Over the past few months, the world has experienced a challenging shift in dynamics due to the recent global pandemic. As challenging as this shift has been, event organisers have found an interesting way of switching to the next best alternative - virtual events.
Virtual platforms including HexaFair and INXPO have become the most popular for making engaging and productive virtual trade shows possible and bringing people closer in today’s socially distant world.
With fixed objectives in mind and the right virtual events platform, a majority of organisers have been able to come out stronger and achieve exceptional results. If you’re thinking of planning a virtual event, there are many things to consider, from the right platform to use, to the available budget, and what you can realistically produce in your time-frame.
Here is a list of essential tips and practices that will help you create a successful and engaging virtual event:
- CHOOSE THE RIGHT PLATFORM
It's important to choose a virtual platform that will align with the event requirements, the type, the number of attendees, and the number of sessions you want to host.
For instance, for a large event you can consider 6Connex, HexaFair or vFairs which are packed with features, including 3D interactive avatars, pre-recorded/live product demos, multitrack agendas, and in-depth analytics and post-event reports whereas for a small size event, Zoom or gotowebinar might be more appropriate.
2. SET A REALISTIC TIMELINE
Virtual events are successful because of the amount of planning and work that goes into them behind the scenes.
The timeline varies considerably according to the size of the event - allow up to 6 months for a large scale exhibition of conference and as little as 4-6 weeks for a smaller webinar. Plan your timescales carefully and stick to them to ensure the best results.
3. DEVELOP A MARKETING STRATEGY
Email marketing is considered to generate the greatest ROI for event promotion.
Many advanced virtual events platforms support an in-built email functionality. For people who are new to email marketing, Mailchimp is a great place to start and has a free option to get you going. In case, you’re looking to run email marketing campaigns with more integrations, you can consider Active Campaign. It also supports direct integration with Zoom.
If you have a budget, consider paid media partnerships. Paid media will help you to target a wider audience outside of your current database. You’ll also be able to retarget your website visitors.
Consider offering special discounts, cross-promotional opportunities, or even speaking opportunities to get your event in front of relevant audiences.
4. PROMOTE YOUR EVENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Rather than using all the social media platforms, think about which one or two platforms would be most beneficial, depending on the event type, size, and the ones your audience are using..
Create an event-specific hashtag and use it before, during, and after the event.
Consider asking your influential followers on social media to promote your event to their audiences. Think of ways you can make the promotion mutually beneficial. They could benefit from being an affiliate of your event or you can promote their future events.
5. INCLUDE A MIX OF LIVE STREAMED & PRE-RECORDED CONTENT
Even if people are stuck at home, they still may not want to spend an entire day attending a virtual conference.
Offer them a choice by including a mix of pre-recorded and live-streamed content, all of which should be available on-demand afterwards so attendees can access sessions on their own time.
For example, you could have some of your speakers pre-record their presentations, while your high-profile keynotes can host a live-stream. This might help in driving excitement and increase audience engagement.
6. KEEP ATTENDEES ENGAGED
The moment we step into a physical event, we know what to expect from it. Similarly, a virtual event and its interface have a great impact on attendees.
Right from the landing page where visitors form their first impression and decide whether to proceed or not, the design needs to motivate the audience to maximise sign-ups.
During the event, it is important to ensure that the environment replicates the experience of an in-person event. Take breaks every 20-30 minutes to do a poll, conduct Q&A sessions, and encourage your speakers to regularly check in with the attendees.
7. PROVIDE CONFIGURABLE BOOTHS AND ADVANCED BRANDING
In case of virtual trade shows, choose a platform that offers features including customisable branding, live streaming, real-time chat, survey/poll management, attendee management, and reporting/analytics.Enable exhibitors to showcase their products & services using a variety of booth designs.
Promote engagement and networking opportunities with 1:1 and group chat features. If an attendee visits a booth, have a pop-up showcasing that company's information, description, and link out to a separate page displaying all the services offered by the company.
8. MAKE USE OF ENGAGEMENT TOOLS
The success of any event is majorly determined by its engagement rate.
An event management platform can be used for live chat tools, one-to-one as well as group discussions, surveys and polls to ensure that visitors can smoothly interact with exhibitors in real-time.
9. GENERATE DETAILED REPORTS
One of the key differences between a virtual event and a physical one is the reporting capabilities of virtual events.
Choose a platform that offers exhibitors detailed statistics reports including the number of visitors, number of chat room interactions and number of transactions performed during the event.
When choosing your virtual events platform, consider reporting and analytic features as these features will help you measure your ROI and optimise your KPIs. Capture registrations data that can be later added to the CRM or mailing lists for lead generation purposes.
10. TEST YOUR SOFTWARE BEFOREHAND
Schedule a test run before the event so you are aware of the problems you might encounter during the event. In case of any equipment-related issues, try contacting the platform’s customer support for emergency services, and find a solution at the earliest.
There might be chances that all your audience may not be tech-savvy and hence you can help them with FAQs along with a handy guide.
Virtual events have gained more importance in the world since the COVID-19 outbreak and can be a powerful tool, whether they're used during a health crisis or not. Virtual events are not complicated, with good research and careful planning they can be a new revenue and awareness generator for your company.