How to Incorporate Online Events into Your In-Person Events

While online events are gaining traction, there still are many reasons to have in-person events. Some sponsors prefer in-person booths, some attendees enjoy the chance to leave the office for a few days, and other reasons. However, you may still want the opportunity to reach a larger audience – sponsors who like the option of online downloads in their booths, attendees who prefer to learn from home or their offices, bosses who don’t want to pay for travel costs. 

You can combine the two very successfully to get the best of both worlds. Here are a few of our tips to do so.

1. Live stream your sessions

To make the online attendees feel like they’re really a part of the action, live stream your presentations during the in-person event. You can do this using any number of applications, such as YouTube Live (which now has taken over Google Hangouts), LiveStream, etc. Anything that gives you a live stream link will work successfully. 

Make sure that you have a good quality camera (a GoPro or a good smart phone camera will both work great) and that your audience can see both the slides and the presenter’s face. 

2. Make the slide decks available online.

This will benefit both your in-person and your online attendees. Whether they’re sitting in
the back of the room and forgot their glasses or they simply follow along better when they have the slides in front of them on their computer, always make sure you have slides available. 

This will be great for after the live portion of the event as well. Those who attended the sessions live will like having the deck to refer to in the future and those who missed the session will be able to look back and see what they missed.

3. Make the presentations available On Demand for both in-person and online attendees

Just about every in-person conference I’ve been to has more than one presentation going at a time. Because of this, it’s impossible for any attendee, no matter how meticulous, to
 see all of the content live. Your in-person attendees will be excited about the opportunity to be able to catch the presentations that they missed, and your online attendees will be more likely to view all of the presentations at their leisure. 

4. Allow your online and in-person attendees both to participate in Q&A

You can do this a couple of different ways. Your speaker/presenter can have an online chat room that they can refer to during the Q&A with the in-person crowd, so that they answer questions from both audiences; alternatively, you can ask your speaker to answer questions from the online audience after the event using a chat room. 

Either way, you’ll want your online audience to feel as much a part of the action as your in-person crowd. In-person attendees tend to try to catch the speaker after they are finished with their presentation, whether by the stage or in the lobby afterwards. Your online audience does not have that opportunity, so you need to make sure that they have the option to ask their questions as well. 

5. Work with your sponsors

You have more sponsor real estate, so to speak, utilizing an in-person and online event simultaneously. It’s quite easy for sponsors to send you materials for an online booth – typically online downloads, links to their site, online giveaways, and graphics. This opens up a lot of opportunities for different kinds of sponsorships. 

Your in-person sponsors may want to have both virtual and physical booths as well. You should approach them and see if they would be interested in having an online and a physical presence at your event. 

Keeping these few tips in mind, you can have a truly successful online event to accompany and broaden the audience for your in-person event!

Have any questions? Send me an email at caitlin@vconferenceonline.com and I’ll be happy to help out!

Virtual Events are Too Expensive!

The cost of virtual or online events is a really big factor when deciding whether or not to host an event this way. Marketing budgets are always pretty tight and approaching the Powers That Be for a budget boost or with a new idea can be nerve-wracking.

Luckily, I can set your mind at ease with just one sentence: online events are far more cost-effective.

If you’ve ever hosted an in-person event, you’ll know how tedious, frustrating, and expensive they are. Without exception, in-person events just end up with nickel-and-dime costs like coffee, lunches, security, space for the event, bathrooms, staff for check-in, and so much more. Sometimes you’ll even hear the dreaded phrase, “food and beverage, plus-plus.”

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“Pens will be extra.”

With an online event, nearly all of those costs vanish. The online event platform becomes your venue. The security is built into the event and is mostly for the purchase of event admission and moderation in chat. Check-in desk is null and void because it’s done automatically with a login. Coffee is supplied by the attendee’s own office. They likely brought their own lunch (or you’ll have an hour break for them to go get it). There is no plus-plus with an online event.

