How to Shift From Physical to Virtual Events and Maximize Event Outcomes

Are you scrambling to cancel travel arrangements for industry conferences? If so, then you’re not alone. Recently, many trade shows converted their onsite plans into virtual events. Facebook canceled its F8 software developer conference. Google switched to a virtual event for Google Cloud Next 2020. Plus, the city of Austin, Texas axed SXSW.

The coronavirus has people scrapping travel itineraries and signing up for online sessions. Instead of a crowded expo floor, they’ll be watching live product demos from their homes or offices.

But, where does this leave event marketers? After all, you had a strategy to entice event-goers to invest in your product. Don’t dump your plans – rather, showcase your products and story with engaging virtual events.

With the right approach, you can still generate great results from virtual events – here are some tips to help you optimize your approach.

Virtual Events: Coronavirus and Company Responses

Online events aren’t new, but converting a large conference into a remote event, within hours or days in some cases, is fairly novel. Many industry events had a backup plan ready to put into action – for example, organizations like the Open Compute Project (OCP) turned its Global Summit into a virtual event. Attendees will take part in one-on-one sessions and a slew of activities from anywhere in the world.

The Geneva International Motor Show canceled its Switzerland show. Instead, they’ll offer pre-recorded and live-stream press conferences. Attendees can view the latest debuts at their convenience.

Domopalooza canceled its event saying, “We made the decision to transform Domopalooza 2020 from an in-person event for 3,000 people in Salt Lake City, Utah, to one that is 100% digital.” Their virtual event includes breakout sessions and keynotes in an online format.

Lastly, IBM’s Think conference also goes digital this year. The company combines locally-hosted activities with virtual events. It includes live-streaming content and interactive sessions.

These are only a handful of industry conferences canceled within days of each other – but where does that leave companies that count on trade shows, summits, and conferences?

Now’s the time to plan for your own immersive online experience.

How to Create Online Events That Generate Leads

Let’s face it, you head to a conference for many reasons, but your main motive is to gather leads.

So without that face-to-face aspect, how can you get emotional buy-in from remote attendees? There are a few strategies to tackle here. Must-haves for your virtual events include:

  • Goals to guide your event
  • Compelling messages and a unique story
  • A format emphasizing customer experience
  • Professional video design and production

Before heading to any event, you’ve already calculated your ROI – you know who your potential customers are and what they’re looking for. Pivot towards tactics that work for virtual events. Forget stagnant PowerPoint presentations and drop the stale pre-recorded speeches from your CEO.

Instead, look to deliver a powerful experience to your remote audience.

Virtual Event Planning and Production

So what do the best virtual events include? 

Event marketing is all about putting yourself in the shoes of your customers – they were pumped to hit the road and see live product demonstrations, and many had put together lists of questions to ask during your Q&A sessions.

Moving to an online experience means adding new benefits, and even more value. To do that, you’re going need to use technology to pull your audience in, then, deliver an experience that makes your potential clients thrilled to be taking part.

Best Virtual Event Ideas and Examples

Your audience already accesses webinars and spends a great deal of time online, so switching to a virtual event isn’t a big jump. But some organizations have developed unique ways to increase attendance and engagement – let’s take a look at how industry leaders have pivoted to online events which captivate a global audience.

Some combine local events with online offerings – for example, a participation party puts your virtual event onscreen in conference rooms across the country. That gives attendees the freedom to choose their location without gathering at a large event.

Industry conferences also incorporate interactive multi-session activities with webinars and pre-recorded videos. For best results, focus on an audience that’s already shown an interest in your products and services. Think about what they need from you to take the next step, then provide that in a virtual event format.

Top virtual event ideas include:

  • Pre-recorded videos – Give leads access to your videos on demand. Create an experience that combines brand elements and clear language with a captivating video presentation.
  • Animated education content – Look to produce 2D and 3D content to reduce the production costs found in traditional video. Walk attendees through a product demo or setup process with ease.​
  • Live-streaming – Get buy-in for digital events with a bit of FOMO. Remote viewers won’t want to miss out on asking questions in this community format.
  • Virtual event panels and forums – Live-stream from your New York Office or your San Francisco home. Hosting an online group is a great way to engage your audience with a live Q&A session.

Other fantastic options include “choose your path” activities and team workshops, or you could share solution demonstrations while answering questions from your online audience.

With a great strategy, you can turn any onsite exhibit into a virtual event.

Virtual Conferences: Best Practices and Tips

Attendees flock to events to catch the latest innovations and network with industry leaders. Replicating that experience online isn’t easy, but brands that get it right can attract big audiences, generate interest and increase brand visibility.

You may already offer online webinars or tutorials, but adding virtual events requires a little more planning. From accessibility to remote attendance monitoring, it’s important to visualize each step.

Use these tips to compel your audience to take action.

  • Develop a virtual event marketing strategy that aligns with your goals
  • Choose digital technology tools and formats that convey your message
  • Create a clear and compelling story and video script to keep attendees tuned in
  • Engage virtual attendees using high-quality videos, animation, and graphics

Develop Virtual Events Before a Cancellation

Don’t wait for your next conference to get canceled – instead, put together video assets now. Drop the travel expenses and live-stream a panel right from your office. Virtual events give your audience the flexibility to experience your brand and products from anywhere.

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