The shift from traditional event environments, like hotels or conference venues, to the web shapes all the aspects of event organization and participation. The consequence of this shift is the collection of challenges that virtual conference management poses before an Event Manager who strives to make their event exceptional.
Online event promotion
Event promotion is a big challenge. Regardless of the setting, most organizers were forced to promote their event online. Now, it has become all the more difficult as the internet is the only promotion channel for everyone, not just event organizers. Promoting your event, you don’t just compete with organizers of other related events - you compete with all events and similar activities taking place at the time.
The right online event platform
Popular online meeting applications (Zoom, MS Teams, Google Hangouts) will not guarantee the proper level of security, participant interaction, and convenience. The uniqueness of your event partially depends on exclusive access. Attendee registration (necessary in all cases due to personal data protection) should be integrated with the streaming platform to guarantee:
- access to the event only for registered attendees,
- access to the event that cannot be extended to other persons
- full reports containing data collected during registration and the event itself,
- the ability to connect without any plugins or external applications for attendees or hosts.
Content and programme adjusted to the online medium
In the case of classic events, the programme usually covered the entire day. No attendee will spend 8 hours in front of a screen. You won’t be able to give them enough reasons to do that, even if your content is more engaging than movies rated 9+ on IMDB. The challenge is to plan the programme and activities in a way that exhausts the subject matter but not the attendee.
How to create an experience that all attendees will remember and keep coming back to it months later?
1. Grab their attention by promoting the online conference with a video invitation
It’s not without a good reason that movie producers promote their movies using trailers. A well designed, recorded and edited video should be one of the main points of your marketing. It should present the event like a movie release. Such a feature doesn’t have to exhaust your budget - it will cost anywhere from 3 to 20 thousand dollars, depending on the content and contractor.
An invitation in this form is easy to distribute on any channel - from social media to the event website. The excitement you create will change viewers to attendees and will help you find sponsors.
It’s worth to build your promotion strategy upon a couple of video features presented to prospects at different stages of the sales funnel:
- first contact with information about the event - create a short video promoting the event in general, focusing on the benefits of participation,
- decision about participation - a video to convince the prospect to participate, show more detail, and focus on the value of the content and speakers,
- after the registration - a video that focuses on the vibe and experience that awaits the attendee on the day of the event; it will serve to keep the attendee engaged.
In any case, you will need a person with strong speaking skills to represent your brand. If the face of your brand is not a great speaker, hire someone who is - a professional voice actor or one of the conference’s speakers.
Learn about the effectiveness of video marketing in our other entry: How to Employ Video in Event Promotion?
2. Speaker discussion
Many discussions feature a group of speakers sharing the same view on the subject matter. These meetings are hardly interesting because since all speakers think the same way, there is no exchange of ideas. Make sure your discussion panel is interesting by introducing a variety of opinions, exchange of ideas, or maybe even emotion. Strife is what attracts attendees’ attention.
Confront two teams representing different views and let attendees vote to support the side they feel is right. Such an interactive and possibly heated discussion will be much more interesting than watching a mutual admiration society.
A host who is not afraid to ask provocative questions can be an additional driving force of an engaging discussion.
3. Give attendees interaction
Watching an online conference can seem like watching a movie. If that’s the case, we recommend that you actually make it a movie. Record everything in a studio, which will also expertly edit the video, adding animated elements. Then simply play your high quality video on the conference day. Don’t expect attendees to have an impression that they have any impact on the conference, however.
You will give your attendees a much more captivating experience if you give them the option to:
- ask questions in real time (via online chat: text, voice, or video),
- take part in short surveys,
- vote (like in the example about the speaker discussion),
- download conference materials,
- switch session rooms, just like at a regular conference.
The actions of attendees can be motivated by employing gamification. A proper tool will allow you to host an online conference and analyze every significant interaction. Based on these interactions, you can award points to attendees, e.g. for total time at the event. The sum of points obtained by each attendee will determine if they are eligible for a reward.
4. Let your attendees meet each other
Networking has always been one of the main reasons to join an event. In the times of online events, we sometimes have trouble breaking the ice with people we don’t know by other channels.
This being said, most attendees are on platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook. Use it. Create a group on a selected platform and engage attendees in a conversation. Place the link to the group on the event website and in each email message you send to attendees - the confirmation of registration, reminders, etc.
What’s more, there’s nothing stopping you from creating a few separate rooms at the online conference and making them available to attendees, so they can talk using cameras and headsets.
5. Present your attendees with a virtual or real gift
We handed out gifts in swag bags at most regular conferences’ check-in. It’s a good practice for your image, provided that the bag wasn’t filled just with promotional leaflets of your sponsors. Devote some of your time and budget to recreate this experience for attendees online.
Many attendees who would like to take active part in the conference, can disturb it by speaking without headphones and causing echo or worse, a feedback loop. This makes headphones the most obvious gift: affordable, yet very useful for online events. However, headphones aren’t the only option. Tees, mugs, candles, and eco bags are still very popular.
Gifts don’t have to be physical objects. You can also give your attendees coupons or discount codes to be used in a sponsor’s store.
6. Don’t let your attendees forget
We’ve seen many conferences followed by complete silence. Attendees lost all contact with the organizer and the brand, and simply forgot the event. Events are often about marketing, and marketing will never be effective if it’s based on a single effort aimed to bring immediate interest to the brand.
Maintain a long term relation with attendees. Make a promise and keep it because that’s what a brand is: a promise.