May 12, 2020

Seven Tips for Holding Virtual Events

by Erin Johnson

As trade shows are being postponed and canceled around the world and travel is being minimized, many companies are asking: How can I still engage with my customers in a meaningful way?
 
You’d be hard-pressed to find a company that is not quickly working to shift priorities and budgets to bring more of their in-person efforts online. According to a feature in Forbes Magazine, marketers expect to increase or significantly increase their investments in the following channels:

  • Virtual event creation – 78%
  • Web content – 72%
  • Webinars – 67%
  • Social media – 66%
  • Blog content – 57%
  • Video – 50%
Today’s reality is forcing us to get creative to find new ways to help customers from remote locations, build relationships and even engage with each other internally. At Quanex, we’ve been exploring our options for everything from virtual trade shows and sales meetings to customer sales calls.
 
Here are some things we’ve learned as you consider holding your own virtual events:
  1. Stay true to your business goals—and your brand. Creating a virtual event only makes sense if it aligns with what you’re trying to accomplish as a business. In other words, don’t just do it. Do it with a purpose, whether it’s to increase sales of a certain product or service, to provide education or position your company as a thought leader, to entertain or all of the above. Documenting your priorities will help you stay focused on what will truly help move the needle for your business.

    Along the same lines, stay true to your brand like you would in your trade show booth or any other marketing materials you create. The virtual environment should look and sound like you from the graphics and presentations to the “leave-behind” materials you create.

  2. Plan ahead and secure a platform. As you might expect, virtual environments are in demand, and you might need to “reserve your space.” Some platforms have an 8- to 10-week lead time, so planning ahead is critical. You should also start by creating your “agenda,” so you know what additional assets you’ll need to collect or create, such as videos, presentations and more.

    As you’re exploring the platforms out there—and there are plenty—you should also find out how long your event will stay “live.” In many cases, your space is only rented for a certain period. If you’re looking for a more evergreen virtual experience, you should decide that upfront and look only at options that enable you to keep the event live indefinitely, especially if you want to continue adding to the experience over time.

  3. Decide between a live or semilive event. Most platforms enable you to either “can” the event by prerecording everything and making it live as the agenda dictates. Or, for a truly authentic experience, you can do it all live. Many opt to do a combination of both. For example, you can record your SME presentations for viewing, and then have people “man the booth” to have real-time interaction with customers. Again, how interactive you get can depend on the platform you choose.
  1. When creating assets, consider your audiences’ situation. If you think it’s difficult to keep someone’s attention in person, imagine keeping their attention when they are in their home environments. Whatever content you create should be quicker than they might be in person. Keep your videos short and your presentations to under 30 minutes as a best practice.
  1. Build a gateway or landing page. Leading up to your event, you’ll want to have a landing page to drive traffic to and to capture registrations. The landing page is important because it’s the first experience your customers or internal audiences will have with the event—and it should be positive, reflect your brand and entice people to not only register, but attend.

    You should also decide if you want to gate the event, meaning require a username, password or registration code. Not only is this a good way to capture potential leads, but it also ensures the right people are registering.

  2. Make it fun. Just because the event is online doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable. You can still hold contests and send virtual giveaways, such as gift cards. And you can still encourage meetings and group networking events, whether it’s in a virtual meeting room, at a virtual awards ceremony or in a virtual lounge. There are so many ways to make your online event engaging and enjoyable—it just takes some creativity.

  3. Follow up! Leading up to, during and after the event, have lead capture and lead follow-up protocols in place. More robust platforms will give you the ability to track analytics and even automate emails with further information.
 
Some real benefits.
I think we can all agree that nothing has been ideal in 2020—there’s no true replacement for meeting in person. But virtual events do have their benefits in terms of cost savings when compared to live events that require travel and their scalability. There are good, better, best options out there that can be used for anything, including trade show experiences, career fairs, sales meetings, internal town halls, awards dinners and so much more.
 
The possibilities are virtually endless.
 
What are you doing to engage with your customers these days? Let me know at erin.johnson@quanex.com.
 

For more information about Quanex visit www.quanex.com