“Thanks for being interested in our virtual event. We have reserved an online seat for you!”
Who would have thought that virtual events would be trending today? Frankly, we’ve already been heading in that direction with our marketing. Current events have only hastened what our future business opportunities will be.
From the comfort of our desk, at work or at home, we can attend meetings, seminars, tutorials, conferences, trade shows, courses, classes, and nearly anything else online. I wouldn’t be surprised if we begin to use VR headsets more often in business-related online activities. Maybe, you’ll be incorporating their use in your own future virtual events.
Virtual events will certainly not completely replace all face to face interactions. There is definitely nothing better than meeting your clients and potential business partners in “real life” … and personally, I still want a hands-on test of the newest smartphone at a trade show.
My point is, a virtual event can definitely be an adequate substitute for an in-person activity. It’s also not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, as I will discuss.
If you’re looking to launch, jump-start or publicize your business, a virtual event can and will help you achieve your goals. Here are some tips on how you can successfully promote and host this.
Focus on “Value” Over “Virtual”
What are the benefits your audience will gain from your virtual event? Will they feel they got their time and money’s worth after an hour or so in front of a PC or laptop?
Whatever business or industry you’re in, keep in mind that people will not sign-up just because they fancy virtual events. They’ll sign-up (and sign up for future events you host) if you give them great value for their money and their time.
Focus on the quality of what you’re offering rather than your medium of delivery. In the end, you want people to say they were very much entertained, or they learned a lot and are going to recommend your business to others.
Choose the Right Virtual Event Software
Next is the type of software you will use to host your virtual event. Search the internet and you’ll find many companies that offer this. Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses.
If asked, I would choose one that is user-friendly, of course. Also, I prefer software that can run on any smartphone, laptop or desktop. For webinars and virtual conferences, the best software is one which my clients need not download at all. With just a click on a URL, they’re “in” the virtual event.
The following are features you should consider when choosing your virtual event software, depending on what type of event you will be hosting:
- Virtual Space Options, e.g. exhibit hall, lobbies, meeting rooms and chat areas
- Live Broadcast/Streaming capability
- Public and private chat rooms
- Event management and customization
- Ability to display virtual advertising and sponsorship areas
- Timed or scheduled presentation of pre-recorded content
- Feedback and polls on user experience
There are dozens of services for webinars and virtual events. Here is a list of some of the more popular ones:
Zoom: Made famous in the last few months due to everybody working at home, it’s one of the preferred ways to communicate and work virtually. You can use it to set up basic webinars for your virtual events.
BigMarker: A step up from Zoom, it includes webinars, landing page builders, ability to sell tickets, chat, polls and pre-recorded webinars.
LiveStorm: Includes webinars, automated and pre-recorded webinars, chat and real-time polls, live-event streaming and attendee email management.
While the above are excellent to host your online event, how about a fully immersive experience? Think virtual lobbies, avatars and separate booths … the closest you can come to an actual event with hundreds or thousands of attendees. With those features come “enterprise” ($$$) pricing, of course.
Here are some popular ones:
vFairs: Features a fully immersive virtual event area, lobby, virtual booths (which you set up with ready-made templates), chat, analytics reporting, landing pages and much more. Great for career fairs, trade shows, conferences and product launches.
Aventri: Designed as live event management software, it now includes full-featured virtual event webinars, live streaming and networking abilities.
How to Promote Your Event
Employ the Power of E-Mails
Do people still open their inbox? Yes! People may spend more time on social media, but they always read their e-mails. Unlike social media updates, you have a person’s undivided attention with an email, even if just for a few seconds. And, while reading your mail, your recipient won’t be distracted by alerts, notifications, likes and chats.
If you have an email list, write a persuasive e-mail that’s interesting enough so your readers will seek more information about your virtual event.
Begin with an attention-grabbing subject. Then follow with short, direct and engaging content. Personalize it but keep it professional unless you’re communicating with a friend. You don’t have to cram everything in your e-mail. Provide a link to your website or landing page for more details.
