Category

Business Strategy

Everything You Want and Need to Know About Digital Event Based Programs and Virtual Events

By | Best Practices, Business Strategy, Communication, Customer Stories, eLearning, Engagement, Marketing, Monetize, Online Events, Personalization, Virtual Events, Webcasts & Webinars

A resource for tools, techniques and good practices for virtual events, hybrid events, online event-based learning, and perpetual communities.

If you’ve come to take a deeper dive on all topics related to digital events, hybrid events and live streaming, perpetual sharing and learning communities and of course, virtual events, you’ve come to the right place. This is our jumping off location to organize, publish, curate and share everything we can find that we think is helpful, actionable, thought-provoking and a valuable resource in your quest to understand and produce more efficient, engaging and profitable event-based programs.

We’re using tags and categories to provide a taxonomy to navigate to the information that is most relevant to your needs. If there is a topic or issue you are looking for and cannot find it here, please drop us a note and we will see what we can do to get you more information or if you have something to contribute, we’d love to hear from you as well and will attribute the resource to you.

Strategy

virtual event strategy

Start by referring to your organization’s vision, goals, opportunities, and initiatives in order to maximize the business benefits of the event program. Align the answer to the question, “Why are we pursuing this program?” back to those items. Outline specific goals and objectives of the program and establish the foundation for assessing the results and success.

Define the target audience(s) and, if appropriate, other participants such as partners, sponsors, press, etc. and quantify how many and from where you want to draw the attendance. It may be helpful to craft personas of your target participants to make sure you meet their needs.

User Journey & Experience

Map out what you want the attendee to see, do and feel during the event, and why. Creating a theme for the event based on this and your desired outcomes around them will create structure, atmosphere, cohesiveness.

Decide what the user experience will entail from the type of content you will be sharing (this is critical as most people attend online events to gain access to content and knowledge) to the graphical look and desired engagement results you identify.

Technology Solution

There are many different online event technologies, with different user interfaces, functionality, ease of setting up, ease of use and pricing. The key is to align your user experience to the best technology solution within the budget available.

Required features also play a critical role in your solution selection. Although most online programs use a one-to-many approach (i.e.webinars), programs needing more interaction with speakers, sponsors or attendees will need to utilize a platform that allows text or video chat and private meetings (many-to-many).

Consider ongoing growth as well. Engagez offers flexible platforms to expand as your events grow. You can also copy the venue, so all your preferences and interfaces are the same across events, even if the information or attendees differ. Engagez offers a copy venue feature to make it easy to reuse things you like.

Unlike many platforms, Engagez offers an optional registration feature with robust security. Each venue can be customized to send confirmation and reminder emails to attendees, which increases participation likelihood.

Content Strategy

Studies over the years have consistently shown that the primary reason attendees register and participate in online events is the content. Your program’s content strategy is trumped only by your marketing strategy in its ability to impact the success or failure of the event. People register and attend online events primarily to discover and consume content for education, inspiration, training, certification, seeing what’s new and keeping up with current practices.

Of course, there are other benefits. Attendees often meet new people, network with peers and discover new products and solutions as well as receiving hands-on demos. Many participants will attend just to gain access to subject matter experts (SMEs) alone.

Most of our customers introduce content through SMEs presenting their ideas, experiences, and solutions in the form of presentations that include audio, video, slides and demos. There are also interactive audience engagement elements like polling, Q&A, social media and breakout groups. Consider what kinds of engagement are needed with your content and use this to determine the best type of platform for your organization.

Though the organization’s goals and objectives need to be kept in mind during the content strategy planning process, it is a good idea to focus on the target attendees’ needs first. Amazing, unique content should be your goal throughout the entire agenda.

Marketing Plan 

The marketing plan will closely resemble a marketing plan for a physical event, or for any product or business. Email marketing is still the number-one driver of event marketing efforts for most organizations. The marketing mix beyond email tends to get very fractional (in most cases) with social media channels, SEO, SEM, and content marketing. The list of tactics is large and often is weighted by the particular market—B2B vs B2C etc.

