It's me Shine, Marketing, Communications and Technology professional at a not-for-profit organization in Canada. Over the past decade, I’ve been lucky enough to work in diverse fields including technology, startup, not-for-profit, media and consulting. It has helped me accumulate a range of B2B marketing competencies from strategy and research to social and digital communications. I have even branched into brand management, channel, product and membership marketing to round out my skill set.
With all this diverse experience, I thought I had mastered all things digital. The past 18 months decided otherwise. Suddenly, I had to understand what made virtual events worth attending and how to create ones that didn’t suck. If I was going to deliver enjoyable virtual experiences, I needed to adjust my thought process.
Understanding the Challenge
If I had day 1 of the Zoomified world back, I would tell myself to manage my screen time because tech-based interactions are exhausting. I would be less flippant with my laptop time and only attend events that I could trust would deliver. I’m not the only one. The 2021 cliches are “Zoomed Out” and “Screen or Video-chat Fatigue”. Many of us are suffering burnout and overloaded with screen time. It even begun to ruin Friends re-runs as my escape.
So, from an organizer’s standpoint, how did I learn to meet the need without contributing to the fatigue?
Packing Out the Virtual Room
First off, don’t approach 2021 with 2020 thinking. Last year everyone was in a rush to connect virtually. We had too much time on our hands and needed to talk to other people, so we dove into digital. Now people are over the novelty and more selective so less is more.
This past year, I learned how to engage our audience more effectively by planning backwards. Understand why people would come to your event. In my experience, attendance is driven either through brand goodwill, previous experiences, speaker profiles, or how promising or valuable the content appears. They are coming because they trust you to provide something impressive and valuable that is better than a Friends re-run.
To ensure we deliver top quality events that generate enough momentum to fill the next webinar, we follow a 3-tiered approach.
1. Bring the Audience
If you’re going to put on an event, you should know who you expect to attend. Treat it like your responsibility to get to know them because it is. The more in tune with your audience you are, the more likely you are to give them content that they are interested in.
- The Audience
Who is going to attend your event? What age are they and what are they looking for? How many people can attend? Develop a target attendee and learn where they hang out digitally. What events interest them and what is important to them?
- The Topic
What is the topic of discussion and who are the speakers? What will hook your customers in? What questions do your audience want answered? Find a topic that is specific, current and interesting. Focus on a niche that resonates with your community. Who are the voices that people read? Who are the respected authorities in the field? Your audience want to hear people that impress and challenge them to think differently.
- The Delivery
What technologies do your audience use? Is Zoom the answer? Where do your attendees usually go for their events? This is no different to live events. You wouldn’t take a cricket team to the US so don’t take a baby boomer event to TikTok. Know what platform gives you the best chance of a solid attendance.
2. Keep the Audience
From content, script, technology, registration process, promotions to after-event activities; plan everything. People are not as patient anymore. They expect a smooth delivery.
Don’t forget, audiences have attended dozens of virtual events. Give them something unique.
- Sort out the logistics.
Start by planning the layout with your speakers. Ensure that they know how to use the technology and are prepared to deliver. Have a specific event duration and stick to it. Keep it short enough so that it doesn’t lose steam. Develop the topic list and important questions that people want answered.
- Keep people engaged.
Don’t spend the whole time on house-keeping points. Get them done quickly. Introduce the speakers at the beginning and highlight why they are relevant. Audiences want to feel like they are listening to important people. Throughout the experience, integrate engagement through polls, competitions and audience questions. Break up any potential monotony. Dynamic interactions and often conflicting opinions that can be debated will really help to intrigue the audience.
3. Retain the audience
There is nothing like a successful event to build momentum for the next one. If you have knocked it out of the park, people will remember it and your company will go on the selective list.
Make sure people know who is hosting the event. Develop a video background if possible. Bedroom backgrounds are boring, so your branding is extra effective. Mention sponsors tastefully and in the logistics at the beginning and end, tell your audience who you are and where they can find more content like this. If it is part of a series, tell them when you will have your next webinar and where to find other editions.
At the end of the event, give people an action item and/or takeaway. Give them a reason to remember you and embed your branding.
Conduct a feedback survey the following day. Once you get enough respondents, analyze and act. Tell your audience: ‘We hear you. For our next event, you want X-topic discussed so we are talking to Mrs. Expert to come onboard’. Stoke the conversation but don’t spam.
This is what I have learned over the past year and decade for that matter. Leveraging my experience has made the journey interesting and I hope I can keep learning. I hope this can help others too. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities that technology presents us with. For me, it lets me talk to my mum on the other side of the world so thank you.
Planning is key. Plan.
Till next time,