Some platforms will cost a little extra for customer support chat. However, in-person events have the same thing – staffing. No in-person event allows for a self-service set-up (what venue would allow that?) and yet most online event platforms have some form of it to give you even further discounts.

In the age of technology, where we all carry a micro computer in our pocket and are in constant contact with our friends and coworkers, the convenience of an online event will also make it more profitable. You open the doors to a wider, international audience, inviting more success and leads (which is what we all want from these events anyway). It’s a busy world and if an attendee doesn’t have to take half a week off to fly to your conference and be unable to work for the whole time, they will jump at the chance.

Not only will an online event save you money, but it will likely make you more money as well. Take that to your boss.


Have any questions about hosting a virtual event and want a great platform that will help you every step of the way? Email us directly at sales@vconferenceonline.com 

Looking for a subscription-style virtual event platform? Check out our new pricing model here.

Simplifying Online Events

Continuing with the theme of “biggest concerns about online events,” another worry I hear from clients is that hosting virtual events just seem so complicated. This is understandable when you’re approaching a medium you haven’t utilized before or even changing hosting platforms. There is a bit of a learning curve usually when starting a new type of marketing strategy, but a lot of virtual event platforms have one or three great solutions to that for you.

  • A Best Practices Guide
    • Typically this is a PDF or document that answers most of the questions you may have about hosting an event with that particular platform. Many online events are self-service, which means that they are simplified as much as possible.

      As someone who’s just purchased an online event, you’re not expected to know how to run the show. You’re expected to know your presenters and exhibitors, as well as to market the event, but actually putting together the event should be as simple as it can be. The success of your event is the paramount concern for the company you bought it from, so they really want to help you as much as possible.

      This document usually is FAQ style, with common questions addressed in step-by-step fashion to help you navigate through the platform. If it’s in PDF format, it usually has links as well, to help you to move through the process in a easy and painless manner.

  • A Project Manager
    • For a lot of platforms, a project manager is an add-on. This is a person who is assigned to your event(s) and who is available for you to call, email, contact however you see fit.

      This person will have helped out with a lot of events before and has been trained extensively on the platform. Not only can they answer your questions, but often they will actually either help you set up the event or take most of it off your hands.

      For instance, with vConferenceOnline, the project manager can actually set up the entire event for you. You will send them abstracts for sessions, information about speakers, even contact information for speakers or exhibitors. They can then contact them directly for all of the information and set everything up for you.

      One great thing about project managers is that they have access to information about previous events. This means statistics and analytics about similar events to your own, allowing you to find out things like: how many sessions will be best? How long should your sessions be? How do you encourage attendees to speak to the exhibitors?

      As above, none of these platforms anticipate you knowing how to host your own online event – that’s why the platforms exist. It’s their job therefore to help you succeed with your event so you’re happy (and they’re happy to!)

  • Live Support
    • For platforms who don’t have project managers, often they will offer live chat or email support to help you out with your event. Similar to the project manager, this will be a team of customer service representatives who are trained on the platform and know the answers to most, if not all, of your questions. If they don’t know the answer, they have access to project managers who do have the answers.

      As with the project manager, this option is typically an add-on for other platforms, not included with the purchase of the event itself. However, the knowledge and experience you can access is well worth it for those who aren’t comfortable with the platform yet!

These three options are usually available on all platforms in some shape or form. The best practices guides are usually included with any event, while the project manager and the live support are typically add-ons. These give you three ways to access the platform’s expertise and experience!

How to have Successful Interaction with Virtual Events

The most common concern people express about virtual events – webcasts, online classes, or virtual conferences/trade shows – is the apparent lack of communication between the hosts/speakers and the attendees of the event. Without face-to-face interaction, many are concerned that they will be unable to truly connect with their attendees and will therefore not have a very successful event. To help to ease these concerns, I’ve put together a few tips for how to make sure you get the most out of your online interaction.