Since a whole book could be written on the various tactics, we focus more on what and why you need to market. Marketing prior to the event is, of course, critical to drive registrations.  But it doesn’t end there as converting those registrations to actual attendees is vital—more so than physical events.

Just like physical events that offer free registration, the conversion of those free registrations to actual attendance can be a challenge. You need a meaningful campaign to keep registrants aware of the event, as well as excited and motivated to attend.

The campaign to specifically convert the registrants to attendees begins at least a week in advance and requires a reminder 24 hours before–1 hour before and a message at the opening of the program to let people know you are starting now.  These need to be well crafted and informative messages providing new insight or knowledge to keep your event on the top of the registrant’s calendar.

Revenue & Funding: Sponsor & Exhibitor/ Paid Program

Online events have different funding models with the majority being funded internally.  There are also events that are totally revenue- and profit-generating with sources of revenue from sponsorships, exhibits, paid registration and access to required courses for certifications and professional development. For some companies, their virtual events are used to sell products and services during the event or generate leads.

An example of a large paid registration event is the Social Media Marketing World event. This event found success with a hybrid model, in which there is both a physical event with paid registration and a virtual event running in conjunction. Registration fee is $695 per registrant, generating significant revenue from both online and physical registrations.

Many events rely on sponsors/exhibitors/partners to augment revenue as well as to add additional value to the attendee’s event experience via content, connections or solutions.  You’ll need a plan to identify and secure sponsors including developing compelling sponsor opportunities, marketing materials, and sales strategy.

Engagement Strategies

Engagement at an online event directly impacts the degree to which attendees are participating in the various activities at your event. Generally, the more participation an attendee or speaker or sponsor have around the event, the more successful they will be and the more emotionally connected to the event’s experiences.

Depending on the participant, engagement can be measured by sessions attended, items downloaded, polls taken, chats with other participants, social media activity, sponsors visited, meetings held, inquiries made, demos watched, questions asked, questions answered, or connections made.

These are all metrics that can be easily measured within your event platform. The challenge is actively and strategically planning for these encounters to happen. Our customers have included downloadable materials and guides, opened discussion forums, and allowed for real-time speaker Q&A, automated greeting when arriving at a different location in the event–all helping to increase participant engagement.

Engagement needs to begin before the event, continue through the event and ideally, accelerate after the event is over.  Creating persistent year-round engagement utilizing all marketing channels in an integrated campaign will deliver tremendous results impacting audience acquisition as well as participant satisfaction and retention.

Program Production & Results Measurement

Depending upon the technology platform/solution you have chosen or will choose, the event will need to be created, the content and graphics added, registration configured, email messages uploaded, and sponsor locations and features set up. A sample checklist and timeline document can be found here and will detail most of those activities and deliverables.

Based on the complexity of the program, such as multiple versions of the same event for different regions of the world, the setup could be a bit more work. This is especially the case for your first event.  The Engagez platform offers self-service options for those clients that have the resources to support the buildout as well as service packages to provide assistance for clients that don’t have all the resources needed inhouse. Engagez allows for some uploading of materials via spreadsheets, including speakers, session information and registration lists. The platform also includes a robust media library that allows event builders to upload many assets simultaneously.

Leave ample time for testing all aspects of the platform. We suggest all buildout activity be stopped at least one week prior to the event in order to fully test, train staff/partners/speakers and make any final tweaks to the environment. Registration can, of course, continue during this period.

The Engagez platform offers a comprehensive analytics dashboard for measuring activity before, during and after your event.  We strongly recommend you also supplement that with exit surveys (provided in the platform) for each of your participant segments (attendees, sponsors, speakers, and internal stakeholders).

