Virtual events based around live video and supplemented by written content will continue to command more of marketers’ budgets in 2021, in the absence of physical conferences.
A new study from Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has found that 53% of brands believe that virtual events are “much more important” compared to the in-person events that took place before spring last year.
The majority of organisations also revealed that they have sponsored virtual events to support demand generation during the last 12 months.
CMI’s third annual ‘Demand Generation Survey’, which drew 229 responses from professionals at companies in 24 countries, found that more marketers are looking at how to use the content they create to support demand generation programmes
‘Demand generation’ is generally defined as a strategy that aims to build awareness and interest in core products and services via new technology.
Content is used in this strategy to establish thought leadership and showcase brand values and purpose, and is ably supported by social media platforms that can help to build a stronger online presence.
Demand generation also extends to activities such as sales enablement and customer retention. It essentially covers all of the touchpoints that are inherent to a buyer’s journey.
It’s easy to see how live video fits neatly with these objectives. The CMI study found, for example, that podcasts were particularly effective at creating awareness and interest at the early stage of the journey, but are less adept at the late stage.
In contrast, virtual events are just as effective at the middle stage of consideration and intent as the early stage, and are also of use during the final stop of evaluation and purchase.
With the uncertainty about how and when physical events can take place in 2021, brands should prepare for another year when virtual events are the safest and most affordable options available for demand generation purposes and other key objectives.
If you are planning to hold a series of virtual events in the spring or summer, you can increase the chances of the event being successful by following these best practices.
Set up one-to-one chats
While a standard webinar or live video is excellent for delivering messages and insights to virtual attendees, there is still value in offering more personal one-to-one interactions that were commonplace at traditional trade shows and conference booths.
Scheduling one-to-one chats before the event is recommended if you want attendees to ask questions and connect with some of the experts you may have invited to your virtual event. Marketers are craving more personalised, targeted insights, so this could work well.
Set up customer roundtables
In the same way that attendees want to talk to experts, there is also likely to be an appetite for exchanges between current customers and potential clients. This melting pot of back-and-forth interaction was central to in-person events, where drinks were often shared at the end of the session.
You can replicate this by setting up roundtables for everyone present. These roundtables, which can be filtered by product or industry, will enable attendees to talk with other people in a similar situation and to get general advice and information about topics, products or services in which they are interested.
Create engaging content
It seems like an obvious point, but it can be argued that the quality of content is even more important when you are holding a digital event as there are more distractions for attendees, including other digital commitments such as work and meetings. This is not such a problem when a person has to physically attend a conference.
Coming up with a slate of engaging content is therefore central to the success of a virtual event. Try to create videos and slides that are concise and impactful to keep audiences engaged. You should also have one or two headline speakers that will drive attendance numbers.
Practice makes perfect
Technical issues can derail your best-laid plans, so it is always a good idea to test your software and run a mock event beforehand to ensure that everyone is on the same page and knows what to do when the real event goes live. Working closely with speakers to ensure that their lighting and volume levels are correct is also recommended.
Be inclusive and accessible
Virtual events need to appeal to a wide range of people, and thus require planning around inclusivity and accessibility. This means that you should use large, clear fonts in presentations and provide captions if you can for any pre-recorded videos with audio. The theme of inclusivity also extends to the speakers or panel of experts you use during the event. Try to assemble a diverse range of voices that can talk first-hand about their experiences in the industry.
Provide opportunities for networking
Networking was one of the major attractions of in-person events and is something that can often be sadly missing from digital conferences. It doesn’t have to be that way though as you can use connected platform features and tools to create networking lounges that are tailored to audience needs.
For example, you could set up a lounge headed by some of the product experts that will be present. This will give attendees the opportunity to interact and have more personable interactions. You may also want to create booths for some of the sponsored partners at the event.
Offer access to digital materials
One of the drawbacks of in-person events was the physical footprint of tables, as marketers were often limited to leaflets and booklets they could cram into small spaces. This is definitely not the case for virtual events, where you will be able to provide attendees with a full suite of relevant materials about your brand, products and core offerings.
Taking advantage of the benefits of virtual events and using software to mitigate some of the shortcomings will help you to successfully plan and hold a digital conference, webinar or livestream that can boost your demand generation and drive awareness of your brands while delivering the insights that your customers need.
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This content was originally published here.