Melody Easton has nearly two decades of experience in marketing software and services to the legal industry. During her time as DocsCorp Marketing Director, she has managed countless in-person networking events, global Sales conferences, and industry expos. She also spearheads our efforts at major software conferences like ILTACON and iManage ConnectLive.
In the last few months, events moved online, and marketing professionals clocked up more hours on Zoom than ever before. And, since many events may remain virtual after travel restrictions and social distancing measures have lifted, knowing how to execute a successful virtual event will be essential. So, we asked Melody to share what she learned.
By Melody Easton, Marketing Director (EMEA)
First and foremost, the virtual event platform is everything. It does make a difference for the sponsors that are paying to be there to engage with attendees. The more fun and interactive the platform is, the more engaged the attendees will be. It really is that simple.
For virtual event organizers:
Give vendors a stand they can individualize with graphics and cater to suit the event audience. Vendors will appreciate having a stand design that matches their brand's look and feel - just like they would do for a live event. A customized virtual stand helps each vendor stand out and makes it easier to explain what they offer to attendees – much more so than a single logo. And, since not all events target the same audience, tailoring the stand messaging is crucial.
Don't charge the sponsors as much as you would for a live event. Virtual events are a different beast. It's much more challenging to find the same amount of networking and relationship-building moments, and therefore a lot harder for them to justify the cost.
For virtual event sponsors/exhibitors:
My top tip? Don't just sit inside your virtual stand and expect everyone to come to you. It just doesn't happen like that at virtual events. So, here are some ideas to get the best out of a virtual event.
- Send emails to the delegate/attendee list (if you get one), letting them know what's going on at your stand, where to find it, and when to visit. Drive them there with the incentive of a prize or, if the organizer permits, self-hosted product demos, and watercooler chats.
- If you can afford to, sponsor a speaking session or apply to speak on a panel. This ensures you get in front of the delegates. Of the event attendees I've talked to at virtual events like ILTA>ON, not many made a concerted effort to visit the vendor space/virtual exhibit hall. No one wants to be 'sold' to. And they know, when they visit a vendor stand - that's more than likely what's going to happen.
- Accept that your virtual booth's foot traffic won't be the same as at a live event. At a live event, attendees go up to the stand, and they can talk to someone. At a virtual event, they can watch videos and download content. They get the information they need without having to speak to anyone! So, get the metrics of who visited your stand from the event organizer. Follow up with those people who did visit and let them know that you are available when they are ready to actively engage with you.
- Attend sessions – even if you aren't involved – and participate in the chat forums (especially if your organization has a relevant solution).
- Make the most of the networking opportunities that are scheduled and chat with people. Don't be shy!
Pivoting to virtual events has been a challenge for lots of organizations – including mine. Like many others, we are working hard to ensure the pool of potential new customers that trickle in from events doesn't dry up.
The last few virtual events we have attended have been a learning curve. And the strategy most organizers adopted to promote a virtual exhibit hall and drive people to virtual stands didn't work (in my humble opinion).
Most event goers are working from home and balancing a million other things when they dial-in. They need the event's break time to grab a coffee or catch up on work. So, vendors: you need to give them a reason to come to your stand. And remember, don't just wait for them to come to you. Go out and join in the action, so you make sure you're seen and heard by as many people as possible.