Virtual events may sound a bit of the future, but they aren’t really. With the whole world making a seismic shift to virtual events owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, promoting and hosting virtual events is taking the limelight.
It’d be wrong to say that virtual events found its way in the present date. If you look back, we got the taste of a virtual event in 1993 when the world’s first-ever Livestream showed us footage of a coffee maker. A lot of views happened over coffee!
Fast-forward to 2020, very little has changed except for teenagers showing sleep feeds on TikTok and earning in crypto coins like a boss. But what’s worth noting here is, social and tech have opened new doors to connect with the audience worldwide. The geographical restrictions of attending a global event are getting bleaker as brands are taking to live hosting of their events. From virtual museum tours to hosting Q&A sessions with astronauts in space – we’re going stronger in this virtual event game.
All of these do sound amazing, but promoting a completely virtual event virtually is not a cakewalk. You don’t do anything physically – everything happens across multiple digital platforms. All you have at your disposal is setting up promotional campaigns to ensure attendance as well as leave a lasting impression. Brands that have already built a strong foothold may have all the groundwork done. For instance, Adobe’s Summit doesn’t need intensive promotion. Adobe is a global name with millions of users across the world.
But if you are new to this, you will need all the tips and tricks in the book to make your virtual event a hit.
First things first, do virtual events work?
YES. They do. You see, virtual events have a lot wider reach. People can attend at their own convenience. For instance, remember Coachella’s YouTube Livestream in 2018? Incidentally, it brought Beyonce’s Homecoming to over 41 million people spread across 232 countries. Had it not been a virtual event, it would have amassed just hundreds of thousands probably. The trick was in how it was promoted.
This article is for you whether you are planning to host a virtual event or have already started working on it. You’ll get access to all the tried, tested, and proven tips to promote your upcoming virtual event (giving big-shots a run for their money!!).
How to promote a virtual event (and tools that can help)
Well, none of us are Beyonce. So let’s talk in layman’s term. Event promotion is heavily content-driven. Content can be anything – videos, social posts, infographics, blog posts, landing pages, website, chat, et al. Choosing the right format is your cue. We’ll talk about it in a while. For the starters, let’s just say that proper content marketing is the first (and major) step to promoting your event, irrespective of the topic of your event or scale of your event. In fact, as you’ll read through this article, you’ll see how every other promotional gimmick one way or the other falls under ‘content.’
(1) Ramp up your social media channels
It takes no Einstein to know that social media platforms are one of the best places to get your word spread. With the whole world quarantined at this moment (when this article is being written), there is no better time to leverage social media channels to promote your online event.
Let’s focus on the social giant – Facebook. Almost every one of every age is on Facebook. With that in mind, combined with Facebook’s options to narrow down your target audience for your promotional ad, this channel can help you get registrations in large numbers.
What you’ll need?
You need an event page, or you can use your brand’s Facebook page to launch a Facebook lead ad. You can also go Adobe’s way wherein they have created a separate Facebook page for their annual summit.
When you create a lead ad inside Facebook, you can narrow down your target audience by age, geography, and profession (to say the least). This helps redirect your lead ad to those profiles you might take an interest in your online event.
A lead ad is designed to collect leads, or in this case, get registrations. So, the next inevitable thing is to get your lead form ready.
Some registration forms are short and focus exclusively on registration, while some show a second form to ask for more information. Mostly this second form will ask for newer information with other pre-fulfilling boxes based on your earlier answers.
In marketing terminologies, we call it progressive profiling. Such forms can be filled in instalments as well.
Your forms must look pretty. Yes, that’s actually important. A form that aligns with your event’s theme is very crucial to leading to registration. For instance, take a look at the registration form from LAUNCH. You can see the color syncs and the bold CTA that will catch your eyes.
It’s an interactive form. If you click on Purchase, it will start showing you form fields. You can go forward or backwards using the scroll arrows down right.
LAUNCH uses Typeform to build these forms. In fact, Typeform has event-specific templates that are gorgeous. These forms are smart, intuitive, and customizable. What else you’d want, right?
Now comes connecting your lead ad, forms, and your CRM. For that, simple bot automation can do the task. A simple automation flow between Facebook Lead Ads and a CRM like Pipedrive CRM would look like this:
Instead of creating it from scratch, you can try implementing one of these ready-to-use bot flows from Automate.io [just making your tasks simpler].
Want to go the organic way? Social media is amazing for that too!
It is not necessary to launch ads every time. You can simply have a visual with a quirky post and ask your followers to get registered. Check out this social post by Adobe:
Adobe breaks its entire summit into small video snippets to get you intrigued. A quick video focussing on the sessions and keynote speakers lets users know the ultimate takeaway.
(2) Co-partnering for event promotion
You can always join hands with another influencer who enjoys huge followers. I’ll show you a step-by-step process of one such partnership.
If you are into reading a lot of marketing content, you’re definitely aware of Jeff Bullas. He is a master with words, and his articles on his official blog are amazing resources for a marketer like me and you.
Recently, I received an email containing a free eBook on virtual events created by one of his’ friends’ – Liam Austin. The eBook was definitely something I needed [cue: writing this article]. So, yes, I downloaded it for which I did register on the relevant landing page.
