Art & Science of Virtual Conferences

Virtual conferences have become a go-to strategy and necessary to remain competitive. Companies of all sizes are hosting their own virtual conferences, varying in format from hosting their own short half-day to multi-day virtual conferences, to having a presence at large multi-sponsor events.

Join us for an exciting, informative virtual roundtable session where you will hear from four virtual conference experts about the ins-and-outs of Virtual Conferences.

As they share their experience, you will learn:

  • Virtual Conference Recommended Platforms
  • Various formats for Virtual Conferences
  • Recommended tactics for promotion and execution
  • Common pitfalls to avoid

Robin Trovato
Events Professional Consultant

Robin is an accomplished event professional having managed events for over 10 years. Most recently she spearheaded the pivot from a three-day in-person user conference into a highly successful half-day virtual event.

Mirza Baig
Director, Digital Marketing at Quadient

Mirza is an expert on the art & science of webinars, and physical and virtual conferences. Mirza has managed events at companies including GMC Software and DMTI Spatial.

Lisa Dawson
Sr. Marketing Events Manager at Ping

Lisa has designed and executed successful virtual and physical conferences at companies including Ping, CA and Guidance Software.

Belinda Joseph
Sr. Director, Marketing Events at Xmatters

Belinda’s most recent experience has been developing the strategy and managing execution of two highly successful multi-day xMatters “Flow Live” virtual conferences.

Tom: Hi everybody. This is Tom Riddle from Virtual Intelligence Briefing. Thank you for joining us today for another edition of the VIB Success Series, The Art and Science of Virtual Conferences. Today, we’re gonna learn from a panel of experts, Lisa Dawson who’s a director of events at Ping Identity, Belinda Joseph who is a senior director of marketing events at xMatters, Robin Travado, a virtual events consultant and expert and lastly, back by popular demand, Mirza Baig who is a director of digital marketing at Quadient. And today we’re gonna learn practical advice from virtual conference per specials, wide virtual conferences, what type is best for your organization, how to get started, planning for success, and then tips and techniques that are learned through experience by the events professionals on the panel today. And so with that, let’s get started with the first question. Lisa, what are the various types or formats of virtual conferences?

Lisa: So I think virtual conferences are almost as varied as live events. So you can do anything from just a small round table, which you can manage through a Zoom. The larger almost replicates the full live conference, which is the complex full standalone event that’s going to have breakouts and keynotes, and virtual booth spaces and all that. And then there’s also the more of a hybrid event, so where you’ve got some of your content is going to be presented live, but some of it is being held virtually, and then you have the challenge of how to keep those two intertwined and both audiences engaged in a different format.

Tom: Great. Thank you for that. And Belinda, how do they differ from physical events?

Belinda: Yeah, I think, you know, virtual, you know, obviously you, you kind of miss out on that component of a live event and being able to have that really, you know, one-to-one human interaction with people. But I think the plus side though, really to virtual event is that, you know, you have the opportunity to really expand your reach, you know, get in touch with our audience, hopefully bring in more attendees that may not have been able to attend in-person. And I think too, with virtual, your possibilities are really endless, right? You can do so many things. There’s so much technology out there and people are constantly innovating and bringing about new ideas and how you can really incorporate the things you would have done at a live event and bring it back to a virtual component.

And so, you know, there’s different ways to really engage your audience, you know, gamification, you know, you can still do videos and chats. So you can still have that, you know, networking and connecting with other attendees, but then you’re also just doing it at the convenience of, you know, in your living room and not having to worry about the additional time and expenses that might go into attending in-person events.

Tom: Awesome. Thank you for that. And Robin, how valuable is it for a marketer to have some sort of virtual event conference experience? And what did you find about the process that was personally enriching or rewarding for you?

Robin: Yeah. So I think that in some cases, a lot of event professionals we’re focused on and experienced in live events. And I think a lot of us found ourselves in a situation where we needed to quickly pivot and go to a virtual event. What I found to be valuable was, and a good takeaway was really how quick, you know, as event planners, we were able to pivot and make that change into a virtual event. Finding the right partner, that was really enriching because there’s a lot out there and it really opened our eyes to what was available and all the great things that we could do with the virtual event that we could not necessarily do, you know, with the live event, you know, in terms of audience, reach, etc.

