The recent coronavirus has swept many industry events and conferences, costing an economic loss of over $1 billion according to estimates by PredictHQ, the data intelligence company. The figure covers the losses to airlines, hotels, restaurants, and transportation providers that would normally make money from attendees’ purchases. Within the recent week, many events that typically draw 500 to over 100,000 attendees like Google I/O, South by Southwest and Game Developers Conference have been postponed. Others are grappling with the decision to cancel their event or turn them into virtual conferences. While it’s a smart idea to go virtual, is your company ready for it?
The challenge with virtual conferences has often been capturing and keeping the audience engaged throughout the event. Instead of watching the conference, many are distracted or doing other things while the presentation plays in the background. Networking and connection with others can also be a challenge virtually but the format offers convenience for attendees, which they also want. For those who are considering moving your physical event to a virtual one, here’s how you can make your event standout.
- Create Content into an Interesting Story – One of the best methods for building a connection with others is through storytelling. When stories are incorporated into your presentation content, you are able to transform the information shared into wisdom. It also creates a context between various pieces of content as you lead your audience into a bigger picture. A few leading researchers analyzed the shape of narratives and found the best storylines that form the building blocks can be found in these iconic stories below. Use their story shapes as a guide to help inform a stronger presentation that keeps your audience engaged.
- Rags to riches – a steady rise from bad to good fortune
- Icarus – a rise then a fall in fortune
- Oedipus – a fall, a rise then a fall again
- Cinderella – rise, fall, rise
- Man in a hole – fall, rise
- Engage Your Audience – Ask questions, take a poll; these are some common ways a virtual presenter can interact and engage with your audience. Treat your attendees as collaborators. You want to entertain them and keep their attention, so they don’t minimize the screen and go to something else. Use social tools like chat and discussion with them so they can be valuable contributors to the discussion. However, equally as important to this, is knowing when to interact with your audience: use interactivity and engagement only when it adds value to the audience.
- Plan for your presentation – Nothing is worse than having to download new updates for your software right as you’re about to present. Planning for your presentation calls for testing your technology ahead of your virtual event. Additionally, you want to ensure that you do not distract yourself or your audience during the presentation. Remove rustling papers, email pop-ups, and your mobile devices; log into the event at least 20 minutes early; and have a moderator field incoming questions from attendees.
Virtual events can provide useful data insights that help you nurture leads. They also have the flexibility to stay live for 30-90 days, or even all year round. While the big draw to in-person events has been the networking opportunities, in times like now, when handshakes are being discouraged, virtual events can also bring an experience that can be just as effective.
“As in-person events and conferences are canceled, it’s time to consider alternatives. Rather than being challenged by the social distancing barriers that physical events present, this is an opportune time to effectively learn, develop business and network online,” said Paul Kohler, Principal Consultant, Silicon Valley Technology Alliances LLC. “Silicon Valley Technology Alliances, together with Expert Marketing Advisors, has delivered superior results by executing some of the most successful virtual events and summits with our partner community.”
As you pivot from physical to virtual events, BrightTALK offers best practices and solutions to marketers to assist in blending the online and offline experience into an engaging virtual session that brings global audiences together and fills your funnel.
If your organization is looking to make an impact with virtual events, Expert Marketing Advisors can help. We have years of experience putting on effective events for startups through enterprises that can help raise the bar on the ROI of your marketing spend. From gathering sponsorships to content development and event management, our best practices event playbook can help deliver a top-notch customer experience.