A virtual event should not be viewed as inferior to an in-person event but for many people, this is their view because they have experienced so many bad virtual events already. The solution is to change their perception by designing an engaging, interactive, and remarkable virtual event and in this post, you will discover how with these virtual event ideas.
First impressions are very important to your clients and prospects and if you want them to view virtual events in a favourable light, you need to design them in such a way that leaves them impressed and with the feeling that you value their time.
For this reason, we’ve put together these ideas for creating an engaging, interactive, and remarkable virtual event
Before getting started let me ask you – Do you miss in-person events?
Many people do, myself included.
I miss catching up with old friends, meeting new people, finding out about new products and services, learning new skills, and getting caught up with industry insight.
I also miss the laughter, hugs, sponsor and supplier evening parties, and the wow-factor of the gala.
What do you miss the most about in-person events? Let me know in the comments below.
While I passionately believe that in-person events will continue – and frankly, I am longing for these types of events – I also believe that virtual events will do to in-person events what email did to snail mail.
The reason? Cost, access, technology, and inclusion.
BUT RIGHT NOW, THERE IS A PROBLEM…
Remember when email first came out? It was a novelty and people found it rather cool.
And then email caught on and every marketing department and entrepreneur started creating an email list and filling up your inbox.
At first, you may have read them but then these emails became noise.
You may still have your favourite emails that you scan, and you may have your favourite aggregator emails but you likely delete most of the emails without even opening them (the average email open rate is around 20%).This is because email is easy to create, easy to send and basically free – so for most companies, it’s about volume rather than value.
However, how excited are you when you receive a surprise in the mail – whether it is a card, a personal note, an unexpected package, or even a postcard? The reason is it is unexpected, thoughtful and personalized – and it is not a bill!
Virtual events are going through growing pains.
People can live stream without cost. They can also host Zoom meetings without cost… or for a small cost, depending on the plan they have subscribed to.
There are too many virtual events that are created without a lot of strategy and thought about the moments of impact and the parts you – and your audience – are missing compared to in-person events.
Quite often events focus more on the host’s agenda rather than the experience for the audience.
Our mission is to turn this around – and help our clients optimize and monetize their virtual events with these virtual event ideas.
To do that, you need to think of your audience first.
What does your audience want and expect?
And more importantly, what will WOW them?
What does your audience expect?
To answer this, you must know who your audience is.
For larger companies, they have the resources to use technology to dive deep into who their most profitable client/customer personas are.
They know specifics about this ideal customer that may shock you.
Regardless of what size your business is and what resources you have, you must answer this question by either asking directly, indirectly or mining your data.
Generally, your audience wants:
- Content (learning) and
If you are an expert at using event marketing for lead generation, community building and sales, you already know this which is why your events incorporate these components.
GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT, and SURPRISE THEM WITH THE UNEXPECTED.
Here are some engaging, interactive and remarkable virtual event ideas:
The first step is to stop thinking about virtual events in the same way as people think/thought about email and instead think about virtual events in the same way as an in-person event.
Some people and companies are brilliant at email marketing because they are extremely strategic and continuously invest in learning about techniques that genuinely connect with their email subscribers.
And some people and companies have already raised the bar for virtual events.
- If someone has signed up for your event but has not been reading your emails, call them to ensure they are getting the emails.
- If, for example, you typically include pillow-gifts at your in-person event then arrange for pillow gifts to be delivered to your attendees (which adds the element of a pleasant surprise and thoughtfulness.)
- If you have a raffle with door prizes at your live event, have door prizes at your virtual event (they must be present to win, which encourages attendance).
- If you randomly give prizes for interaction, do that virtually (which encourages engagement and attendance).
- If you have a silent auction with desirable items, have an auction at your event (this will raise money for your causes while also giving attendees another reason to attend.)
- If your event includes a gala dinner arrange for dinner to be delivered to your attendees and have a virtual dinner. If this is logistically challenging nearing on impossible, you can still have dinner and attendees can join a table from home and network while they are dining.
- Alternatively, you can use one of the meal prep delivery services – keeping in mind personal dietary preferences and restrictions – and arrange to have chefs walk through the meal prep with them with a virtual cooking class.
- If you typically include wine with dinner, you can send wine and logo-etched wine glasses to enjoy with their dinner and if they do not drink wine, you can send sparkling water and appropriate glasses.
- If you usually give out a swag bag with a workbook, sponsor flyers and some promotional products, send a swag bag to their home with these items instead.
- If your in-person event includes sponsor dinners or activities, include these too. In the MICE industry, we often have experiential events where the host community introduces us to one or more attractions or venues. While the experience of being in a race car (for example) won’t be the same, high-quality virtual reality glasses could be sponsored (and sent to the attendee’s homes to keep) and then the attendee can have a taste of various experiences virtually.
- Include emoji sticks and other visual elements that people can use and have some fun with instead of simply answering in the chatbox.
- Require a virtual check-in at the Registration Desk for all attendees 1 – 2 days before the event (read more on this below).
As you can see, many of the elements that make your in-person events so engaging can be adapted to a virtual event.
When you take this approach to virtual events compared to in-person events, you will outperform your competition that is not strategic, creative, and continuously learning about what works well for their audiences.
How do you make a virtual event engaging, interactive and Remarkable?
Ultimately, it is putting yourself in the shoes of the attendees, knowing what they want, delivering it and then pleasantly surprising them.
Use techniques designed to break the ice, to encourage discussion and collaboration, to enable the attendees to interact with the speakers and presenters.
And encourage all your speakers and exhibitors to consider their presentations and booths as performances in a production.
Ensure everyone is delivering great audio and video. Coach your speakers, your exhibitors, and your attendees in advance on how to present themselves well in a virtual event.
Walkthrough the technology with everyone in advance.
For presenters – plan on having at least 3 rehearsals. 1 solely on how to use the technology. Another as a rehearsal and then have a dress rehearsal which will be edited and polished and used either in a Simulive session or as a back-up should something go wrong on the event day.
For exhibitors – walk them through the features of their virtual booth. Ensure they can fully maximize their experience and provide a return on their experience and their investment.
For attendees – require a registration desk check-in 1 or 2 days prior to the event. They book a time to check-in, they show up and you walk them through the use of the technology, the agenda, the rules and how to best utilize their time. Let them know about the various events that are planned. Ensure they received their swag bag. Answer any questions they may have and generally set them up for a successful event.
Why you should treat a virtual event as your secret sauce
You should treat your virtual events as your secret sauce because most companies and people are still stuck back in the early days of “ooh, look, I can just throw together a meeting or live stream and people will come”.
Remember that events are used to connect, build community, and to educate.
They are also used to generate leads, nurture relationships, and make sales regardless of whether the attendee is the host, or a sponsor, exhibitor, speaker, or attendee.
Great events will acknowledge and ensure that all these needs are addressed and then they will add the wow factor.
When you are creating your budget, consider the return on investment on the wow factor.
What would it mean if you spent the extra $x on incorporating at least some of the home-delivery packages or other virtual event ideas and you earned a valuable client?
Be strategic. Be creative. Be unique. and Be Remarkable.