Tom: Okay, great. Thanks for that. And Mirza, what are the typical goals of a virtual event or virtual conference?

Mirza: Yeah. Good question, Tom. I mean, number one for a KPI would be just, and I think a lot of, if not all of the attendees on this webinar are marketers or have something to do with marketing one way or another, so definitely the number one KPI should be just how much marketing generated pipeline are you driving through your virtual event? You know, depending on what marketing automation platform you have, or if you have an instance of Salesforce, Marketo, you know, even if it’s something like a HubSpot, depending on your marketing organization, where are these registrants, where are these attendees, where are these no shows ultimately leading into a funnel, and then within that funnel, is there a sales handoff? So that should definitely be the number one KPI. I mean, why do we do marketing in the first place? It’s obviously to generate revenue back to the company. It becomes a matter of attribution and that’s a separate whole side conversation unto itself, but I’d say, you know, what are you giving back to the larger organization in terms of a handoff by holding this event?

Tom: Awesome. Thank you for that. And I know Robin, you had a set of KPIs that you adhered to for a recent conference that you did. Maybe is there something you can add to what had said Mirza there?

Robin: Yes, absolutely. You know, very similar KPIs were certainly to drive the brand awareness. It was to drive pipeline. Our KPIs for it were also, you know, the number of attendees and then really watching it through the funnel to see if we could get some closed ones. In my situation, it was a user conference. So that KPI was a little bit more valuable and really the golden nugget that we were looking for is closed ones.

Tom: That’s great to hear. Thank you. And Belinda, what have been some of the key drivers for this big upsurge in virtual conferences?

Belinda: Yeah, you know, I think that again, you know, at least for xMatters, right, it’s really been about around brand awareness for us, you know, in addition to what Mirza was talking about in terms of pipeline generation. So really trying to find a way that’s gonna best be able to, you know, provide what our attendees are looking for, giving them the content they need. You know, but also still being able to recreate the same experience they would have had if you were to meet in person. So, you know, making sure that we have the right themes in place, making sure that we have the right customers use cases that are gonna be relevant to them and like, you know, the challenges that they’re seeing in their organizations, you know, making sure that we’re addressing those.

And really too, you know, because when we decided to pivot our event, you know, again, it was at the beginning of COVID, so we were also trying to tie back to what’s reality. And that was really important for us to be able, you know, we’re in a great position with our product that really relates back to, you know, the issues that we’re seeing right now. And so being able to tie that back in and helping our customers adjust to, you know, the new normal, and being able to apply that to the event and giving them some kind of new ideas and how to adjust.

Tom: Great. Thanks for that. And let’s talk about COVID for a minute. That seems like a really, really big driver. So Lisa, given the uncertainty of the 2021 COVID outlook. How do you plan your conference strategy?

Lisa: Yeah, that’s something we’re actually struggling with right now because we have an annual event that happens every June and, you know, what’s the landscape look like in June, it could be completely different. It could be as I hate the term back to normal, but we have a planning arts, so we have to start now and we have to start now with the assumption that it’s going to look a lot like it does right now, so that we are planning essentially for the worst case scenario, with gems in our pockets or ways we can expand or ways we can grow and change or morph our events, should, you know, the rules become a little bit different for us closer to the actual event date. So it is a trick.

Tom: Right. Right. Thank you. And Mirza, your company, Quadient, was doing virtual conferences before COVID. How successful were they, do you think? And what was the motivation at that time to do them? You know, my impression is you were an early adopter.

Mirza: Yeah. We organically took that decision because being a software company at the end of the day, we have a global footprint where, you know, we have offices globally. So for us, it simply came down to quite matter of factly, you know, how can we have the best reach available? You know, you can, by all means our last user conference, I think, you know, Robin, you were mentioning a user conference or I think it was yourself, Belinda it’s, you can have one in, you know, in real life. I know Lisa you’re saying in June, right? Whether it’s June this year or June next year, it’s like, okay, you know, we can have it in real life, but for us it was a matter of how can we have the best reach and how can we have the best attendance and the best outpouring of people to come to the event?