Links to more resources (more to come):

Marketing Check List

RFI/RFP

Timelines & Checklists

Monetization & Funding

Speaker Preparation

Sponsor & Exhibitor Preparation

Staffing & Training

Hybrid Event Extensions

Audience Engagement

Hands-on Labs

Registration

Venue Build Out

Simulive

Event Support FAQs & Answers

woman attending an online event

Virtual Events Demand Spikes Due to Coronavirus COVID-19 Travel and Meeting Restrictions

By | Best Practices, Business Strategy, Communication, eLearning, Engagement, Marketing, Online Events, Webcasts & Webinars

I’ve been heavily involved in virtual events since the early 2000s, actually anything related to digital events as the category is quite broad stretching from webinars to perpetual, event-based environments and communities. When I started the Virtual Edge Institute and caught the attention of PCMA (Professional Conference Management Association) who were very astute and saw the value of extending the reach of in-person events for their members and importantly for their member’s event programs, I thought online events and physical event extensions would be huge.

What event or meeting planner or any marketer for that matter, wouldn’t want to leverage the power of reaching the billions of people that have access to the Internet but can’t attend an event or meeting in because of cost, time or schedule conflicts? Instead, online events and live streaming of events experienced steady growth but always played second fiddle to in-person get-togethers.

Then, life happens and for one reason or another, people cannot meet in person. Today it is the coronavirus, in the past it was 911 or the great recession or volcanos that disrupted travel and people were forced to meet, network, sell and learn online.  Major events like Mobile World Congress, Facebook, Apple, Cisco and Google all canceled or postponed major events and even the Louvre and many other attractions around the world have been affected. It’s not just mega-events and venues, smaller events are getting canceled as well.

There have been organizations that saw the value of convening online audiences and incorporating online participation into their event and meeting portfolios. Cisco, Microsoft, Amazon, Dreamforce. IBM and many others large and small have leveraged the incredible reach of their events engaging hundreds, thousands and in cases, millions of online participants.

Its situations like coronavirus, which totally changes the focus from in-person events and meetings to online, that change has sent many organizations scrambling to replace their events and meetings and deal with massive travel restrictions while still keeping in contact and engaging with their customers, prospects, employees, members, stakeholders, and even students.

At Engagez, a virtual event platform, we are getting lots of calls now from people saying they need a virtual strategy asap. No one is happy we are again in this situation, and personally, it is going to hurt my new event venue in Silicon Valley (Blanco) for sure, but we have been building it with the very intention of opening a venue that is built for live streaming the event, networking and learning experience too much larger remote audiences.

virtual event playbook cover imageEngagez (engagez.com) is seeing a spike in demand and we want to help people who are just getting thrown into this as well as those that want to expand their knowledge on what can be achieved with event and meetings online, so we’ve published The Virtual Event Resource Guide and Playbook.  You can download it here.

Virtual events seemed to be on a growth trajectory beyond the tech sector before the current health and travel crisis and if history repeats, we’ll see a lot more people adding online event and meeting programs to their permanent marketing, sales, learning, and development mix.

Taking Back Control of Buyer’s Journey Through Personalization

By | Best Practices, Business Strategy, Communication, Marketing

Introduction

Online events have proven successful with many corporate B2B marketers and have become a key component of successful lead generating programs.

The present generation of online events (virtual events) allow producers to take attendees through some of the same experiences as attending a physical event. The virtual event platforms facilitate design of venues using two dimensional graphical reproductions of physical conference and trade show imagery. They use physical event terminology for web pages like conference centers, exhibit halls, and networking lounges. They also support booths and offer extensive line up of live and on demand programming, collateral, professional networking, social media feeds, gaming and many other engagement options.

In this blog post, we’ll review how personalization is key to furthering the nurturing process and engaging attendees with content aimed at their specific interests or issues and where personalization and next generation online events meet.

Time Commitment vs. Scope of Programming

There are several key differences between physical and online events.  One key difference is how attendees allocate time to each. An attendee will commit a day or more to physical events. This makes sense as people typically travel to attend a physical event, making a large financial and time investment. They are also there with an event related calendar that often includes free time to explore unknown elements via chance encounters and discoveries.

