There was a time not long ago when many of us had never attended a true virtual event. Now, with the novelty of modern technologies worn-off and the over saturation of virtual events, event professionals and marketers alike must find new and creative ways to promote their events.
While there is increased talk about hybrid events in 2021, 75 per cent of event organizers plan to incorporate technology into their events going forward, no matter the event format. This is according to SwapCard’s Hybrid is Now report, which analyzed the future of in-person and virtual events.
So, whether planning a fully virtual event or some form of hybrid experience, how do you make it stand out from the crowd and get people to not only register but actually attend?
Here are five actionable marketing techniques to use for your next event to drum up excitement and make the case for your audience to show up.
Leverage your Speakers
You likely invested a significant portion of your event budget in your keynote speaker (even in a virtual setting), but your keynote is not your only speaker. Leverage all speakers as influencers and have them advocate for your event. Ask them to cross-promote your content on their social media for increased reach; conduct pre-conference interviews to generate excitement for their session; have them write a guest blog for your website; and get them to film a ‘selfie’ video promoting the event that can then be shared on social channels. Your speakers are likely experts in their respective fields and your audience wants to hear from them directly.
Develop a ‘Why you Should Attend’ Campaign
Create a list of top reasons why people would want to attend your virtual event. It may include high-profile speakers, one-to-one networking, social events, sales opportunities, prizes, hands-on workshops, continuing education credits and so on. Once you’ve determined what is unique and valuable about your virtual event, communicate this with your audience by way of a website landing page, a TikTok or other social media video, or an infographic. This list can also be useful for employees asking for approval from their employers to attend.
Fear of missing out, or FOMO, can be an effective marketing strategy to attract registrations for your virtual event.
After all, why should people attend live if they will have access to all the content after the event and can consume it on their own time?
To create FOMO, emphasize elements of your event that will be limited to live attendees only, such as exclusive content, networking, and gamification and prizes.
Purposefully and strategically select sessions that will not be offered as on-demand content post-event. This means that if registrants do not attend live, they will miss the opportunity to see your plenary speaker or to brainstorm with other attendees in a live workshop.
Networking has proven to be a key reason for people to attend events. If networking is an element of your virtual event, showcase how it will work with your selected virtual platform so that attendees understand the quality of networking they will receive and what they will miss out on.
Everybody loves a little friendly competition. Incorporating gamification and prizes into your virtual event is a great way to motivate people to register and attend. If they aren’t there to play, they can’t win.
Don’t Forget about Registrants
Fifty per cent of registrants convert to virtual event attendees, as reported by Bizzabo’s 2021 Virtual Event Benchmarks. So, having regular touch points with your attendees can ensure they do not forget about your event and convert to actually attending.
Use the weeks leading up to your event to drip content and information to further reinforce and motivate registrants to attend live. Each week, unveil or highlight more speakers and encourage attendees to build out their profiles, book meetings with other attendees or plan out what sessions they will attend. Going back to gamification, you can also entice registrants to open your e-mails by peppering in secret codes like PheedLoop has done, which can be used to redeem prizes at the live event.
Utilize Word of Mouth
According to HubSpot, 90 per cent of people believe recommendations from family and friends and 70 per cent trust consumer reviews, making word of mouth and referrals effective event marketing tactics.
You can strengthen word of mouth by employing past and current attendees to promote your event. Use testimonials and quotes from past attendees in your social media marketing and on your website. Once someone has registered for your event, provide share buttons on the confirmation page so that attendees can easily share their participation on social media. Also, consider leveraging branding opportunities like a virtual photo booth that attendees can share on their social media.
Kaitlyn McGuirk is manager of marketing and communications at Redstone Agency Inc., one of Canada’s most innovative event and association management companies with a strong focus on digital events. Kaitlyn holds a master of professional communication, spearheads Redstone’s internal and external MarCom initiatives, and lends her creative skills to help clients level up their marketing game.