  • Utilize text and/or video chat for Q&A’s throughout or after your presentation.
    • This feature is a fantastic way to make sure that any questions are answered thoroughly and possibly even better than they would be during an in-person event. If you pre-record your presentations – which is already highly recommended – you have the full duration of your presentation to interact with viewers.You can make connections with them at the beginning, by asking where they’re from, what companies they work for, what the weather is like where they are. You can then easily transition into answering questions. If they don’t seem to have many questions, I highly recommend having a few points to encourage discussion in the chat, such as additional tips or anecdotes. This makes everyone feel at ease and encourages questions and deeper discussion, allowing the attendees to get even more out of the event than an in-person one.

      If you choose to do a video chat Q&A, using a tool like livestream or Google Hangouts, you can really easily make the online event feel nearly identical to an in-person event. You can even invite viewers to join you on the video chat, allowing them to really be a part of the event.

  • Utilize chat in exhibit booths as well.
    • This is another way to make the transition from in-person to online seamless. As a booth administrator, you can reach out to attendees as they enter your booth, just as you would at an in-person event, and offer them some information about your company, services, or simply talk about the event.If your company has sponsored a session, that’s a great time to talk about it. Mention that the session is either coming up, or has happened (and is going to be available On Demand for their leisure), discuss the topic and what they can get from it.

      This approach is great because, instead of poking at the attendee with sales pitches, you’re making a connection with them. People with a connection to a company are far more likely to purchase from them, without the cognitive dissonance that comes from a guilt-based purchase made only to quiet a sales pitch.

  • Set up chat rooms outside of the presentation rooms.
    • This acts as sort of a networking lounge for the attendees and speakers. Instead of being boxed into the topic of a presentation, people are able to find others that are interested in the same topics, but move beyond them. Private chats are a great way for these attendees to ask further questions of the speaker or to connect with a possible business partner.These function exactly the way the outside hall of a conference center does, where attendees go to fill up on coffee and charge their laptops. This too makes the transition from in-person to online seamless.

Have you hosted online events before? What did you find helped you the most with encouraging interaction between attendees and the host/speakers?

 


 

Have any questions about hosting a virtual event and want a great platform that will help you every step of the way? Email us at sales@vconferenceonline.com

Find out all about our platform with this interactive demo. Or, go beyond the surface with this in-depth self-guided tour.

Happy event planning!

Getting beyond Marketing Emails

Every marketer’s dream is to have their ideal audience and potential clients come to them.

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Living the marketer’s dream.

No banner ads, spam marketing emails, or annoying commercials necessary – and it make an advertiser’s job easier. Hands-free marketing is the goal, right?

 

How do you make the marketing process so easy that your clients find you before they even know they’re looking for you?

Connect to your audience through education

That is a very broad way to say that your marketing strategy should first and foremost involve teaching your audience something that you know extremely well and that they want to learn about.

If you try to convince your audience that they should choose you you before they realize they want the services you even offer, you’ll annoy more people than you’ll close. Proving your trustworthiness and knowledge gets you in front of the competition before your potential client even knows they need you.

How do you do this?

  • Find a topic you know like the back of your hand (and they don’t).

In your sphere, there are problems that your audience is looking to solve. Chances are, you either have the solution to those problems or you know where to look to solve them. Do you have a large number of problems you know how to solve? Great! You can create an online class or a series of articles on it. By proving that you know what you’re talking about, you establish yourself as a trustworthy source. Your audience will come to you for solutions (and you’ll already be at the top of their list when they want to spend money).

  •  Talk about easy-to-tackle issues.

Don’t try to overwhelm your reader/viewer with too much information at once. Try to break up problems into smaller step-by-step solutions. If your audience comes to a webcast and realizes you’re going to be talking for three hours, they’re already checked out. Take it by small steps to make your information more accessible to your audience.

  • Don’t brush off your own expertise.

