What’s Going Wrong with Virtual Events?

To some extent, we’ve all made the pivot to virtual events. We’ve had to, given the circumstances. But the speed with which we’ve made the change means little time has been spent analyzing whether what we are delivering is worth attendance by our customers.

After all, the goal for these new events has changed. Virtual events are not a straight swap for the face-to-face events that they have replaced. And those who haven’t figured this out will soon see their attendees and sponsors drift away.

Remember – traditional in-person events may have been large gatherings, but the value for most participants was in the one-to-one interactions that happened “under the tent” of those gatherings. For virtual to be effective, the experience needs to deliver something comparable to that one-to-one experience, rather than just imitating the one-to-many scale. 

But digital interactions have their unique characteristics. If you want to start generating more revenue with virtual events, don’t make the following mistakes:

1)  Using pre-recorded sessions – everything must be live.

2)  Failing to prep speakers to be completely comfortable with the virtual event software – whether in the “booth” or giving a presentation.

3)  Not conducting practice sessions with the software to eliminate technical glitches.

4)  Allowing presentations that are burdened with too many slides that fail to advance the message or are just boring.

5) Having visuals where the speaker backgrounds are cluttered and lack professional lighting.

6) Failing to embrace a virtual event’s unique production constraints and opportunities by trying to replicate an in-person event experience. Don’t ‘pave the goat path’; this is your opportunity to explore how new technology can open new revenue streams.

7)  Not accommodating the shorter attention spans inherent with virtual events – no 40-minute presentations or lengthy demos.

8)  Missing attendee engagement opportunities (real-time interactions such as taking questions during sessions.) Compare participating in an active Facetime session vs. being merely a muted image in one of 30 boxes on a Zoom call.

9)  Not ensuring that sponsors are actively involved from the beginning.

10) Employing digital exhibit booths that are passive and fail to drive interest in what’s inside. 

The virtual engagement potential of digital events is proving to be a robust alternative to content-marketing programs, whether that content is delivered via the web or email. Content programs offer the appeal of scalable outreach, but they often have no direct ROI other than what can be attributed to awareness and market education. In contrast, when done the right way, virtual events can deliver comparable scale, but also provide the interactive engagement that leads more directly to revenue.

Another exciting thing about virtual is that digital and face-to-face attendees reflect two different audiences. Doing virtual right means you can reach those with whom you would not have connected with just face-to-face events. Virtual can extend your reach and your brand. So rather than viewing virtual as a defensive response to COVID-19, look at it as a way to be aggressive about gaining new audiences that were not available to you before, even if it only serves as a lead generation tool for your future face-to-face events – when they come back.
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