8 minutes read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur Contributors are their own.
While personal events were largely non-existent over the past year, the world is opening up again and eagerly looking for ways to reconnect personally.
While people are most excited about this personal aspect of the future after a year of lockdown, there's an even bigger opportunity that goes unnoticed by most entrepreneurs: leveraging virtual and hybrid events to increase awareness, brand loyalty, and sales . Personally, I see that virtual and hybrid events play a role that combines the benefits of digital courses, video marketing and communities in one powerful marketing channel.
To do this, however, you must first understand how the industry has changed recently, how these changes create opportunities, and how you can use those opportunities to your advantage.
The pandemic changed events
When the pandemic broke out, the events industry was turned on its head. Both health concerns and legal restrictions made hosting an event of any size virtually impossible.
Companies that used events as a marketing channel tried to replace the leads and revenue that had suddenly evaporated, while companies that served the events industry and whose business models were based on their own events were hit even harder. The entire industry was faced with a $ 30 billion loss that completely decimated countless companies.
But adversity creates opportunities.
Recognizing these challenges, Spencer Elliott and Patrick VanDusen got their event streaming software company, ViewStub, into gear to help others thrive through this unexpected crisis.
“We always knew that a virtual component would be built into most events once the organizers realized how much revenue they were losing by not offering the option. The silver lining from the pandemic is that entrepreneurs have learned that by offering a virtual component to their events through a single platform, they can serve more of their target customers and make more money, ”Elliott explains.
While the bans have been lifted and we have mostly returned to normal life, the events industry has changed permanently.
Related: The future of events is bright and big
Adaptation to today's event industry
Events is a $ 77 billion industry, and it's set to grow – especially now that people are realizing that virtual events are more than just a hyped webinar.
The collaboration between Home Depot and country musician Brad Paisley is a perfect example. At the height of the lockdown, Home Depot granted exclusive access to a Brad Paisley concert for customers who purchased gift cards worth $ 50 or more. The event, which ran on ViewStub's platform, was a huge success on all fronts, resulting in more than 110,000 gift cards sold and over $ 6 million in revenue.
"What I found most exciting about this special event was that it was about creating an unforgettable experience," says Patrick VanDusen, co-founder of ViewStub. "By focusing on Home Depot, Home Depot not only achieved a tremendous return on investment, but it also built brand loyalty, which will add to all of their marketing efforts."
The data shows that while people want to attend, they can't always get to an in-person event due to travel restrictions, prior commitments, costs, and myriad other reasons. One of the biggest lessons both business owners and event planners have learned from this is that being able to host a virtual or hybrid event leads to more visitors and more revenue. Therefore, giving attendees this opportunity is not only a wise business decision, but an essential option today too. And with this virtual component, events can become both a viable source of income and a powerful marketing channel that gives you an edge over your competitors.
How to host an event that drives awareness, brand loyalty, and sales
Offer an option for virtual participation
The most important thing you can do is make sure you have a virtual component for all the events you host. There is simply no excuse not to do this as the majority of the industrialized world has broadband internet and the technology required for virtual participation is so simple and inexpensive today. We have already talked about the fact that being able to participate virtually increases participation and therefore increases sales.
Have a plan for promotion within your event
Whether your event is to promote your business or the event itself is your business, you need a plan to promote everything you sell. I want to emphasize the importance of planning this in advance as it almost always leads to it coming across as shoddy and overly promotional to your attendees. The key is to advertise when it's relevant, followed by a smooth and logical transition, and followed by a strong call to action.
In addition, it is important that participants can buy your products and services online immediately or schedule a consultation. You want them to take action when their emotions are at their peak. If they wait until after the event, they are less likely to see them through.
Offer tremendous value to your content
If you don't add massive value from start to finish, virtual attendees will tune out or leave because they're at home with every possible distraction on hand. The key is to provide useful content that is presented in an engaging manner and with high production quality.
The content part is relatively simple. You share knowledge that you are an expert on. All you need to do is break it down so that it is informative, easy to understand, and fun.
After a year of Zoom Meetings, we all know that no one wants to stare endlessly into a speaker's face or slide deck. To get people's attention, you need to make sure your presentations are engaging and that you can switch between multiple cameras and the slide deck. This requires a lot of equipment, knowledge and experience. I therefore recommend working with a professional AV team to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Make attendees' engagement an integral part of your event
Giving attendees a chance to engage in order to get their attention is important, and it also helps build a sense of community and create greater loyalty to your brand. According to David Phelps of the Freedom Founders investment community, this is essential not only to the success of your event, but also to the success of your attendees.
"Engagement helps people process and retain the information they learned at your event, which gives them more value," explains Phelps. "So after a presentation it's important to organize smaller, structured breakout sessions. When participants talk to each other about the content, it becomes more personal and relevant to them. You need to remember that they are trying to gather a tremendous amount of new information." and this will help them implement your advice to achieve their goals. "
It is particularly important to include the virtual participants, otherwise they will feel left out. Ideally, there should be both a video and a text component here, and you should have someone on your team to act as a liaison between the personal and virtual attendees.
Make sure your technology supports the event
While most businesses have broadband today, most plans will not have enough upload speed to keep the video stream going. Your upload speed should be at least 100 Mbit / s. This is four to five times faster than most basic internet tariffs.
It's also a good idea to run some test runs ahead of your event to make sure your hardware, software, and internet connection are working properly and meeting your needs.
Related: Why Virtual Conferences Can Be Here To Stay
Virtual events can be your new secret marketing weapon
There's no denying that putting a virtual event together can be a lot of work, but it's well worth it because if you have the right tools and knowledge, your event can become a powerful tool.
We're just beginning to use virtual events as a marketing channel, and that's why you need to start now. As we've seen with literally every other new channel, early adopters will always have the greatest advantages.