For online events, average attendees make shorter time commitments than the entirety of the full conference. Attendees are also more susceptible to interruptions while at work. Online attendees usually plan their time around attending specific talks. Once in the event, attending those talks are the highest priority. In between sessions, the attendees might browse through the rest of the programming, download resources, visit partners/sponsors, or mark items of interest to return to later. Now, it’s not to say that great and highly relevant content online can’t draw and keep an audience engaged for hours long as demonstrated by recurring online events that run for multiple days. However, the organizer must ensure the event delivers highest value not only to those who stay for the entirety of the conference, but also those who can commit a smaller window of time.

This difference in time allocation is one reason quick-bite webinars have enjoyed significant popularity as the online marketing tool of choice. By keeping a webinar duration to an hour or less, the programming fits within what an attendee is able to more easily commit during their busy workday. Thus, webinars are great hooks to bring an attendee in. Where webinars fall short is lack of breadth of programming and limited engagement options, which substantially limits their value as lead nurturing and lead qualification tool.


What’s Next: Personalized Online Events

The next generation of online events will combine the best of these two worlds, limited attendee time and broad programming, through personalization. Once in the event, the attendee will automatically be assigned a relevant account manager for inquiries, receive personalized recommendations on the most relevant not-to-be missed sessions, white papers and collateral, and when available, recommendations on key partners, partner resources and partner contacts for follow up. These recommendations will be machine generated, taking into account attendee profile, demographic and predictive models of what has worked best in the past for ‘alike’ attendees. The personalization will give attendees an immediate sense of relevance and will establish the event organizer as a trusted partner, aiming to educate and help attendees learn the most about their topics of interest as efficiently as possible. The better served the customer, the longer she’ll stay and engage, leading to further nurturing and improved qualification data.

Summary

Today marketers are starting to adopt personalization strategies in their various marketing programs using account-based marketing (ABM), artificial intelligence-based recommendation engines, predictive purchasing models and email drip campaigns. The next generation of online events will utilize variations of these personalization strategies inside an online event, substantially accelerating lead nurturing and guiding attendees through their buying journey, all in a fraction of time it would otherwise take outside the event.

At Engagez (www.engagez.com), we strive to offer the best capabilities for hosting the most effective live, simulive (simulated live) and on-demand online events. We are investing heavily in personalization and believe it is a crucial enabler for wider adoption of online events by marketers as the tool of choice for demand generation and guiding customers through their purchasing journey.

virtual conference platform

Virtual Conference Platforms Can Work in Tandem With Physical Conferences: Here’s How

By | Best Practices, Business Strategy, Communication, Marketing, Virtual Events

Conferences are an important tool for modern professionals, allowing hundreds in a field to come together and work on issues ranging from professional standards to the latest technological or scientific developments.

But now, the conference industry is undergoing a major revolution. New virtual conference platforms and online event software are offering conference organizers new ways to innovate and address existing problems. In fact, the industry is slated to grow from $14 billion to $18 billion in value by 2023.

In this guide, we will look at how virtual conference platforms can help supplement physical conferences to create the best events possible.

    1. Expand your reach
      One of the best ways to use virtual conference software is to expand your reach. While professional conferences might draw in thousands of visitors, for every attendee, there is someone at home who either could not afford the trip or could not get time off of work. By digitizing elements of your conference on a virtual conference platform, you are able to provide information and opportunity to those not physically able to attend.

 

    1. Digitize the Conference Experience
      With a virtual trade show, you can digitize the traditional conference or trade show experience in a variety of ways. First, a virtual conference platform can provide lucrative new sponsorship opportunities, which can help fund your efforts. Second, the best event software makes networking and lead capture far simpler for everyone involved, enhancing one of the most important aspects of these events. Finally, rather than making announcements over a loudspeaker, you can use notifications to update attendees at any time, whether they’re visiting in person or online.

 

  1. Feature Bonus Material
    It can be hard to make your conference schedule work for everyone all the time. The better rooms and better time slots will have to go to the most popular lectures and talks. But with virtual conferences, you are never at a loss for space, nor are you bound by the constraints of your speakers’ schedules. Using your virtual conference platform to show supplemental material that you didn’t have time and space for will allow your attendees to get more information before, during, and after the event.