Whatever your end goal, whatever you aim to sell to your potential client, you are confident that it’s a good product or service. Don’t play down your knowledge or forget to mention how you can be so helpful to your audience. If you’re a doctor discussing what a symptom could mean, it helps the patient to trust you if they know you actually are a medical professional. Make it clear why you’re an authority on the topic.

Your ideal audience doesn’t necessarily know who you are, so if you approach them by telling them that you’re great, they’ll just ignore you like a flashing banner ad. Offer them something they need – like knowledge, helpful tips, etc. – and they’ll be much more likely to become a good lead for you.

This way, you also connect with people you know will be good, qualified leads. A smaller number of quality leads is better than a huge number of terrible ones that will never pay off. Don’t waste your time (or theirs).

Want to educate your audience with a virtual event? Check out how to get started here. Questions? Email us at sales@vconferenceonline.com

Pre-Record or Broadcast Live?

In-person conferences are only slightly different from online events, but one way in which they are vastly different is the presenting style. In-person events are presented live, with the speaker on a stage or at the front of a classroom-style room, speaking to the audience in real-time. They can step off the stage and answer the audiences’ questions while being a foot or two away from them and everything they say is live. This is great for a personal touch to events, but with a larger event, the personalization fades.

For online, virtual events, you have a few different options to try to replicate this experience while broadcasting your message and knowledge to a large audience. You can pre-record your sessions or host them live. If you host them live, through a livestream, you can even use a service like Google Hangouts to invite attendees to ask questions in real time while showing their face and using their own voice.

So, what are the pros and cons of each option?

From the platform standpoint, it makes no difference if an event is live or pre-recorded. The platform will work with either and it’s all about what makes you more comfortable.

Live sessions are great because the presenter has (hopefully) rehearsed their presentation and knows it like the back of their hand. A live panel-style session can be personalized to the audience. They can submit questions before the session via social media or text chat. Those questions are then answered during the session, which adds a nice touch for the audience.

However, live sessions carry a threat to your event as well. If the presenter is late, has connection issues, forgets their slides, has background noise, doesn’t wear something appropriate, or just has an “off” day, it can reflect badly on your event and brand. This is why pre-recorded sessions have their own benefits.

With a pre-recorded session, you can approve it ahead of time, cut out background noise, ensure that it aligns with the high quality event you are arranging. If you decide to do a 100% On Demand event, where the attendees are able to choose which session they want to watch at their leisure, this is the only option – and it’s a great way to make sure each presentation is up to your high standards!

Both types of presentations – live and pre-recorded – have their pros and cons. Make sure you figure out what the aim of your event is before you choose which will fit the best for you.

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Have any questions about hosting a virtual event and want a great platform that will help you every step of the way? Email us at sales@vconferenceonline.com

Happy event planning!

Help Viewers Understand First

Many people approach a webcast or virtual conference session as an opportunity to sell. This ends up driving the content for the session, and it drives the focus and presentation style as well.

While it’s certainly possible to present a “pre-sales” type presentation with information about your product or service in hopes of driving the sale, you might want to consider a different approach, particularly if you don’t have a captive audience.  A “captive audience” is one that can’t leave, that must watch your presentation.  This might be the case if you’re presenting sales training or other required materials.

But, if you’re talking with potential customers, or trying to woo customers into upgrades and enhanced service offerings, presenting a sales pitch or making sure you cover your marketing bullet points might be the last thing you really want to present.  You’ll probably find that this causes people to click away, to stop listening and to become disengaged with your message, brand and presentation.

It’s just too easy to click away, or become distracted with email or have a thousand other things that get in the way of the attendee’s attention.  An online presentation is, by necessity, a different animal from an in-person presentation.  You need to turn on the expertise, the creativity and answer the “what can you do for me” question that all of the attendees are struggling with in their own minds.

To do this, consider providing information.  REAL information – lessons learned, best practices, etc.  These are the things a viewer can watch, learn from, and apply to their own world.  Talk about things you’ve run into.  Talk about customers and situations that have come up that show you have both a sense of humor and a problem-solving approach.

