5 Tips for Marketing Your Virtual Event

5 Tips for Marketing Your Virtual Event | MCI United States | EN

October, 26 2020

By: Kate O’Donnell, CAE, Senior Vice President, MarCom & Brand Strategy

2020 has changed the rules for everyone—including event marketers. While playbooks exist on how to market in-person events, organizations need to recognize the entire attendee experience has been altered in a way that requires new strategies for success.

  1. Change your timeline

    Your attendees have little control over what is happening in both their personal and professional lives right now and aren’t going to commit to an experience that takes away their time and energy (and possibly money) until the last possible minute. While it’s smart to provide awareness around what you’re offering early on, know that your audience isn’t going to pay attention until a few days before the event. Plan your messaging, channels, and frequency accordingly.

    And while there is a shorter runway for advance registrations, our new environment gives you more time to market your content during and after the live event. Your members are looking for on-demand education they can consume when their schedule allows, so make sure they know it exists and how to find it. With more recorded sessions available on-demand, post-event marketing is more important than ever.

  2. Visualize the experience

    For the most part, your audience knows what to expect when they go to a conference or a trade show: how to navigate the venue, where to interact with your sponsors and exhibitors, and/or how connect with a fellow attendee. Virtual events don’t provide the same “muscle memory” that in-person events have because they’re relatively new to most folks. For marketers, this means using different forms of media to demonstrate and describe the experience your attendees will have with your event. Will there be any live interaction or are all the sessions pre-recorded without the ability to chat with the presenter or other attendees? Do they need to be camera-ready? How do they find and interact with a colleague who may be attending?

    Providing these visual signposts—ideally using pictures/videos/animations—for attendees is a critical step in helping them understand what your event offers and what they are committing to when they register.

  3. Focus on the connective tissue

    With so many people working from home and staying socially distant, our attendees aren’t interacting with as many of their colleagues and peers as they used to—and they miss those chances to connect. Make sure your attendees know that your event will give them an opportunity not only to learn but to unite. Provide specifics on how they can network with and learn from each other. Post a question on social media for your audience to respond to. Share testimonials and experiences before, during and after your event to make them feel like they’re part of a community—and they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

  4. Highlight the benefits of virtual

    Going digital (or even hybrid) provides a new set of benefits for your attendees, so it’s important to call this out in your marketing. Your event now has no geographic restrictions, potentially less cost to your attendees since they don’t have to travel, and opportunities for education from speakers you might not have been able to get for an in-person event.

    Feature the flexibility that going virtual has to offer: you can get on-demand content from sessions happening live at the same time; there is a potential for a much larger audience of attendees and sponsors since there are fewer financial and time restrictions. Layering this additional level of value can go a long way in the customer buying journey.  

  5. Turn your registrants into ambassadors

    This marketing tactic isn’t new, but it plays a much larger role in marketing a virtual event. Providing a digital toolkit for your registrants (think digital badges, “I’m attending”, or “I’m speaking” banners for email signatures and social profiles) is a simple and cost-effective way to organically generate awareness about your event. People want to connect (see #3 above) and are more likely to spread the word about an activity where they’ll be able to do that.

    Building community in a virtual world is more challenging than in-person—we don’t have the benefit of the unconscious connections our face-to-face interactions automatically convey. Event marketers need employ strategies that add emotional subtext back into their messaging and deliver a roadmap that allows their audiences to get excited for the journey to come.

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Kate O'Donnell

As Senior Vice President of MarCom & Brand Strategy, Kate O'Donnell oversees marketing and communications initiatives for MCI USA, creating experiential communications and building brands from concept to fruition. Kate leads the marketing and creative strategy and planning for dozens of MCI’s national and global clients, including branding, campaign messaging, website, social media, events, and advertising.

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