‘Tis the season for new year’s resolutions. We’re all thinking about how we can do better in 2022, and if you’re a vendor planning to host events in the coming year, 3Sixty Insights has some advice to share.
We’ve seen many vendors going all-in on events in the COVID era. Some have been great; others, not so much. Below are our takeaways from the past few years.
First, let’s agree that event hosts should always offer virtual options. Even as we prepare for more in-person events, we must continue to provide virtual accessibility. If COVID has proven one thing, it’s that we are all living with uncertainty: about the future, about the right decisions, and about our own and others’ comfort levels. At this point, what we really know is that there is no way to know when in-person events will truly get a unanimous all-clear seal of approval. This alone should be reason enough to ensure that virtual remains an option for the foreseeable future, but there’s more to it than that. Even before the pandemic, we had observed increasing pressure on organizations to keep traveling costs down, hindering individuals’ ability to attend events. Finally, we’ve noticed an uptick in events as of late: At any given time, your target audience may very well be fielding invitations to multiple competing, concurrent events. Flexible attendance options could make or break your event. The more possibilities you offer, the easier you make it for your guests to say yes to you. Don’t limit your event’s attendees by cutting out virtual options, particularly after you’ve spent the past 18 months learning to support them.
There are plenty of upsides to the virtual event options we’ve all been forced to adapt to in recent years. Below are some tips to help you and your attendees make the most of your hard work.
- Choose your platform wisely – Not all event hosting platforms are created equal. Here are a few items you should be reviewing:
- Quality of service guarantees – Understand QoS guarantees! We’ve lost count of how many events we’ve attended that have had technical issues. Ensure that the platform you choose has a very high quality of service. Though attendees will likely be understanding of technical difficulties (the defining phrase of 2021), they will also likely believe any issues to be the fault of poor planning on your part, not your platform’s. Your reputation is at stake.
- Number of simultaneous events your providers host – We all know how great it feels to be treated like the only customer. It’s important to understand how dedicated your service provider will be when supporting your event. Never assume that you’re their top priority; ask.
- Browser compatibility – Though this should be a given these days, there are unfortunately still platforms out there that do not play nice with certain browsers. Ensure that the vendor you choose supports all browsers, without exception. Remember, remote must remain an option, and the fewer technical difficulties your guests experience, the more your company will stand out from the crowd.
- Chat tools – Particularly in a remote world where we’re all feeling the effects of limited interactions, the chat functionality can be exceptionally impactful for virtual events. However, it’s critical to confirm that the functionality is there. The last thing you want is to have your speakers encouraging participants to interact with a chat function that’s not working, or to disappoint participants with chat histories that are immediately deleted following events. Make sure the support is there for connections and conversations to flourish.
- Pre-record your presentations – Technical difficulties can and will happen at the worst of times. To minimize disruptions, pre-record all presentations without exception.
- Train your speakers – Speakers’ presentations have a critical influence on your audience’s perception, not only of their sessions, but also of the event as a whole. A presenter who speaks in a monotone voice or is difficult to understand will lose audience members’ attention, whereas an energetic and engaging speaker will ensure your event remains in your guests’ memories.
- Monitor each session – It’s critical for quality of service that a representative of your event be present for each session. Don’t rely on attendees to sound the alarm if technical difficulties arise—they’re more likely to simply wander off and not return.
- Avoid noon start and run times – With the majority of the workforce shifting to remote or hybrid work, we’ve seen an unfortunate blurring of lines between work and personal time. Noon start times steal your guests’ personal time and risk losing them to lunch commitments. Give your attendees some breaks!
- Avoid overlap – Be aware of what your competitors and others in your space are doing. Don’t make your clients choose—even if your event truly has more value to offer attendees, you may not get the chance to prove it.
- Be sure to market activities – Don’t make the mistake of failing to market the sessions, sponsors, and other activities on offer during your event. Many organizations limit communication to the event kickoff and perhaps a wrap-up. A few simple marketing steps can help your attendees maximize their experience and ensure your event is memorable for them:
- Actively announce session starts via email and social media
- Share highlights of event activities via social media
- Actively promote event sponsors
- Educate your sponsors and speakers so they are able to help promote the event and present a unified front as it happens
- Don’t forget your sponsors – The number one complaint we hear from vendors participating in virtual events is that they didn’t get value out of their sponsorships. It’s easy to see why they might feel this way: Although sponsorships are critical in that they foot the bill for the event and sometimes even bring in profits, sponsors are often not very visible.
- Boost visibility – Traditionally, sponsor visibility is restricted to virtual booths. Ensure you are finding other ways to highlight your sponsors and encouraging attendees to visit sponsors’ booths throughout the platform.
- Include them in speaking sessions – Whether with a mention in the introduction, a closing slide logo, or a callout in the chat, referring to your sponsors in speaking sessions can go a long way.
- Educate sponsors – Give your sponsors the opportunity to control their own destiny. Most spend time manning their virtual booths, hoping for attendees to make their way over. That’s a failing strategy. Instead, they need to be more proactive.
- Encourage sponsors to attend sessions and use the chats to share relevant information during sessions.
- Provide them with the tools they need to promote the event and their involvement on social media.
- Educate them around the platform and the tools they can use to proactively connect with other participants.
- Coach them on effective outreach. You know your audience best; with your help, your sponsors can find the right balance to avoid having their communications dismissed as sales pitches. If your sponsor is being heard and your audience is getting value from hearing them, it’s a win-win.
- After the event
Don’t let the action stop after the event—maintain the momentum! Make a plan in advance so that you can continue to promote the event, the sessions, and the sponsors in the weeks and months to follow. This is one of the biggest failures we’ve observed: Companies pour months of preparation and untold dollars of budget into these events, only to follow them up with a single measly post-event email inviting attendees to check out OnDemand content. To get the most out of your content:
- Break content into smaller micro pieces
- Actively promote individual sessions and sponsors after the event via social media and email
- Encourage sponsors to promote their sessions and activity even after the event has concluded
The whole reason you’re hosting events is to get your company out there. It’s an investment. By acting on the advice above, you can maximize your ROI and make sure that the impressions you make from this investment are all positive.
3Sixty Insights has been recognized as one of Top Boston Market Research Companies by DesignRush