And the number one answer kept coming back to us, hold it as a virtual event. You know, you can watch it from the comfort of your couch, you can be running on the treadmill, you know, ear pods in, you can watch it on the train on the way to work. You can watch it at night while you’re, you know, tucked under the covers. So really, it’s up to you as to how you wanna attend, and for us, that came back as the number one answer. So we yeah, we may be ahead of the curve, but it came about to us very, very organically in that sense.

Tom: Great. Thanks for that. Now, let’s pivot to talk about the pivot from physical events to virtual events. And I think everybody has something to say about this. So let’s just start in a random order. Robin, how did your company pivot from physical to virtual events?

Robin: Yeah, so like a lot of people, you know, we found ourselves in March with that big, huge event that was happening in May, the middle of May and, you know, had this in the works for over a year for that size of an event. And as COVID was unfolding, you know, having to make some of those really hard decisions, like a lot of people had to do right, and kind of held on, right, because maybe this was gonna change and maybe we weren’t gonna have to go. And then we had to make those decisions and we had to pivot.

So basically in about a week’s time, once the stakeholders in teams, you know, basically called it, we, you know, went into full action to pivot to a virtual event. And that meant, you know, getting back together at the table, re-looking at the goals and the objectives of the event because a virtual event is different than a live event and kind of reformatting, you know, the whole agenda and how that was gonna look like, what that was gonna look like.

So, you know, that’s what we did. And, you know, I was pretty impressed and amazed at how quickly we were able to do it and with a fabulous end result considering it is not something that my company had done. We weren’t doing it already like Mirza’s team was. We always participated as a sponsor of virtual events, but we never ran those ourselves.

Tom: Great. Thanks for that. And Belinda, are virtual conferences just for large companies. How does a smaller company with limited resources pull it off?

Belinda: Yeah. Awesome question. It is not at all just for larger sized companies. You know, xMatters, we’re about 200 employees. There’s 10 of us on the marketing team. Our events team is very small, mighty team of two. But, you know, I knew, you know, going into this, that I definitely wanted to move forward with an event. Our customer conference is huge for us. We have great customers. We look forward to it every year. So it was a no brainer for us to transition to digital. We had just under six weeks to make that happen. Most of the content was already there. Our agenda was built out, our speakers were confirmed.

So it was really just about how are we gonna, you know, deliver that message in a new way. And so, because we are such a small team and, you know, we had to continue moving forward with other business. And so we had to figure out a way to do it that was manageable for our team, but also in a way that was convenient for our customers to be able to consume this information in the way that they wanted, and in, you know, not in a way that wasn’t gonna be too distracting because again, this is us adjusting to the normal of how we’ll be doing things.

So what we ended up doing was over a period of three months, we broke it up. We had a series of mini-events instead. Instead of making it, you know one long week or forcing people to be online for an entire day, we broke it up to make it into consumable bites. So every month we would host we have a theme and based on that theme, you would have a customer share a case study, and then we would also tie in hands on workshops. So there was some consistency in the messaging. So whatever story you’ve heard about from the customer, we would then go and have a hands-on workshop to show you how you can also achieve that same mission that our customers did.

So we would do this and this would take place maybe over two or three days, you know, each month. And I think it worked out really great for us. It was very manageable for the team to be able to take their time to work with each customer and workshop. And yeah, I think the customers really enjoyed it and we also made sure it was important for us to still keep some of those in-person components to it. So like we had entertainment, we would have opening apps at the beginning of each of our weeks. We brought in a DJ and we brought in a hip hop violinist, and then we also wanted to encourage engagement. So we created a Slack channel dedicated to folks that could go online and still continue a conversation even way after the event was over.

Tom: Thanks for that. And let’s take a question from our audience. Andrew Abramson asks many of his clients been saying the same thing that virtual conferences for exhibitors are not working. The traditional trade show folks have tried to recreate live events versus conference organizers who have a better sense of what to engage. So what has the panels seen firsthand? Lisa, what were your thoughts beyond that because it’s interesting because you’re in a position where your companies attended and participated in conferences, but also hosts a large industry agnostic conference as well?