Send Text Messages
A text message is not as intrusive as a phone call. People won’t mind receiving an SMS promoting a product, service or even a virtual event. Semaphore’s infographic claims 98% of text messages sent are read. It’s no wonder businesses include SMS in their strategies!
Stick to your keywords when sending texts about your virtual event. You can also offer promos or discounts. Use a template to save time. Remember, of course, to only send messages to those who have given you their numbers. Sometimes, I get referrals from another list. On those occasions, I let my recipients know I got their info from someone they know.
For those who have signed up for your event, texting is also an effective way to remind them of the time and date of your event. They might miss your reminder by e-mail.
Market Your Virtual Event on your Website
You can use a pop-up, message panel or a banner to invite visitors to learn more. Make it easy for people to navigate. They should only be a “click away” from receiving the info they need.
Utilize your website’s features like live chat. You have a better chance of “closing the deal” if you can instantly reply to your readers’ inquiries. Standard replies are okay, but go easy with automated responses. Like many people, I prefer chatting with a real person rather than a computer.
Create a Landing Page
If you already have the tools or software, design a landing page for your event. Instead of directing people to your website, your e-mail can be linked to your landing page. It should only have one call to action (CTA) … don’t give your reader a choice to do something else. Make it compelling so they will sign up for your virtual event, such as with a timed discount, a free bonus, maybe a special invite-only lobby for “elite members”, or some other added value.
Offer a Sneak Peek
Free sampling works wonders. Offering a free taste of a new pastry is the same thing as giving people a preview of your virtual event. Include a video of your speaker’s lecture, a snippet of your “how-to” or testimonials and endorsements from customers.
Create a preview that will whet your visitors’ appetite. Maybe, the participation of well-known speakers or experts will be enough to convince them to sign up. Or, a short but interesting demo of the practical application of a product or service might just do the trick.
Utilize Twitter Hashtags
You can promote your event with a hashtag. But check first if your target audience uses these themselves. The next step is to come up with an original hashtag just for your event. If you need help, there are hashtag generators on the internet.
Posting with a hashtag of your virtual event will keep it in your audience’s minds and conversations. Like and reply on social media accounts with your hashtag. Invite others to use your hashtag too. It’s a great way to spread the word about your virtual event!
Free Trials and Free Memberships
If you have several virtual events, why not offer one free of charge? I’ve seen this done on self-help webinars. I attended the first hour for free without committing to sign up for the rest of the program.
There’s other ways to offer the power of “free”. At your event, you can have different membership levels. The free event members only get a limited showing of webinars and speakings at your event, but at any time can unlock to full membership to see everything you have to offer.
Spread the Word through Social Media
Make an announcement on all your business’s social media accounts. Also, post on your personal accounts. Use Facebook Events, Facebook Groups and Instagram stories.
Focus your efforts on platforms where you’ll likely find your target audience. Different platforms specialize in different customers. For instance, if you are reaching out to business professionals, don’t forget to use LinkedIn!
Final Tips For a Successful Virtual Event
Consider Hiring a Techie … Just in Case
If you’re not tech-savvy, insist on employing a specialist just in case something goes wrong. If this is your first time hosting a virtual event, you want to make a good impression on everyone. Your specialist can ensure your event runs smoothly and assist members of your audience who may require technical assistance.
For the enterprise virtual event software listed above, most of them will offer a dedicated technical support person to help run your event.
Aside from your specialist, make sure you have duplicates of your data or presentations on USB or cloud storage. Also, have a backup laptop or PC within reach.
Say Thank You
Maybe in the future there’ll be a virtual substitute for a handshake. For now, saying “Thank You” to all event participants goes a long way. Stay in the event room for inquiries, and get to know better the people who are attending your event. After the event, make sure you thank everyone for attending (and include a link to the replays for those who couldn’t make it).
I always believe that if you want to succeed in business, you have to show gratitude.
These are tried and tested tips on promoting and hosting your virtual events. Apply each and make adjustments where needed for your own. In time, you’ll discover what works best for your business. Good luck and thank you!
Do you have your own tips for hosting webinars or full virtual events? Let me know!