While virtual events are no longer the only choice for brands when it comes to bringing people together, they still make up a significant number of B2B events in 2023 and will likely continue indefinitely.
After all, virtual events offer many benefits to B2Bs.
They can be recorded, shared, and re-experienced by new audiences, giving them a longer lifespan than in-person events that can boost ROI for months down the road.
They allow brands to reach beyond geography into new or distant regions.
And they can allow for certain multimedia possibilities that may not be possible during an in-person event.
Let’s dive into best practices for hosting virtual events in 2023.
Make sure the virtual format is right for your event.
Make sure the virtual format is right for your event.
Before you start planning, ask yourself why you’re choosing a virtual format for your event.
If it’s out of necessity due to COVID restrictions or geographic distribution, then obviously, there’s no alternative.
But if not, then you’ll need to make sure that virtual is the best format for your event, and not just one you’ve chosen, because we’ve all gotten used to doing things virtually.
If you want to reach a vast, widely distributed number of people, your speakers are unable to travel, or there are certain tech components that simply work better virtually, then going entirely virtual is likely the right choice. If you start thinking that maybe it’s not the right choice, however, consider how the event would translate to in-person or hybrid.
Determine your goals for your virtual event.
As with any event, you must know your goals to know whether your event succeeded.
Are you selling a product? Managing your brand’s reputation? Boosting customer loyalty? Reaching out to new customers?
Whatever your goals are, write them down and ensure your entire team is on board. These goals are what will inform your KPIs and analysis post-event.
Find the right platform and technologies.
When your event is virtual, the platform you use can make or break it.
Tech snafus, loss of connectivity, or an unpleasant or difficult user interface can greatly impact your attendance and user experience. Additionally, you want the recording equipment you use to deliver high-quality audio and video feeds to your participants. Remember, it feels far easier for attendees to simply log off of your virtual event than it would to stand up, make their way past other audience members, and walk out the door.
To find the right platform and recording technologies, read extensive reviews and ask colleagues about their experiences using them. And check that the platform you use will allow attendees to interact with you the way you intend for them to.
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Ask potential speakers and moderators if they have experience with virtual events.
A speaker may be excellent in person but stiff or uninspiring on camera. Make sure you talk with any potential speakers about their experience on camera before booking them, and watch videos of their previous events if possible.
Moderators, too, will need a different set of skills to moderate a virtual event than they would an in-person one. They’ll need to be far more tech-savvy, for one thing, and able to quickly rotate through questions as they come up. They’ll need to be able to keep the crowd engaged and judge without seeing people when the energy is flagging.
Set an agenda—and stick to it.
Agendas are essential for any event, and virtual ones are no exception.
People are far more likely to come and go during virtual events, so having an accurate schedule will make it easier for attendees to attend the parts they don’t want to miss. It also makes it more likely that they’ll return to catch a speaker or panel if they’ve logged off previously.
Every year, the California music festival Coachella livestreams most of its artists’ performances on YouTube. To retain viewers around the world, they must stick to their daily schedules and keep each live set airing on time. This attention to detail helps virtual attendees catch their favorite artists without worrying about missing their performances.
Promote and share in the weeks leading up to the event.
The most crucial time for any virtual event is not the event itself; it’s the months and weeks leading up to it.
Squarespace proved this recently with their Super Bowl ad featuring Zendaya. Instead of focusing all their attention on the actual commercial—which is a 67-second spot—they used the ad to generate awareness in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. This strategy gave them 10x the ROI they’d have gotten from the commercial alone.
For a virtual event, promotion is everything. You want to create content around it, develop a paid ads strategy, post it on your website, and post about it regularly on social. Share your speaker roster, your registration links, interviews with speakers, any press you’ve gotten, and ask your followers to participate in it through surveys, polls, and other methods.
Related post: The Ultimate Guide to B2B Paid Advertising
Invest in a PR campaign.
If you’re able to, develop a dedicated PR campaign around your event. This includes:
- Interviews with your leadership
- Quotes in industry articles
- Guest posts on major industry sites and publications
- Interviews with your speakers and moderators
Your speakers are likely also conducting PR outreach on their own, so it may be worthwhile to cross-reference their efforts with yours. By teaming up and doing outreach to both their audience and yours, you’ll have more possible angles for reporters to cover, boosting your chances of press coverage and increasing your impact.
Use email marketing both before and after your event to engage attendees.
B2B email marketing is a must-do both before and after your virtual event.
Before starting the event’s promotion, create a nurture campaign for people who register. You’ll need (at least):
- A thank-you email that they receive when they register
- A reminder about the event a week or a few days out, with information on how to access, your event hashtag, and your social accounts
- An email that goes out the day of the event, also with the access information
Once the event is over, thank the attendees again and ask for feedback in a single email. Depending on the size of your guest list and your resources, you may want to create a survey that goes out to all your attendees or simply ask people to reply to your email with comments.
Incorporate interactive elements into your event.
Your attendees don’t want to feel like they are staring at their computer screens all day: they want to feel completely immersed in the event that you have created. Incorporating interactive elements can go a long way in engaging your participants.
During the event, implement fun Q&A sessions with your speakers, introduce pop-up polls and quizzes, and add virtual networking opportunities into the mix. TNW Conference, a virtual event centered around bringing together global leaders in technology, incorporated integrated chat features into their program. This focus on virtual networking helped them reach a total of 25,000 attendees in 2020 and 2021.
You can even gamify your event by weaving a scoreboard or scavenger hunt throughout each part of your agenda. Giving away a special prize or opportunity to partner with your brand could create a fun incentive for participants to stay involved.
Offer valuable content to participants to leave your event with.
You want to make a lasting impression on your participants. To keep them buzzing about your event long after it’s over, offer valuable content for them to download and utilize in their own careers. These can include step-by-step guides, speaker presentations, and digital directories highlighting all of the companies and sponsors involved.
Providing participants with this useful information will position your company as a thought leader within your industry. They will also feel your event was worth their time and money.
Set key metrics early and adjust as necessary.
Key metrics and KPIs should be established early on and shared with your entire team, so they know which analytics to focus on.
Attendance, engagement, product sales, attendee retention, registration, and social media mentions are all examples of KPIs that can be especially helpful to track.
If your goals change as the event develops, simply adjust your KPIs to match.
Virtual events can be challenging to pull off, but by following these best practices, you’ll be much more likely to create an event that attendees enjoy, engage with, and remember—and that’s good for your brand and your bottom line.
Need help with your next event? Give our team a call!