Lisa: Absolutely. And it is a challenge because I think… so the first, I think hurdle, or sort of, I’ll say mistake, I don’t know if it’s completely a mistake, but I think the problem is that a lot of people took their live event and tried to recreate it exactly as it was, but only in a virtual way. And that doesn’t always translate because, you know, it’s just too long of a day. It’s too many things packed into one thing. It’s when you’re doing something virtual, you need it a little bit more bite-size, but it’s a definite challenge from an exhibitor standpoint. And we’ve been pitched a million different shows for us to come in as a sponsor and exhibits, but it’s hard to get that engagement. You know, people say they come to your virtual booth, but it’s, you know, it’s essentially they’ve hovered over your space and you might get a notification and you’re trying to engage by chat.

So it’s a definite challenge to show value for sponsors. And I’ve read a report not too long ago that said, you know, most exhibitors are doing like a third of what they used to do. Not because the opportunities aren’t out there, everybody who’s throwing a virtual event is trying to retain sponsorship money. It just from a sponsor viewpoint, there’s not a lot of value. And where you might get, and I know one of the panelists was saying that they participate. I think it was Robyn that you’ve participated in virtual events. You know you get a good number of leads from that, but the quality is less, right, because it’s literally anyone who comes over and hovers by your booth that you’re getting that lead.

So I think to get a value for exhibitors is the number one thing they’re asking for is one-on-one meetings are a way to facilitate those. So if you’re looking to go in as an exhibitor, or you’re trying to sell exhibit space, you wanna try and facilitate some sort of matchmaking, some kind of, you know, we’re going to get you meetings. That’s number one. And thought leadership, like everyone’s looking for an opportunity to present their own expertise. So again, if you’re trying to sell sponsorships, you wanna be able to also provide some kind of a session that they could present.

One of the learnings from our last virtual event that we did, and it was a large one that like Belinda, we had broken up into several pieces over several weeks is that we had tagged the sponsored sessions as sponsored sessions. And so they actually got lower attendance, but the material they were presenting wasn’t sales pitch or anything like that. And I think we did our sponsors a disservice by sort of earmarking them as something different than the main agenda. So there’s a lot of different pieces that you can put in place for your exhibitors or that you should be looking for if you’ve been asked to exhibit at a virtual event. The challenge is not overcome yet. I don’t think anyone’s hit the magic bullet on that one yet.

Tom: Okay. Thanks for that. And Lisa, I’ve got another question. Let’s talk a bit about planning a virtual event. There’s a lot around that. So I’d like to actually hear from each of the panelists on that. So let’s start with you. What are the building blocks or ingredients or phases in planning and executing a virtual conference? If you look from left to right, maybe starting with ideation, you know, all the way through to a successful conclusion.

Lisa: Yeah, I think it’s definitely something that you need to look at from almost sort of rethinking what your live event was going to be. I know Belinda mentioned that she had done this in that it can be a recreation of the live show. So you have to think of it in bite sizes, you have to think of it in interaction and engagement, and how can you get some kind of little reprieve from a long amount of sitting. Most adult learners kind of tune out after about 15 or 20 minutes unless you’ve popped up a poll or you’ve taken a question from the audience or something like that. So you need to be mindful of that.

The other thing, I think when you start looking at vendors, when everyone turned to pivot in March, I don’t think anyone was ready, but certainly not the vendors. There were like two or three major players in the virtual event space. And at that time, even when we started looking in March like an immediate search in March, there was maybe 10 players, you could kind of vet and consider as your partner. And now there has to be over 100. Like everyone now can do a virtual event and they all differ in how they present that information and how they can do that. So choosing your partner, I think, is the next most important piece.

And then it’s just the other piece I would say be super mindful of is planning for a virtual event, there’s more hard deadlines. We’ve all done live events, and the beauty of that, although we say we were not gonna do it and we set these deadlines, we know a speaker can come in the night before their presentation and having futz around with their presentation so we can still get it out there. We can still put it on main stage. If you walk in with a brand new USB drive, I can still get you out there. And that’s not true with virtual, there is a finite deadline that literally, you can’t give me your presentation any later. And there’s a lot of room for technical error. So you have to back up in how you do your planning, because it just doesn’t have the same sort of squishy wiggle room that live events does.

Tom: That’s an interesting point. That’s a very interesting point. And Robin, how about you in terms of our planning and event? I know you had mentioned among other things is managing the expectations of stakeholders, but I’m also interested and I think the audience is also interested in understanding how do you even pitch an idea for an event to your management? So thoughts on that Robin?

