For years, the success metric for in-person events lies in the inherent focus on qualified, engaged prospects and customers that are well into the buying process. Event attendees spend hours (and sometimes even days) engaging with the exhibitors. The Covid-19 pandemic has heavily affected global events – they have been either cancelled or postponed around the world. Since then, organisers have adopted new delivery models, some going entirely digital or embracing hybrid digital and in-person solutions. The crisis has triggered profound and potentially long-lasting changes in production and consumption patterns.
In-person, Virtual, or Hybrid Events: Which approach to choose?
Virtual events are different, in comparison to in-person events – they are less expensive and arguably easier to produce. They focus more on content delivery and require the mind of a television producer to deliver riveting content for entertainment, education, and consumer consumption. Content for virtual events needs to captivate the audience’s attention and keep them tuned in. The question remains – can virtual events replace in-person ones moving forward?
The future of events is still being debated. Many are still proactively researching and weighing the pros and cons of reinstating in-person events, even as the restrictions are being lifted. Organisers need to examine event insurance policies (since its onset, pandemic insurance is largely unavailable or cost-prohibitive), look into virtual event platforms, conduct surveys to gauge potential attendee interest and consider the vaccination requirements for in-person events.
One way is to plan all future events using the hybrid model – if unforeseen circumstances occur that require the in-person aspect of the event to be cancelled, the virtual component can still proceed. Here are some advantages of hybrid events:
- Hosted both in-person and virtually simultaneously.
- Attendees who prefer to go to a live, physical event have the option to attend. Those who prefer the convenience of online events or are not able to attend in-person can access the events using their computer, phone, or tablet.
- Hybrid events allow companies to reap the benefits of both in-person and virtual modes.
Once you’ve considered the pros and cons of your chosen approach, include the following considerations to ensure successful event planning:
- Plan engaging content: Whether the audience is physically present or virtual, attendees registered because they have an interest in the event’s subject matter. Focus on great content about your company, products, or services in the form of demos, Q&As, educational materials, or special offers.
- Treat virtual and in-person formats equally: It is easy to focus more time, energy, and resources on one aspect of the event than the other. Treat both elements equally to ensure that attendees have the same outstanding experience, no matter how they attend the event.
- Market to both groups: Be sure to research, plan, and adapt marketing strategies to target potential attendees for both in-person and remote/virtual elements.
Digital Content, Tools and Channels to Help Promote Your Business Events
Digital marketing focuses on nurturing the customers through a journey of digital interactions with the products or services. Even for the promotion of events, digital marketing relies heavily on content offers – to engage the customers while ensuring that content can be found at the right time, in the customer’s unique buying journey. Here are some highlights on digital content, tools, and channels that you can use to promote your event at every planning stage:
- Pre-event page – Create a pre-event page in Social Media to capture leads and early interest. This will help build up SEO authority with search engine(s). Provide a super-early bird incentive to those who pre-register.
- Blog post – Do up a blog post to tell people why you’re organising the event. Use this post to fuel the rest of your pre-event marketing, rally people around your idea, and convince them of the need to attend your event.
- Social Media – Create the momentum for your event promotion early. Build a community in social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or YouTube and spread the word on the event. Share blog posts on these platforms with a backlink to your original article. Don’t forget to create an event hashtag and use it in your social posts.
- Partners Outreach – Event marketing partnerships can be crucial to your event success. Reach out to potential collaborators, complementary brands, and media partners early (even before your event has officially launched).
Event Launch Stage
- Email – Emails on events have a 26% open rate – much higher than the typical marketing emails. Hence, email should be central to your campaign and promotion of ticket sales. Get your first email blast out to your potential attendees (especially those who have pre-registered).
- Press Release – It is not often that events are picked up by the national press, but it is still worthwhile to write a press release and send it out through free distribution channels. Draft your press release with key search terms in mind – anyone with Google alerts set up for those terms, will be able to see it. You may also get some local, trade, or niche press pick-up, blogs, and other personal authority sites.
- Blog and Social – A second blog post should be written – this will focus on the benefits of attending your event. Highlight the keynote speakers for the events and their profiles. Take the content from this post, rework it and use it to create a series of social media announcements.
- Partners – Get your outreach partners’ support to spread the word out. Best to do so when the event ticket sale is first launched and all the details are fresh and new.
Day-to-day content leading up to the actual event
- Regular email, social and blogging – The momentum has to keep going after the promotional launch – the best way to achieve this is through content creation, social media promotion (paid ads), engagement via digital platforms, and email updates.
- Thought leadership and guest posts – Blogging onsite is important but you need to go beyond your target audience to find new attendees. Guest post or create pieces of thought leadership (and post them on LinkedIn) that others will share. If you’re a B2B company, create an industry report or white paper that combines top tips from your event speakers. For B2C-consumer events, create interesting infographics, gifs, or other visual assets that explain ‘what’s hot’ or breaking trends. You can also produce a series of YouTube videos or podcasts to capture their attention.
- Final email blast, social and blog – Use social proof at this stage. Showcase who are already attending the event – influencers and/or thought leaders in your industry. The final blog posts, social media updates, and emails should now take on a more urgent, sales-focused message as you’ve spent the past weeks or months building up a relationship. Have clear call-to-action (CTAs) and convert the long-term strategy with ticket sales.
- Attendee referrals – Use remarketing to reach out to existing attendees or those who have shown interest but have not purchased the tickets yet. Incentivise them to promote the event – word-of-mouth is still the most powerful and effective marketing tactic.
- Influencer outreach – Influencers are your best bet when needing to fill up last-minute, vacant spots. They can help to spread the word out to their network about your event.
Covid-19 has not diminished the value of in-person events for participants who are committed to returning as soon as restrictions are lifted. At the same time, they are increasingly open to the idea of engaging with digital alongside in-person events. 65% of visitors and 57% of exhibitors believe digital will continue to work for events, even after the pandemic. If you would like to have a booked-out event, we can help with with your event promotion, contact us for a chat.
Freelance content writer who dabbles with digital marketing and yoga in her free time.