Let’s keep it real...it’s been a long couple of months. The event industry is, to put it simply, different. Unknown challenges continue to appear, COVID-19 cases ebb and flow throughout the United States, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel that we all keep reaching for. But, miraculously, the event industry is as resilient as it ever was. Every week a different virtual event solution appears, the next best thing is shouted from the rooftop, and technology companies scramble to be the “best of the best” in event technology.
The amazing thing about all of this is how our event attendees have responded to the pandemic. The initial push back of virtual events has come and gone, leaving us with an audience that has settled into their new “at home” routine and are experiencing new and engaging ways to attend events.
As event planners, we should be thrilled. This opens up an entirely new and accessible way to plan our future 'wow factor' events. However, there are some changes that come along with the ride that cannot be ignored. Arguably, one of the biggest changes, is creative content.
You may be thinking, “I already know content at live events needs to be creative. So what?” The fact of the matter is, virtual events take a special kind of content to keep your audience engaged. Understandably, there are a lot of distractions that come from working at home.
Check out how to kick butt at working from home here.
To keep distractions at a minimum and attendees engaged and excited, you have to come up with a content strategy that works. Of course, we are here with some ideas to help you make creative virtual events that will keep your audience involved.
Tips and Tricks for Unique Virtual Events
From the get go, an important thing to know about creative virtual events is that they tend to have much higher attendance rates. Meaning, if you plan on inviting 100,000 people to show up at your event, you can expect most of them to actually be there in some shape or form. In fact, MeetingPlay has seen a 600% increase in their virtual event registrations versus live events. This data shows people are interested and ready to learn about what you have to say. It means a lot that people are ready to sit through an oftentimes multiple-day event from their home and not in some exciting conference center with free perks and food. Once you find a very captive audience, you need to know how to keep them interested.
Pre-Event Content & Marketing
Content creation not only covers your during-event hours, it happens before, during, and after your event. You don’t need to be a marketing wizard to key up excitement before your virtual event begins, but you do need to follow these rules of thumb:
This is the fun part. You have planned your event, you have a spectrum of amazing and impressive speakers and sessions, and your virtual platform looks beautiful. Now, you just need to tell everyone else.
Pro tip: Use this time to be bold and fun. No one likes canned, robotic content, so excite your attendees with the voice and tone you will be emulating throughout the event. It will make everything feel more life-like in the process.
If you have a marketing team, this is where they really shine. If you don’t, you just need to get a little creative. Email marketing, social posts, mailers, and more are your best friends to get the word out and excite your guest list about your event. Use these tools as a way to detail out what, when, where your event is and all of the juicy details.
We suggest using consistent branding and messaging throughout all pre-event marketing efforts to promote event recognition and to create a polished theme.
Next up, is to inform your attendees of any moving parts of your creative virtual event. Using the same platforms as before - email, social, etc.- update your audience on all of the aspects of the event, like registration details, best practices for the virtual platform, and FAQs.
Your guests will be expecting more information about your virtual event. Why? It’s something completely new to them. You will need to already be able to answer questions like: “Where do I register?”, “How do I navigate the virtual platform?”, “What are my login credentials?”, “Does this event work in my time zone?”.
Pro tip: The best way to combat these types of questions:
- Generate some FAQs for your event and release them to your attendee list.
- Have someone prepared to answer questions in real time on social and email channels.
- Host a landing page for your event that includes answers to these questions or a number to call for support.
Another fun aspect of your event is using announcements to generate buzz and excitement around your event.
Are you launching a new product? Is there a secret speaker on board that everyone will be thrilled to watch? Is there a huge giveaway to enter to win? Use pre-event content marketing to get your audience ready to attend your event. Not only will this encourage them to access and build their agenda, but it will keep them present throughout your event, as well.
Pro tip: Never reveal any surprises or winners before your event. Use this time to get people antsy to attend those sessions and you will be thrilled with how big your turnout is.
If you have heavy sessions in the morning of your event, plan for a big announcement or surprise during the afternoon to give your attendees something to look forward to. If your event is multi-day, reveal a new product mid-event to keep people wanting more. In addition, most virtual platforms offer in-platform countdowns and push notifications that your attendees can opt-in for.
Your unique virtual event is coming up and you have been a rock star at generating excitement, informing your attendees of new information, and announcing big reveals. Now, you just need to remind your attendees of all of the important “need to know” items before your event kicks off.
Email marketing and social posts can be excellent tools to reiterate dates and times of your event, registration details, and sneak peeks at your agenda. If you see an influx of last-minute questions coming in from attendees, be armed with live support to answer questions and direct traffic.
Pro-tip: Always have someone on your team prepared to answer questions via email, on chat, or on social channels. Having good customer service for a virtual event is vital in event success.
