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Setting up Virtual Event Strategies

Setting up Virtual Event Strategies
Many entrepreneurs look forward to attending or hosting events, as they are excellent opportunities to demo products, give presentations, and network with other professionals. Unfortunately, efforts to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in many events being forced to close, as well as questioning the safety of events moving forward. While a necessary precaution, the cancellations can seem devastating for companies who’d put a great deal of time and money into preparing for these events, but I’m pleased to report that there’s still hope.

Even if the in-person events are no longer viable, you can still make the most of your efforts by taking part in a virtual event instead.

The transition from in-person to virtual is sure to present some challenges, and you may not achieve all the goals you’d set, but adjusting your metrics and making the most of your efforts and assets will still be better for your company than letting it all go to waste. However, in order to ensure the adjustments are as efficient as possible, you’ll first need to develop a virtual event strategy.

As with a physical event, a virtual event strategy will need to account for promotion, engagement, and review. If you’re hosting the event, you should have a website or webpage dedicated to the event, including dates and times for who will be presenting and what attendees can look forward to. If you’re attending the event, be sure to make people aware of it by adding a notice on your own website, perhaps even including a link to direct visitors to the official page so they can learn more. The website should have a section where attendees can register, and having the process require them to provide their company name and position will be a useful means of gathering important data, as will including polls and surveys for attendees to fill out based on their experience with the virtual event.

As for the event itself, there are a variety of apps and platforms that offer livestreaming services, some with more interactive elements than others, so it will fall to you to decide which ones best meet your needs. Ideally, you’ll want to make sure you have the entire event on a single platform rather than having some speakers give their presentation on one while others use another. Expecting your attendees to switch between different platforms is unfair and will drastically lower their engagement, so make sure you decide on a single platform first and see to it that all presenters are made aware ahead of time so they can familiarize themselves with its use. The presenters will want to carefully review what they’ll be doing with their time, be it speaking over a slideshow, playing a prerecorded video with the occasional commentary, or putting on a livestreamed product demo. It’s encouraged to allow time at the end of their presentation to host a Q&A session, and having a moderator oversee this will make the process go smoothly.

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Now, there’s no denying that virtual events lack the face-to-face socialization and exciting locations that make in-person events more attractive and engaging, but for the time being, those simply aren’t viable options. However, virtual events do provide their own benefits, such as coming at a lower cost to operate, as well as offering access to guests who otherwise couldn’t attend such an event due to cost of entry or travel. Focusing your marketing on the convenience and connectivity aspects will help assuage attendee concerns and foster a value-driven atmosphere, something people will welcome during these trying times. Still, give extra attention to the quality of graphics and videos used in presentations, the need to impress attendees is considerably stronger now that they don’t have an impressive venue or exotic locale to provide the initial wow factor.

Once the pieces are all in place and the event has run its course, you’ll be able to reap the fruits of your labors by reviewing all the data you’ve gathered. As I mentioned before, having attendee registration include listing what companies they work for and what their positions are will give you invaluable information about relevant demographics, and adding an option for them to select which presentations they’re interested in will help you organize them into more specific subgroups. The use of polls and surveys specific to each presentation will not give the speakers useful data to use for their future presentations and operations as a whole, and clickable ads from even sponsors will enable recordable metrics for outreach performance. On the social media end of things, having an event specific hashtag will go a long way toward reviewing which platforms your hashtag was most used on, as well as highlight posts specific to your event and gauging how well attendees enjoyed the experience.

It’ll take some getting used to, there’s sure to be some trial and error involved, but given the circumstances, we should all be thankful the tools and technology to make virtual events happen are available. I understand how upsetting it can be to have made such big plans for an in-person event only to have to adapt them to a virtual setting, and the difference in return on investment may not be what you were hoping for, but the situation we find ourselves in demands serious adjustments on our part if we want to survive.
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