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 2022 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 2022.
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 huge, 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 have to 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.
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 all make a massive impact on both your attendance and on user experience. Remember, it feels far easier to 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, read extensive reviews and ask colleagues about their experiences with different platforms. And check that the platform you use will allow attendees to interact with you the way you intend for them to.
Related post: How to Execute a Successful Event Marketing Campaign
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.
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.
- 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.
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!