During-Event Content Creation
Of course, you have followed all of the steps of pre-event content and marketing and now you are suited up with an audience that is hungry for your live event to start. Now, you are in the driver’s seat and are responsible for keeping this same energy throughout your virtual event. Seems like a lot to take on, right? Nope, you have this covered.
In fact, a lot of the leg work is already done for you. If you have announced your event properly, your audience will already be anticipating most aspects of your virtual event. Most large-scale, virtual events will have a customizable agenda that will be tailor-made for each attendee. In fact, MeetingPlay’s AI-matching algorithm not only matches you with like-minded attendees, but also matches you with content and sponsors that align with your needs and what you want to learn. Pretty neat, right?
So, find a really good event platform that works and encourages engagement and content accessibility. Otherwise, all of your hard work could fall short because attendees simply don’t know how/can’t access it.
Here are some of our creative ways to keep attendee attention throughout your event:
1. Surprise, surprise!
You’re never too old to love a good surprise!
Surprises are a very smart way to pull attention to different areas of your event and keep engagement up. Imagine this: you are putting on a 3-day virtual event, with each day being around 8 hours long. That is a lot of content to go through, especially for an attendee. If you start to notice in your agenda planning that your event is too heavy on sessions, break them up with “surprises” where you can anticipate the most brain fatigue from attendees.
Surprises can include:
- Famous or well-known speakers
- Large giveaways
- Music or entertainment
A successfully creative virtual event involves strategically sprinkling surprises throughout your event to give attendees something to look forward to, and frankly, give their brain a little bit of a breather.
2. Big Announcements
Similar to surprises, big announcements can key up a ton of excitement with your attendees. These can be used as sessions, as keynotes, or anything in between when it comes to your unique virtual event's agenda. We have seen a lot of success with announcements when it has to do with:
- New people in leadership
- Company acquisition
- Unveiling a new product
- Announcing a large company shift
As expected, most of those listed are highly-anticipated pieces of information. Use that to your advantage when planning your agenda and do so strategically to key up the most excitement and engagement when you want it.
3. Trivia and Q&A
It’s that simple! Your attendees can only take so much of the same presentation formats before they start to tune everything out and get bored. Encourage your presenters to incorporate pieces of trivia and Q&A sessions during their presentations to get more from your virtual audience and provide a much needed “brain break”.
Not only will this be a happy alternative to your audience, but it’s also a blessing in disguise for your presenters. Allowing attendees to interact with your presenters opens up new lines of communication and thought, and can promote greater learning and overall engagement.
Post-Event Content Creation
Your event has concluded and you may want to kick those shoes off and take a load off…but you’re not done quite yet.
Assuming you wowed your audience with every aspect of your event, you want to end it with a bang. Use this high to send out the content from your unique virtual event that will be useful to your attendees. In addition, take their excitement and gather it for future event planning through a survey.
Check out 17 questions to ask in your virtual post-event survey, here.
Try using the following tactics to continue educating and exciting your attendees:
Recorded Content Gallery
The beauty about a virtual event is that everything can be recorded and stored to view later. A lot of times, you can use pre-recorded content within your event and store it in a live library for attendees to access at their leisure. Making this content available after the event has concluded is great for attendees to continue learning, share with their peers, and use as a resource down the road.
Of course, your event was super exciting and had tons of amazing highlights. Why not share them with attendees afterwards? We encourage sharing these warm and fuzzy moments to keep people engaged with your content and brand, and even generating excitement for the next event. Share creative event pictures or screenshots, social posts, major announcements, and more through email and social channels for all of your attendees to see.
Sometimes when attendees leave your event, they are going to want to share with their internal team members what happened at your event and what they learned. Why not make it easy for them by releasing an event recap with recorded sessions, links to session chats or Q&A sessions, big announcements, and more all through email or social channels. That way, your attendees don’t forget all of the nitty gritty parts of your events that make it so special.
Last, but certainly not least, is the event survey. Post-event surveys have always been a reliable source of information for event planners to learn about the success of their event, where improvements can be made, and suggestions attendees may have for the future. Send one out to your event attendees to gauge just how successful your event was and what you could do better next time.
Even though we are in unprecedented times, it does not mean that events have to go away. If anything, this new challenge has brought the event industry closer together, created innovative technology, and has taught us how to be quick on our feet with how we present our content. Try something new and stand out from the crowd with MeetingPlay's creative virtual event platform.
Get the 'wow factor' with you events by keeping your content interesting, fun, and engaging. Virtual events are here to stay and your attendees are going to be chomping at the bit to meet new people, learn new things, and enjoy this new phase of technology.
It’s time to celebrate our accomplishments as an industry, pat ourselves on the back, and keep trekking and making amazing new events.