When you provide real-world information and experience, and you provide take-away, actionable information, the viewer will appreciate it.  You’ll be seen as the expert, the one to go to for more information, more services.  With an online presentation, it’s much more like a conversation with a viewer than a presentation AT a viewer.

Here are some quick ideas to get you started:

  • Provide a quick 5 or 10 tip best practices sheet they can download.
  • Provide an idea sheet that gives unique ideas that can spur other ideas the viewer can use to be successful.
  • Provide a “common pitfalls, and how to avoid them” sheet
  • Give a checklist of things to cover or consider

By providing takeaways, and giving actionable items, your viewer will be engaged and care about what you’re presenting.  It’s not enough to just have great slides.  Give a worksheet or other item that can be put into play immediately.  Make the viewer look good in the eyes of their boss and/or customers and you’ll immediately be seen as a benefit to their work, and you can show that you’re trustworthy.

Sure, you can show a slide or two about your product or service at the end, but first give the viewer something they can relate to and depend on.  Then help them see how your offering can help.

One last thing – don’t handicap the information you provide.  In other words, provide ALL fully-usable information in the sheets or takeaways you provide.  Don’t give 3, then say “contact me for the other 10.”  You’ll only make your viewer resent you and feel like the whole thing was a setup for sales.

People understand that sales are needed, they just don’t want to be sold.  Help them understand first.  The sales and marketing will follow.

Do Virtual Events Hurt Your In-Person Events?

This question comes up quite a bit.  The short answer… if you do it right, is…

No.

If you can market the virtual event in conjunction with the in-person event, you end up boosting the value of the in-person event.  If you market one, then move to the other, then back again, the messaging can get very confusing to your audience.  You need to work the shows together, then you can clearly show how your audience benefits from each venue.

One of the successful things that is done is using the online event as a promotional tool, but also as a pre-event tool.  Using this approach, you can help your audience attend the in-person event in possibly a more prepared, informed way.  Here are some ideas to help integrate the two types of events:

  • Hold pre-conference pre-sessions.  These sessions are presented by your speakers and include information that will get the audience ready for the in-person event.  Of course you don’t need (or want) to present the entire in-person session, but you can present the items that help people better understand what will be shown.
  • Consider pre- and post-conference classes or supporting sessions.  You can offer these as an add-on to your in-person registration.  These can be multi-session presentations and provide deep information for attendees.  Then, when they come to the event, they can learn how to apply and further use the information from the pre-con.  These can also be a way to get deeper involved in the materials presented, since the multiple sessions will be focused on a single topic whereas sessions in the in-person event typically are single sessions and stand alone.
  • Use pre-sessions to introduce topics and introduce homework to get people thinking along common lines.
  • Use virtual events to provide additional information about and by your vendors and sponsors.  These virtual events are great ways to further leverage your relationships with your sponsors and provide additional opportunity for the sponsors to interact with and gain information from your audience.  Keep in mind, you can keep the virtual event online after the in-person event, so your vendors can continue working with your audience in on-demand mode.
  • Consider adding “best of” type sessions after the in-person event has completed.  You can add them to the virtual event and use it as an additional touch point to work with your audience.  Simply capture the sessions at the in-person event, then announce that you’ll be adding the top 5 (or 10 or whatever works well for you) sessions to the virtual event in the weeks following the event.
  • Consider live-streaming your keynote presentations or key presentations from industry experts – this can further integrate your events (online and virtual) and show why people should attend both.  They get to see the live session and they get to experience the online virtual event.

There are a whole host of ways you can leverage virtual conferences, webcasts and webinars and in-person events.  From marketing to extending content to outreach to follow-up, the virtual event platform can significantly boost your in-person events.

As you write up your attendee and sponsor offerings, consider adding an option to add the virtual event items you’ll be offering.  Do the inverse on the virtual event registration – adding options to include the in-person event.  By integrating the two, you can leverage your audience, not split your messaging and gain additional ways people can take in your events, talk with sponsors and more.

