigate financial losses
- Deliver value to your attendees and partners.
- Create a way for prospective members to engage with your organization
- Stay relevant and preserve attendance for subsequent years
The 9 Ps of Event Marketing
To convene attendees, you need to take the 9 Ps and apply the framework to your virtual event.
During this time, when people are physically isolated, they don’t want to professionally isolate as well. You have an opportunity to look at the big, blue ocean and turn your virtual event into an experience—one your members crave for its ability to build community, solve challenges, and advance excellence within your industry.
For the same reasons your members have turned to you for answers and community in the past, is the same reason why they will be knocking on your door to participate in your virtual event.
You must continue to develop audience personas to define their motivations and behavioral attitudes. Some segments may have prejudices and objections to attending a virtual event. Some segments may be thrilled to find out that your organization now has a virtual event that can fit into their busy schedule. Either way, all attendees who participate will eventually expect that the time and money they invest in the event will provide an unforgettable and intimate experience, and generate outcomes that they can apply to their work.
A virtual event done right isn’t passive. It’s engaging. Just like a live event, your virtual event is a product with features, benefits, and rewards. Here are some of the widgets you can consider for your virtual event.
- Sponsored, virtual morning yoga
- Front-row seat to keynote sessions
- Intimate, roundtable discussion rooms
- Match-maker tool
- Mentor hour
- Educational sessions
- Q&As with industry leaders, both local and international
- Live polling and real-time access to results
- Continuing education credits
- Private social networking
- Session tracks – select your journey to attend the sessions that are most relevant for you
- On-demand PowerPoint presentations
- Networking happy hour, BYOB style, with live entertainment
- Online Buyers Guide
- Post-show report
What is the unique position your event holds in the minds of your audience? Design a virtual experience that delivers the same value you promised of your live event.
People may be skeptical as the attendees are used to seeing the virtual event an additive experience to your annual meeting, not THE product itself. However, with the right positioning, you can demonstrate that your virtual event is THE place where business and advancements will get done in 2020.
Your media and marketing plan will need a facelift if you are transitioning your promotion from a live event to a virtual event. Guerilla marketing, exhibiting, and geofencing competitive events are out in 2020. Depending on your industry, if you are a B2B-focused organization, you may want to reallocate your print budget towards digital as well.
Given the state of the industry, it’s also important to recognize that the posture of your prospective attendee is different today than it was yesterday. Evaluate your messaging and approach, and remain sensitive to the shifting needs of your audience, and the issues that they have top of mind. And challenge yourself, your marketing campaign, and your product to evolve to keep up.
Everyone is talking about virtual events right now, and it’s going to get even noisier. That means it’s even more important that you have compelling messaging, media, and creative (display ads, videos, and social posts). Otherwise, your company’s virtual event won’t stand out from the alternatives.
You also need to reevaluate your website design. How will you redesign it and package your virtual product? What imagery will you use now that the event is either a hybrid live and online event, or entirely virtual in 2020? How will you display the schedule and help people understand their journey with the new online event?
The beauty of a live, online event right now is that attendees can immerse themselves in learning and networking, but do so in the safety and comfort of their own home.
Invite them into different learning environments, large groups, small groups, or virtual breakout rooms. And, allow breaks in your program so that the attendee can maximize the space around them to stand up and stretch in between education. The trick is making something a bit unknown feel comfortable.
The real price of a live, in-person experience includes registration, airfare, hotel room, dining, and opportunity cost. The price of a virtual event can be far more affordable.
When pricing your virtual event, the price point should reflect the other 8 Ps of your event. How does your price reflect your event’s Purpose? Do you offer a pricing structure that best serves each audience cohort? Does your pricing structure fulfill the promise made by your brand?
Make sure you define what success looks like for your virtual event.
- What is your reach?
- Will people attend next year, whether face-to-face or virtual?
- Is it relevant, did the programs deliver takeaways, engage your audience, and build community?
- Do your partners see the value in the experience you created?
- Is the return on the investment worth it?
Let’s Connect Virtually at EIX
Join us at our next Event Innovators Exchange (EIX).
360 Live Media Knows Virtual Events
360 Live Media is versatile and a master of both in-person live events as well as online events. See how we can help with your virtual event.
Thanks for this opportunity to make a difference,
Jaclyn Vann, CAE
Sr. Marketing Manager
360 Live Media
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