Whatever happened to good old common sense? I just got back from the VirtualEdge summit (www.virtualedgesummit.com) – where platform companies and users came together to discuss advances and best strategies for creating Virtual events. Presenters did their best to explain what had worked for them and the audience, which was a mix of virtual event veterans and virgins, drank it up. What surprised me the most was the type of questions coming from the crowd. Remember, while some of the audience had never done a virtual event, practically everyone had done a physical event or other marketing program. Here is my list of my top 5 most surprising questions:
1) Do you have to promote virtual events?
2) Do you have to create unique content for these events?
3) Are they free to produce?
4) Do we have to answer questions from the audience? And if so, do we need to staff the event with our own people?
5) We continue to have fewer and fewer people at our virtual events…is that because the novelty has worn off?
These questions came from marketing professionals who seemed to let all common sense fly out of the window as soon as the word virtual was placed in front of the programs that they’ve known for years. Now I know that anything new, like virtual event technology, can be a bit scary, and I am glad people ask questions because it is one of the best ways to learn. But I also thought I could help virtual event newbies by supplying a Virtual Event Rule of Thumb–So here it is, “If you had to do it for your physical events – then it is a good guess that you will also have to do it for your virtual version.”
Here are some Virtual Event Rule of Thumb examples…if you invite people to physical events, then you will of course have to invite folks to your virtual version. If you created presentations just for a face to face event, then you should plan on doing the same for your virtual event. You could go straight down the list and answer each one of these question, but I do want to focus on number 5 for a moment. If you’ve been doing virtual events and seeing declining attendance, then it is important to examine where things are going wrong (just like you would at a real event).
In general, attendance and support of virtual events has been growing and is predicted to continue to grow with compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56% between the period of 2010 and 2015 (http://www.virtualedge.org/forum/topics/new-report-huge-growth-in), so if you are having an issue, then make sure you are handling the basics correctly. Have you created compelling content? Have you effectively promoted this material? Are you engaging attendees and ensuring that they are coming back and inviting others? Have you asked your audience how they feel about your events and how they suggest you make the experience better? These are the important core questions that marketers must consider.
As for virtual events – they are simply another tool available to marketers and come with all of the familiar challenges and work that the other marketing opportunities create. So continue to experiment and perfect your use of virtual events and ask your questions – but simply realize attendees will get out of a virtual event only what you put into it.
-Dan Hirsh, Partner, MediaSolve Group