The next follow-up email was from Liam Austin himself. Since Jeff Bullas had already introduced him so well in the first event (and the wonderful eBook did leave a lasting impression), the email didn’t seem to intrude. Check the email below.
It was an invitation to his live masterclass scheduled two days later, along with two more to-do’s. The email contained a resource, option to register, and also included gratification by mentioning some of his achievements.
I received just another email one hour before the event started for registration.
Upon clicking on the registration link, it took me to the landing page where event details were there. But there was something more. Here’s how the landing page looked:
On the left-hand bottom corner, there was a continuous prompt of people registering for the event from various locations across the world. One might say, it’s useless, but that’s a psychological nudge that you’re not alone in this. There are people across the globe gearing up to join the live masterclass. Needless to say, I hopped on to fill in the registration form.
This is one great example of co-partnering with another influencer in your domain. This not just gives exposure, but you get to leverage the trust factor of your co-partner.
(3) Automate post-registration activities
Let’s just say (again) your target audience are busy people. Getting them to register for your online event is just the tip of the iceberg. You need to ensure that they make it to the D-day. But sending out flat reminder emails is just passé.
Instead, you can set up a three-four email automation series. Each email can talk about the sessions or speakers of the upcoming event in bits and pieces. This helps in building up momentum as well as giving a sneak into what your audience can expect.
You can create several post-form-submission triggers within your automation system like-
- Showing a thank you popup immediately after form submission
- Sending out a thank you email when someone submits the form
Then you can kickstart your email automation series containing emails like:
- Sending out itinerary of the event and details about speakers
- A video email highlighting a collage of the speakers or event sessions
- Reminder email one hour prior to the event (TIP: it’s easy to do this by connecting your Google Calendar & Gmail)
You can also do multi channel promotion of your events. Here are some ideas:
- You can launch push notification campaigns of similar content like the above email series with a quick link to register from mobile.
- You can use team management apps like Slack to promote your event. Use this guide to see how Slack can be used for event promotions.
- You can add CTA’s to enable users to add your event to their calendars quickly.
- You can add floater bars or static forms on your website to ensure registration. If a user is a returning user, you can set up dynamic content to ensure that users only see relevant content.
Dynamic content can be used on forms, landing pages, and websites to ensure that returning users do not see the same “register now” message. Making everything personalized is your highest priority.
This was all about promoting your event. Now, let’s look at your options to host live events.
Majority brands are opting for Facebook or Instagram live to host their events. It is easier to host on these platforms because it’s just a one-click thing. All you need to do is hit the “go live” button, and you’re done. However, some tools that you can use to make it more audience restricted are:
If you want to add ticket charges, you can do it through Eventbrite. Eventbrite integrates well with your forms and automation system giving you complete sync for your online event.
There are many tools to explore, but these are touted as the best ones (and are very easy to use). We’ve almost reached the end of this promotional guide for your online event.
In Conclusion: Main Takeaways
I know it’s not possible to remember everything you just read. Now that you are ready to host your virtual event, here are your final to-do’s to keep in mind.
1. Get your basics set properly.
Just because you are hosting a virtual event does not mean you can skip the basics. Here’s what you must do:
- Give your audience enough scope to network across multiple platforms. Remember, they are joining in not just to learn from your event but also to make new connections [just like an offline event].
- Put your utmost focus on presenting your event. A visually enriched presentation goes a long way in keeping your audience hooked until the end.
- Make your event easy to consume. Talk in a language that your audience relates to and enjoys.
2. Put on your creative hat.
Crafting a memorable experience for your audience is one of your primary goals. Be creative in your presentation. Take cues from other brands and see how they are doing it. You can take inspiration from events like that of Gong’s Virtual Expo area or SAP Ariba’s live streaming to see how these virtual events can be leveraged. Use live chats, polls, ad surveys to make your event engaging and ‘real-time’.
3. Have content that matters.
Don’t just jump the gun with your event’s theme and content. Your content should be relatable and set in the present time. Talk about something people want to hear about. For instance, the Wall Street Journal Health Forum happened recently on March 24th, 2020, wherein they spoke about COVID-19 and helped in educating their audience about the pandemic. Their timing couldn’t be more perfect as people are scrambling to know more and more about this pandemic and how best to fight them.
4. Get the right tools in place.
List down the resources you’ll need. If I have to sum up everything in this article, then here’s your final list:
- Pick a platform or tool to host your event – Facebook Live, Instagram Live, GoToWebinar, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Team, Slack Video Conferencing [if you are using Slack as your promotional channel].
- Create forms to use for your event’s registration. Take a look at Typeform’s interactive templates
to get started quickly. I use them, and they are amazing.
- Design the automation workflows you’ll need. You can use ready-made templates on Automate.io for your lead collection, CRM integration, and promotional marketing.
- Create amazing visuals for your presentation. You can use Venngage’s ready-made templates for events, Adobe Spark [if you are a little more advanced in your designing].
Online events require innovative tech in place, especially when you are trying to gather as much audience as an in-person event would pull. Try these tricks and see your online event treading the roads to success. If there are any other tools you’ve used or want to try out for your event, give me a shout-out in the comment section. I’ll definitely look into it and include it here. Till then, all the best.