How to engage your communities with virtual events

Thu Jul 09 2020
Sarah Hill

About the author
Sarah Hill is a content writer at Seven Events Ltd – venue finder in Birmingham offering event production, venue finding and team building services in the UK. She started her career in the events industry almost a decade ago as time progressed she became an avid event blogger sharing her insight on corporate event planning.

With the vast majority of the world staying at home, the events world has nearly come to a complete stop. Most events are now cancelled or postponed, leaving conference organisers and other event planners scrambling to engage their audiences and stay afloat.

Unfortunately, when the quarantine restrictions will be completely lifted is unclear and public events will be on halt until the pandemic is fully under control.

However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any options for those that want to stay in touch with their audiences and continue to provide value.

Today’s technology provides numerous opportunities for engaging communities online using a range of platforms, which can help you not only maintain their attention but actually increase your online presence in the process.

But where should you get started with hosting online events? And how can businesses use this technology to their advantage?

Let’s dig deep into the subject of virtual events and answer all of the main questions.

Leverage technological advantages

When trying to develop events in the post-COVID-19 world, many conference organisers are quick to become discouraged because of the limited opportunities to host live events.

Others believe that even if they could put together a virtual event, it wouldn’t be nearly as engaging or effective as an event hosted at a physical venue where people can attend in person.

However, just because virtual events are different doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve every single goal that you set out for your events.

It may seem like virtual events don’t have the same networking and product placement opportunities, but the truth is that with the available digital tools, you can achieve even better results than with live events if you are willing to get creative.

  • You can use interactive video conferencing tools that allow the audience to ask the presenter questions, as well as provide their own feedback and insights as the talk progresses.
  • You can even have a discussion panel that communicates through video conferences, with an almost unlimited number of listeners that can observe.
  • While networking in person might not be available, you can put together a social media group or a forum dedicated to the event, where people can exchange information, connect with people in their industry, and talk in private when they find someone that they could partner up with.

These newfound online communities can even take a life of their own and continue interacting well after the event is over. If you plan on organising annual or semi-annual events, having an online community can be very beneficial when filling out seats in the future.

The bottom line is that even though virtual events have their limitations, they also offer numerous unique advantages, so if you just adapt to the new environment for your event and leverage the opportunities that it provides, you can provide an excellent experience to your attendees.

Expand your marketing efforts

When it comes to hosting live events, one of the biggest limitations is the geography of your audience. Attracting people from the other side of the globe is a challenge because the sheer distance they would have to cover would make the trip impractical, even if they could otherwise gain a lot by attending.

However, these limitations no longer apply when organising events online.

People from Australia, New Zealand, or even the most remote islands can simply tune in on their computer, and the only inconvenience might be the time difference, which is much less bothersome than actually having to travel the distance.

Because of this unique advantage offered by virtual events, a savvy corporate event organiser should consider expanding their marketing efforts to parts of the world that they previously considered not very viable.

In many instances, you may find that the unique set of speakers, products, or topics that your event offers could make for an appealing proposition to people in parts of the world where such events are less common.

By broadening the scope of your marketing campaigns, you can significantly increase the number of potential attendees, opening up more opportunities for growing revenues, reaching your goals, and setting up your brand for success in the future.

Rethink sponsorship opportunities

Sponsorship is an integral part of putting together many events, and understandably, the way that companies run promotions is going to be significantly affected by the shift from in-person to virtual events.

However, just because it will be different, doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to make it happen and provide value for your sponsors. In fact, virtual events pose unique advantages offered by online advertising and marketers can potentially reap even bigger benefits than before.

Sure, you can’t offer some of the options you had previously, but you could substitute them for things like ad space on your platform, product and brand placement during video streaming, or even promotional content opportunities that could help brands make themselves more visible while simultaneously educating the attendees on important subjects.

Focus on your event goals

If you feel like you’re getting overwhelmed by the shift from in-person to virtual events, try to break down your event into its most fundamental principles.

  • Instead of thinking about the logistics or the technology that will be required, look at your event in terms of its primary goals, which it would need to achieve regardless of what format is used.
  • Once you identify the ways that your event provides the most value to the guests, you will get a much better idea on what you need to focus on and what may not be as important.
  • If you’re a corporate event organiser and need to put together a conference, the main draws are probably going to be the information that is presented and the networking opportunities that come from meeting people operating in the same industry.

So, when transferring your event into a virtual platform, simply look at the available options for providing these things for your guests, and you’ll have a much easier time not only putting the event together but also selling the concept of the virtual event to the prospective attendees.