Your company’s event? Cancelled. That three-day conference in Vegas? Cancelled. Any sort of physical social activity whatsoever? Cancelled. Still, the show must go on, even if we can’t really leave the house. So that means most marketers still have to find a way to do their jobs. What can they expect from virtual events in the marketing landscape over the next few months?
Work don’t stop
Things are changing, yes, but for most, marketing is still marketing. And events are still events, even if they happen on the computer instead of a convention center. “I think the boxes we check for an in-person experience will be somewhat different when we do virtual experiences, but not dramatically so,” says Jeff Bardin, vice president and experiential account director at creative agency Giant Spoon. “You still need to create a user journey online. It’s just a different kind of immersion.”
So in a way, the essence of a virtual event is no different than that of an in-person event—it’s an occasion to network, exchange ideas, and celebrate a specific community. Though the attendee will experience a virtual event differently, they’ll gather the same insights and come out with the same takeaways.
Doing more with less…
Here’s one area that will change: you’ll probably be on a more restricted budget. At this point, most companies are trying to make every dollar count. But on the other hand, spending for virtual events won’t come with the usual large costs. No spaces need to be reserved, no booze served, no food purchased, no entertainment booked.
“The entertainment piece (of event planning) has gone from 100 percent of a focus to about 10 percent,” says Som Puangladda, VP of global marketing for GumGum. “There are no drinks, decorations, or in-person small-talk conversations. But there are ways you can get creative to make sure people have fun. We’re speaking to a DJ who usually spins at our summer events in New York, and we were thinking about having him on to play some music for our virtual events.”
Additionally, Eventbrite suggests adding a game component to some sections of the event. Toss in a jigsaw puzzle, a crossword, a riddle, or a memory game to keep attendees engaged between sessions!
…But there are new benefits
With this new virtual shift comes a world of new benefits for marketers looking to host events. First of all, your event is no longer constrained by its location, and your list of attendees is no longer constrained by the list of people who live close by or can afford to travel for the given set of dates. Geography is no longer a consideration, and the potential of an interconnected audience for worldwide events is massive. Interested in an upcoming marketing event in Singapore? Previously, you couldn’t even give it thought. That’s still the same now, because attending doesn’t require much more than the energy it takes to pop open your laptop.
Additionally, virtual events are highly scalable. No more concern about your on-site team’s ability to build up, host, and take down physical event spaces. Once you’ve got your technological infrastructure in place, your team can host event after event without carrying a single thing off a U-Haul truck.
Finally, digital events are more accessible, during the event and after it. At a virtual event, you can use existing digital tactics to allow for real-time engagement with your crowd. And after the event, it’s easier than ever to upload keynotes and breakouts for those who couldn’t attend on the day of.
Focusing on “one”
Speakers and organizers are no longer catering to packed rooms full of people. Rather, the focus shifts to just one person—the individual on the other side of the computer screen or mobile phone.
Virtual events have to have a much more intimate, personal feeling to capture and hold the attention of a digital audience. And Bardin knows a group from whom marketers can take some cues in this area.
“Influencers have this particular talent, where they can just look into their phone and connect with just one person on the other end, but on a huge scale,” Bardin said. “I think we can learn from them how to further engage an audience online.”
Curious in learning more about the shift to virtual events during the coronavirus pandemic? Check back soon for our full guide to virtual events for marketers!