Robin: Yeah, so, you know, in full collaboration, right, so for me, it really was almost taking that live event and just dumping it upside down, right? As Lisa mentioned, they’re not the same, right? Our event was a three-day event. The virtual event became a three-hour event. So it really it took getting everybody together and having these discussions and, you know, really kind of looking at what some of the best practices were. And there were a couple of very large conferences that we’re able to…had to pivot even sooner than we were able to look at them and kind of see what we liked about how they did some things and use that. So it was one of the big things I, you know, found early on. Hopefully it’s less now, but making sure that the internal team understood the difference between what a webinar was, what a virtual event was and what a live event was.

And I had to do a lot of pulling to get people into the middle, you know, and understand the expectations. As Lisa said, right, a virtual event, isn’t a live event, but it’s also not a webinar, right? And we’re trying to engage our audience a little bit more. But we also recognize the fact that it’s, you know, a lot of time commit. So for us, you know, the event was a three-hour, you know, event versus the three day. So, and I also think that for us too Lisa was, you know, referring to, you know, some of the hard deadlines, you know, COVID added even from a virtual event perspective, when you’re looking at the production piece of it, added a lot more to it, right? Because now you have people at home on your speakers that you now have to rely on them to utilize whatever technology they have and what the quality was gonna be.

And being, you know, event professionals, we really wanted to up that ante and make it a little bit better. In a different scenario, we might’ve sent a camera crew around and, you know, had it done, but we didn’t have that ability. So managing that production and the quality part of it was also, you know, something that as a team, we decided that we really wanted it to do that. So it kind of, again, in the middle, right, not a webinar and not the live event, but have some components of it. And I think it just was really important that the team, the internal team, you know, had these objectives together from the get go and, you know, occasionally they were, you know, needed to be reminded as we went through the process. I hope that answers the question for you.

Tom: Oh, absolutely. Thank you for that. Let’s talk a little bit about the competition. Nobody creates a virtual conference in a vacuum. So let’s say you’re hosting your own as opposed to one where you’re participating or one where you’re running the event. So Mirza, how do you take into account the competition maybe, and when you do it, the timing of it and other factors as well?

Mirza: Tom, can you elaborate a little bit. A competition in the sense of like locking out the competition or just like a general sort of thing of what competitors are doing?

Tom: Oh yeah. So if you’re planning one, how do you, it’s hard to know when your competitor is planning one as well. I don’t know if you have intelligence from that or like, how do you factor that in?

Mirza: Yeah, I got you. I think, you know, we’ve always taken the approach that, you know, our competitors are gonna be our competitors, but we’re gonna do things that don’t even address our competitors. And I think to all of the marketers out there, if you take that approach, then just take it boldly and take a leap of faith because you don’t wanna be a “me too” nor do you wanna kind of be mindful and cognizant of what the competition is doing and then do it in response of. You are not your competitor, you are your own entity, you are your own company, and obviously you have your own strengths and yes, you have your own weaknesses. So just going with that kind of a standard alone will set yourself apart.

Now, I’m not just, I’m not saying blindly, you know, do your own event the day of your competitor’s event. I wouldn’t advocate for that either, but that being said, you don’t wanna kind of look at their playbook or their marketing kind of strategy and say, ”Oh, they’re doing a virtual event, hence we need to do a virtual event as well.” Would never say that. What I would recommend is similar to what’s already been said by Robin and Belinda, you know, you wanna kind of curate and craft your virtual event according to your audience, right?

And I think from a slew of questions both from the chat and from the Q&A, yeah, you know, engagement is really challenging right now, especially in terms the virtual boots. But I think as marketers, we have to give ourselves a reality check and a head shake, you know, is that the expectation? Yes, that was the expectation when things were pre-COVID, when COVID wasn’t even in our language, you know. Yes, people would actually visit a physical booth, there’d be chit chat. There’d be like, “Hey, here’s a nice, shiny, you know, doodad. Here’s a little gadget for you. Thanks for dropping by, let me give you your business card. Hey, enter your business card into a fishbowl. We’ll do a raffle for an espresso machine,” whatever the case was. “We’re having a little golf tourney right here on the grounds. You know, check out our tee shirts,” and so on and so forth. I mean, it was a great, wonderful play land, right?