Organizing and growing a successful conference can be difficult. One way that you can cost-effectively expand the education and engagement of your attendees is by taking advantage of online event platforms. This tool allows you to create a virtual component to your event and make your life easier at the same time.

Graphic reference https://www.marketresearchmedia.com/?p=421.

Maybe Everyone Will Offer Simultaneous Live Audio Streaming for Now Just Engagez

By | Best Practices, Business Strategy, Virtual Events, Webcasts & Webinars

We believe there is another channel or audience segment that is not being served well by events. This segment is comprised of people who cannot attend a physical event and would like to, but also cannot sit and watch a live video stream either. The thought came to us when we were attending a remote video event but had to go to an appointment and could not watch in the car. We realized that we would have continued attending the event had they only offered an audio stream which we could listen to on the way. We know its not as good as a video, but it would have been better than nothing.

This concept was reinforced after we’d noticed people in our office with a video stream up on one browser, with another “work” browswer opened. They were listening, but couldn’t watch. “Why would I sit and watch someone talk unless I needed to see slides or something? I just want to hear what they are saying,” was the answer we got when asked.

In fact, I often do that as well with YouTube videos that are explaining something that I don’t need or want to watch-just listen.

Since we are unaware of any platform that provides this, we feel it is a unique idea. It may take a while to catch on but with the popularity of podcasting in general, we think it is worth pioneering.

Currently we offer audio-only (lower bandwidth and less strain on the user’s data plan) with the notion that people might start to listen to events more on their mobile devices–while they are traveling, at work or busy doing something else where video isn’t an option.

Ideas on How to Monetize Your Digital Events

By | Best Practices, Business Strategy, Monetize

Some organizations look to generate direct revenue from their online event programs although most are actually seeking to achieve other, indirect benefits. This post is for those that want to generate revenue.

Like most roads, the road to monetization often leads back to content. Whether it is an overall event sponsorship you are selling, a content specific sponsorship, or access to specific content, the primary reason people attend an online program is to gain new knowledge.

Let’s start with the low hanging fruit; content people need and will pay money to access. As an example, one of the most successful virtual events is Social Media Summit. They consistently sell tickets to attend their annual event online and sell a lot! At $495 (at least last I checked that was the price) they have had events that have been attended by around 2,000 people. They have great content, a hot subject and lots of people to sell to.

There are associations that routinely make hundreds of thousands of dollars selling virtual-only registrations to their events at the full price of an in-person registration. People are willing to pay if the content is really important to them and may be willing to pay full price for the convenience of not having to leave their office or practice.

The key is to have content that people are willing and able to pay for (that by the way, is a good rule to have no matter what content you are sharing). That’s where your work comes in… finding out what that is and then putting a plan together to create/capture it AND THEN MARKETING. Don’t neglect to explore marketing partnerships either! The beauty of this type of digital product is that the cost doesn’t go up based on the use so you can be very aggressive with partner commissions.

Overall event sponsorship will vary depending on the type of event, the audience, the potential sponsors and the options in the technology you are using. Giving your sponsors the opportunity to have their content featured in a session or multiple sessions is usually a big benefit. Sponsoring individual session content may have appeal as well. Here you can offer a graphic or video message at either the beginning (of the event? Session?) or end or both. Some technology allows you to brand the player on which the remote audience is watching the stream/recording, or brand the live stream image itself with lower thirds or other options.

If you happen to be producing a hybrid event (in-person audience as well as online) you might consider setting up a studio at the event that’s used to interview your sponsor’s subject matter experts, attendees and speakers. The content would be streamed to the remote audience when there’s nothing to stream from the event onsite (i.e. during breaks). There are many ways to monetize with sponsorships of the studio, during the live event and also during any rebroadcast.

Advertising benefits are also a significant way to sell sponsorships. These can also be sold as standalone services if you have a large enough audience. You can include banner ads on the streaming player, pop up ads, and video ads played between programs. Some virtual event technologies will accommodate push messages and ads to the remote audience within event-related emails sent to attendees and potential attendees before, during and after the event.

We’ll come back to the subject of monetization again in the near future with a more exhaustive look.