How to Host a Virtual Event Everyone Will be Talking About


Marketing Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Marketing pros

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Virtual events have become a key focus for many marketers in 2020, so what opportunities are open to you in this space, and how can you boost the chances of your event being a success?

Article 5 Minutes
How to Host a Virtual Event Everyone Will be Talking About

Events are great opportunities to take some big steps towards achieving the most important goals in your marketing strategy, including:

  • Delivering a steady supply of new leads
  • Raising brand awareness
  • Establishing new customer relationships
  • Generating revenue

The unique situation created by COVID-19 means that, in 2020, virtual events have become the go-to option for businesses looking to get results from this form of marketing.

Research has shown:

  • Almost all event professionals (93%) plan to invest in virtual events in the future
  • Most organizations (63%) are moving to digital conferences or events in 2020
  • Six out of ten firms (60%) shifted an event from in-person to virtual because of COVID-19

This is clearly an area all marketers should be paying attention to. So what do you need to know about virtual events, and how can you make yours a success?

4 types of virtual events

One of the biggest benefits of the digital environment is that it gives you the flexibility to experiment with various event types. Here are some formats worth considering:

1. Webinars

Hosting a webinar is an effective way to engage your audience and give them a concentrated burst of educational, informative content that demonstrates your knowledge and your ability to meet their needs. If you're presenting live, you can include a Q&A section that gives you the chance to engage with attendees one-on-one and learn more about your customers' current top-of-mind issues. You can charge for access to generate some extra revenue, or offer the webinar for free to deliver even more value for your audience.

2. Virtual conferences

These events generally mimic the structure of in-person conferences by following an agenda featuring activities like keynote speeches, seminars and breakout sessions. While they might lack some of the buzz and sense of community provided by in-person events, virtual conferences do have benefits like global accessibility. Anyone can attend, regardless of where they are in the world.

3. Live interviews

If you're keen to show off the skills and knowledge of some of the industry thought leaders in your organization, livestreaming an interview online is an excellent way to do it. You can provide real value to your audience by exploring the subjects that are most relevant or interesting to them, while demonstrating the expertise in your organization at the same time.

4. Internal events

Virtual events don't always have to be external, customer-facing affairs. They can be just as useful for internal activities, such as introducing a new product or service to your workforce or delivering training.

Virtual event examples from 2020

Given the unique circumstances businesses are negotiating in 2020, many organizations that had planned to host in-person events are turning to virtual alternatives.

In May, Social Media Week showed how it's possible to be in this space when it went virtual with #SMWONE. This four-week virtual conference program attracted more than 10,000 attendees with its 270 speakers and more than 170 hours of livestreamed sessions.

The Digital Summit at Home events in May and July provided virtual visitors with a range of learning and networking opportunities across a two-day, fully interactive agenda. Highlights included talks by figures from businesses like Amazon, CNN and Cisco.

Later in the year, the Sales Growth Virtual Summit (November 5th-6th) will aim to provide some quick wins for attendees with 20-minute 'straight-to-the-point' sessions covering best practices in sales systems and processes.

Virtual event success factors

If you're thinking about hosting a virtual event of your own, it's worth taking the time to plan how it will run, what you want to gain from it and how you can maximize your chances of success.

Here are some key factors to consider:

The right sort of event for you

You'll want to choose an event format that makes sense for your business and what you're hoping to achieve. If you're trying this for the first time, it might be worth starting small with something like a webinar or a livestreamed workshop. If it all goes smoothly and you see some good results, you can start to think bigger for your next event.

Make it accessible

The more people you have attending your virtual event, the better your outcomes are likely to be. Therefore, it's important to make the entire affair as accessible as possible. You can do this by using a proven, easily accessible platform to host the event and by leveraging every available communication channel to publicize it and tell people how they can attend.

Take the time to create high-quality content

Virtual events live and die on the quality of the content they provide to their attendees, so it's essential to dedicate sufficient time and investment to researching, planning and producing the content that will be the focus of your event. It could prove beneficial to engage with your customers in advance to find out what they really want to hear and learn about.

Focus on engagement and interaction

Just as important as the content presented at your event is the effort you put in to make it as interactive and engaging as possible. Make sure attendees know that you see them not as passive observers, but active participants in your event. Simple actions like welcoming people by name when they log in to a webinar, inviting attendees to take part in polls or quizzes, asking for questions and encouraging live-tweeting can all have a positive impact on engagement.

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