But within a virtual setting, if we as marketers don’t level set expectations, and I think it was Robin mentioning that, there was a lot of education, you know, just going on as to what a virtual event is all about. If we as marketers aren’t level setting expectations internally with our own executives and saying, “Hey, you know what, we’re doing this virtual event, but the expectations have to be different.” The KPIs have to be different. There is sales handoff, there is marketing generated pipeline, but we gotta settle with this new norm, and that also means new norm in terms of expectations and metrics and what exactly we’re going to get out of it.

And if that means less virtual booth engagement or not even having a virtual booth at all, but relying on the fact that you will have attendees, you will have no shows, now it’s a matter of nurturing those attendees and those no shows through a nurture program or through your marketing pipeline, then so be it. It may be a harsh answer, but I think we really, really, as marketers have to give ourselves a reality check and a strong, strong metric, I really do.

Tom: No, I think that’s a great answer. So here’s one general, if anybody would like to take this, so one of the draws of a physical event is networking. How do you get that? Is it possible to get any of that out of a virtual event? Anybody on the panel wish to take that question?

Belinda: Yeah, I can definitely start on that one, Tom. And so, you know, that’s absolutely a great question and it is a big deal and that’s definitely like one of the top three reasons our attendees would come to our events, right? It’s the networking component. So for us, it was really important to be able to try and figure out how to incorporate that into our flow live event. And as I kind of briefly mentioned earlier, you know, what we did was that we created a dedicated Slack group for our flow live, and we created a channel where they could either ask the experts so they could communicate directly with our employees from the product side. If they had technical questions, they could definitely communicate with us that way.

We had a meet the speaker channel. So at the end of every customer session, the speaker would hang back in the Slack channel. And so if they weren’t able to answer questions live, attendees still had an opportunity to meet with the speaker directly through the Slack channel after the event. And we saw a huge engagement with this. People were, you know, spending an extra 15 to 20 minutes after the event ended just to continue a conversation with the speaker or with other attendees.

And then in addition to that, we also created additional channels within that Slack just based on certain topics. So whatever was top of mind for them, you know, what was, you know, if they were looking to speak with other peers around those specific topics, they were able to do that. And then in another area that we were, you know, we are still working on, I think is huge too, if you have this ability, if you have like a community platform. You know, I think having something like that, like a ZenDesk or a Jive, or, you know, it’s just something that allows you to still continue the conversation. You can post content and, you know, and it can live on even long after your event concludes, and it’s still an opportunity for your audience to engage with you or to engage with their peers. So yeah, I think there’s a number of options out there now, and again, as I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of technology that’s really coming to play to allow you to be able to engage with your group.

Tom: Great. Thanks for that. And a follow on question, Belinda, let’s talk for a moment about promoting an event. How do you target and entice people when there’s an increasing amount of people doing virtual conferences and other forms of virtual events?

Belinda: Yeah. You know, we definitely are not shy of throwing out incentives. We do that quite a bit. And it’s worked out for us for a number of the virtual events that we’ve been doing, not just our customer conference. So we’ve done incentives with, you know, gift cards or doing charitable donations. We found a lot of people actually love that, especially just kind of during this time that we’re in to be able to have a, you know, give back component. You know, we’re doing an incentive for an event we got coming up where we are offering our customers, we’re doing a couple of multipronged approach. So we’ve reached out to a select group of customers that, “Hey, we have an event coming up, we want you to register, but we also want you to share about the event on your social platforms. And if you do that, we’re gonna qualify you to win a free pair of Maui Jim sunglasses. And then in order for you to actually, you know, redeem those sunglasses, you have to actually show up for the event.”

So here we’ve asked them to do three different things. We have three call to actions, and in addition to that, we’re using them to also help promote our event across social channels. And we’ve seen good success with that. So, you know, again, we’re not above an incentive, I think it works out great. We definitely use our speakers. You know, we create content for our speakers to go and repurpose and we want them to also share across their channels. Same with, we have sponsors and so forth utilizing our partners to help, you know, create some buzz.