Virtual events can be a powerful add-on and powerful marketing tool for your in-person events.  So many people make the mistake of assuming it’s one or the other for their audience.  Done right however, it allows you to extend your in-person event’s interaction with your audience in exciting ways.

Keep Virtual Event Attendees Engaged

Keeping attendees engaged is a tough battle with an online event.  Let’s face it, distractions abound!  Email arrives, instant messages beckon, heck just typing a new URL in the browser is a threat to their attention to your event.

What can you do to retain attendees – to keep their attention and make the event all it can be for them and for you and your stakeholders?

One thing that has worked repeatedly is the use of between-session messaging and content.  As you move through your event, offer additional content between sessions.  Rather than just showing “the next session starts in 5 minutes” type messages, consider putting additional content, tips and other elements in the space between sessions.

Here are some great examples that work very well, time after time:

  • Interview the speakers – talk to them about real-life, ask for advice, talk about their pets.  Basically what you’re looking to do is to help your speakers be “real” to your audience, help your audience get to know the speaker.  These are very powerful and can be relatively short.  If you’re concerned about topics, pick a central 2 or 3 topics, then ask the same questions to each speaker.  This can be things like “what’s your favorite board game” or “what movies have you seen recently” or “are you a dog or a cat person?”  All of these are great ice-breakers and can can offer a bit of fun between sessions.
  • Add polls between sessions – ask questions of your attendees, see what you can learn, and then present, about your audience.  Perhaps even ask the same questions as those above.  Then you can get a feel for your audience and help them relate to the content presented.
  • Add contests – have treasure hunts in the virtual environment have treasure hunts in the sponsor’s and speaker’s web sites.  This is a great way to get people involved and learning all that’s available.  You can even score the activities (for every “X” you find, you gain 20 points) – then award a keychain or t-shirt to the winner by points.
  • Have chats on Twitter or in the chat tools – guide the chats to include materials just presented (the speaker may be able to provide interesting topics and questions) or on completely unrelated topics to help people get to know one-another.
  • Create news segments – talk about very recent headlines between sessions.  Make sure the headlines are related to the event.  Perhaps even just one or two headlines, then suggest people move to chat or social media you have integrated into the event to discuss the headline.  Be sure to give them your opinion (or the opinion of the person presenting the headlines) on the items.
  • Have a fun mini-session – this could be an exercise session, a yoga session, stretching that you can lead.  This can also be a completely spoof-based segment.  Remember, it’s only a few minutes maximum.  Have fun with it.

By doing these types of activities, attendee retention jumps by up to 80%.  These are real benefits and can substantially impact your event, the attendees involvement in your show and their impression overall for the event.

Foolproof Marketing Strategy – Across All Channels

A question people are always asking is, “How do you profit from _____?” The entire point of marketing, digital or otherwise, is always trying to turn a profit. That’s the point of selling products or services, right?

Wrong.

I’m going to tell you a secret that I’ve learned from endlessly researching “how to market correctly.”

Focus on your content and how it will help people.

That sounds cheesy and it probably is. After all, we don’t give our services and products away; we sell them! Why wouldn’t we focus on the money we ought to be getting for what we sell?

Customers are more annoyed with marketers than ever. They fast-forward through commercials, ignore banner ads, and generally just scoff at any kind of advertising ploys we try. They’ve seen our tricks plenty of times and they’re tired of it. This is where content marketing, digital marketing, and so many other kinds of marketing become frustrating for all parties.

This is why you should focus on your content. If someone sees your content, understands that you’re trying to help them achieve some goal, they are much more likely to want to buy your product or service, because they know that you can really be an asset to them.

Stop trying to focus on your profits – though don’t sell yourself short. However, if you focus on helping people, they will see your intentions and like you more for it – and that is where the profit comes.