But I think, you know, yeah, it comes down to, I think, if you can, obviously the content to help drive that promotion strategy, you know, working with various people externally, but also your teams inside, you know, not only, you know, email doesn’t always work 100%. So I think, you know, there’s nothing like a personal outreach. So, you know, working closely with your account reps, with your client success team, they have the relationships. So I always make that I align with them and that they’re having, you know, when they’re on the phones with clients that they’re being informed about an event, so definitely different approaches you can take there.

Tom: Thanks. Thanks. And Lisa, what are your thoughts on how to target and entice people to an event?

Lisa: It’s tricky because now that’s pretty much what everyone’s getting inundated with. So I would say, you know, check your own habits, right? We’re all registering for webinars and different virtual events and that kind of thing, because the majority of them right now are free. I think we’ll start to see that change. I think we will start to see people finding a way to provide value and to charge for their events. I just think the initial reaction was, “Let’s go virtual and make it free and open.” But kudos to all of you that are actually attending today, but I’m sure there were three other things we all signed up for that we didn’t attend. So that conversion rate’s going to be lower. And to Mirza’s point, right, the way you treat that afterwards, how you manage it once they’re registered, then it’s a little bit more handholding.

You gotta send out reminders and we’re looking forward to seeing you. And if you’re going to run a Slack workspace, like we did that as well Belinda, you gotta get people enabled on that early, like, you know, get signed up now, get in place, get ready to make the most of this experience. You have to tell the audience how to make that a valuable experience. When I think of, you know, and then your follow-up makes a difference. You can’t follow up on these leads just like you would have at any other lead because they’re slightly more cold. They need more nurturing and your sales team needs to be aware of that as well.

Tom: Thanks for that. And let’s just drill down on leads a little bit. We’ve had, I think, eight questions in terms of either chat or in Q&A from the audience, it looks like the single most asked question from the audience, how do you generate quality leads? So I think Mirza had mentioned, you know, you have that fishbowl, you have people coming by your booth. But how do you generate a quality lead here, and what’s the definition of that quality lead? Robin, do you have thoughts on that?

Robin: Yeah, that’s always a tough question whether it’s a live event or a virtual event, or, you know, email campaigns, you know, generating quality leads. You know, you’re just providing them the content that’s valuable to the target audience, and, you know, then just you’re taking that lead and, you know, moving it through the pipeline. A little bit different in my scenario because it was a user group, so kind of the quality leads were already there, right? They are our current users. We did have some prospects, but the percentage was low. So perhaps another panelist may have a little bit, you know, a better answer for that.

Tom: Okay. And we may come back to that. I just wanna manage time here correctly. So, you know, one of the things I’ve heard, you know, in our pre-session and a little bit today was the whole topic of resourcefulness. It seems like resourcefulness is a real key part of success. Does anybody have an example of something that they thought was a really resourceful way to use an asset to use a presenter, to keep people engaged, something, you know, out-of-the-box sort of a thing. So anybody like to take that in like a minute or less answer?

Lisa: I guess it was kind of resourceful I’m not sure. Well, it was successful for what we wanted it to do. We did engage, as you would with any live event, paid entertainers, right? But we took a paid entertainer that had, we actually used Henry Rollins and we had an IT technical audience. So those guys were hot about it. If you don’t know, he’s a punk rocker from Black Flag, but we used him to do four small segments of interviews of some of our key players. And it wasn’t so much that we felt these little infotainment segments were going to be the big draw card for attendance, but they did get us probably our biggest bite on social media. And we did find that driving registration through social was super successful for us on this round, which it had never proven to be for the live event.

So I would think that social is gonna play a bigger role for you, and look at how, what kind of ammunition can you feed your social machine to help drive buzz around your events? Because that’s what we did with Henry Rollins was just to get it out there that he was doing interviews as part of our segment. We got an awful lot of drive to the website for that.

Tom: Great. Thanks for that. And now I’d like to ask about platforms and just keeping time in mind here, I’d like to give each of the panelists 30 seconds just to say what platform they used and maybe one attribute about that platform. Mirza, how about you?

Mirza: Sure, Tom. So the platform we used is WorkCast, and the real beneficial thing about WorkCast is that just excels at broadcasting video. And I did mention it before, but it bears mentioning again here real quick, you can do what’s called a Simulive session. So you can pre-record your video. You can have a very, very professional polished video but at the same time through the platform, you can have a live Q&A chat and you can also do a live call in for the Q&A. So the video you’re watching is prerecorded. And while you’re doing like an actual live chat, maybe as an ending segment, in that sense, it completely feels live.

Tom: Great. And thanks for that. And, you know, we’re gonna drill down on some of these topics in another session. Robin, real quick what platform did your company use?

Robin: Yeah, and this was after looking at quite a few on various stages and we used vFairs. And what I found about them was they’re user friendly and very easy for us to use. It really resembled a live event in some components, which is what we wanted to have. The cost, the cost was really very, very reasonable and also provided a lot of great features, you know, multiple rooms, live Q&A, prerecorded sessions, gamification. So it really was this complete, absolutely wonderful platform.

Tom: Great. Thanks for that. And real quickly, Lisa what platform did you folks choose?

Lisa: So for our first event out the door we used Intrado. I’m not sure that it was 100% a good fit, but again, early in the game, there weren’t that many players. We’re in the middle of planning, one with ProExhibits, and we have another one in the process with PheedLoop. So happy with those latter two. We’ve also participated as an exhibitor with people who use like Showpad and ON24. So I know there’s a lot of vendors out there. You really have to look at what components are most important to you.

Tom: Okay. And Belinda, what platform did xMatters use?

Belinda: Yeah, sorry to say I don’t have anything fancy to add to that, but for our needs, it was so minimal. So we were able to pull it off with Zoom, you know, which was perfect for us. And again, we know we have a small mini-event series that we did, and they were just, you know, again, customer sessions. So Zoom worked out really great for us for our meetings at that time. We’ll definitely explore other options as we move forward into 2021. But again, I think a couple of things though, that I did like about Zoom was the Marketo integration. That was very key for us, especially for our demand gen team. So being able to feed that information back and forth between Zoom and Marketo, being able to capture those registrations from both sides, as well as the attendees and then also their live stream integration. So you’re able to live stream on YouTube or you can even pick this place within your website or anywhere actually, and do a customized livestream integration.

Tom: Okay, great. Thanks for that.

Lisa: I would add to that just real quick that regardless of what platform you choose, be mindful about how they’re managing data and how they’re sharing it. I think all of us are working under GDPR if you’re doing global or even some of the Canadian or California rules. And that became a hot button for our legal and compliance teams was looking at how people are managing the data and who’s capturing that information. So just keep that…

Tom: That’s a really good point. You know, we’re in overtime now, but people have a few extra minutes. Maybe we’ll take another question or two here. And so I think one interesting question was pricing. Do you charge attendees for a virtual event, and if so how would that work? Lisa, I don’t know if you wanna run with that question.

Lisa: Yeah. We’re looking at our next event to have a price tag with it. It typically has a live event and we also need the revenue stream. This one will be hybrid, both live and online. So I think the challenges giving, and I’m starting to look at this, we’re checking other people’s events where they’re starting to charge. So a lot of the ones that are charging are adding into it some additional or year round elements, like, you know, you pay for this conference, but it gives you essentially a subscription to the next five webinars or you’re, you know, you get 50% off the next live event or you get something like there’s some value add that makes that price tag look good. But I’ve seen the prices vary everywhere from like $50 to $1,200. So it’s all in how you package up the value. And if you can make that, you know, being able to provide like continuing ed credits, being able to provide access to certain VIP days or conversations, then I think that becomes the key to being able to charge. It’s still [inaudible 00:43:55], right? I’m not seeing a whole lot of people doing it and the ones that are, seem to be all over the board. So we’re interested and we’re watching.

Tom: So that’ll be something it’d be interesting to follow up. With that, I’d like to thank all of our panelists for an excellent session and would like to thank the attendees as well. And please, by all means, let us know if this webinar has helped you through the process of thinking through doing your first virtual event or a bigger virtual event or motivated you to do so, because again, February 19th, next year, we’re gonna have four of our panelists, I should say, four of our attendees present with a panelist, and that panelists will be available to mentor you through that process and co-present with you on that as well. So thank you again, everybody for attending today. We really appreciate it.

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