The world has gone increasingly digital, both by choice and by necessity. In-person events have been put on pause; therefore, digital networking tactics are the new go-to. This means that if networking events and conferences are a part of your brand and marketing strategy, it’s time to rethink your approach.
Networking events have a million moving pieces at the best of times, and abruptly transitioning them into the digital sphere obviously poses some unique complications. Among them are keeping your attendees engaged when they’re not in the same room as you.
Eighty percent of marketers believe that live events are critical to their company’s overall success. In previous years, these all-important events have been riddled with their own obstacles and challenges, including curating engaging content, meeting revenue goals, and of course, getting enough people to sign on and attend. Take out the free food and networking opportunities and throw in a computer screen on the couch, and it’s easy to see how these challenges are amplified when events go digital.
However, just because the process for hosting a successful marketing event looks a little bit different, events remain an integral part of connecting with your customers and leads and attracting new ones. Here are some tips for keeping your events engaging and effective — even when they’re taking place online.
Know Your Audience and Know Your Expertise
The best professional events are the ones that provide a perfect union between expertise and audience needs. When it comes to keeping your audience interested in what you’re saying, you have to understand the topics that most appeal to them — including the challenges and questions they might have in relation to them. It’s also crucial that you are an expert on those topics. If you’re not, then find other leaders in the space who are and invite them to be a part of your event. The last thing you want is angry attendees that took time out of their day for your event, only to leave feeling swindled.
Before implementing any marketing strategy, the first question you have to ask yourself is, “will my audience find this valuable?” Curating your content carefully will ensure your event is centered on what your audience craves, which will only help in terms of engagement and interest. Here are some tactics to help you uncover what your audience will be most enticed by.
- Survey your customers on their biggest pain points and where they feel most uninformed about your industry.
- Use a Twitter poll and ask your followers what type of digital event they’d be most inclined to register for.
- Do a deep dive into your blog and email performance metric to determine which areas of focus inspired the most clicks, likes, engagement, and downloads.
Amp Up Your Attendee List
Without physical spaces, you don’t have to worry about overbooking your venue, so go ahead and bring in as many attendees as you can.
It’s pretty much just a rule of life that everyone who RSVPs to an event won’t actually show up. But if you can get your event details in front of more people, you should still have a successful and engaging event even with no-shows — and the sky’s the limit for how many people can join in.
Whatever your standard mode of advertising is for events, take it to the next level to garner more interest and responses. Utilize all of your channels, including social media, email marketing, and client communications, to publicize what’s coming up and send out an invite. What do you have to lose? Here are some specific ideas to test out:
- A dedicated email campaign sent to prospects who have dropped off in engagement. Nail two birds with one stone by increasing event registrants and re-engaging leads.
- Use paid digital ads to get your event in front of a specific demographic. You’ll be able to generate new leads and increase attendees at the same time.
- Partner with other brands that have a similar audience as you. These brands can offer quality insights that will help make your event amazing, and by sharing the heavy promotional lifting, you’ll be able to tap into their audience and expand your reach.
- Incorporate a social campaign into your social media calendar to create buzz leading up to the event. Create hashtags and images that are eye-catching so you can call attention to the event and get as many people interested as possible. Highlight speakers and topics, so people will know exactly what the event entails and get excited about being a part of it.
Let’s be real: everything is a little bit awkward right now. But instead of feeling uncomfortable about hosting a live event from your home office or living room, embrace it. It’s totally okay to be less buttoned-up and more laid back than you were previously. In fact, this can go a long way toward endearing yourself to your audience and getting on their same page.
Audiences love it when you talk to them like peers and show them your personality. When brands and the faces behind brands appear rehearsed or robotic, it simply implies there’s something to hide. It tells your audience that you don’t trust them enough to show the real side of your business, and it can definitely work against you. Instead of shying away from letting your “real” self out on the digital screen, use this time as an opportunity to keep your event more light, fun, and relatable.
- Don’t be so rehearsed. Have an outline and a brief script if it will make you feel prepared, but don’t hesitate from straying away from it if that’s where the conversation leads you.
- Use a deck that includes fun graphics and images. One of the most engaging webinars we’ve been on was one when the speaker incorporated pictures of her dog.
- Try a less rigid format. For example, try using a moderator to ask questions pre-pulled from your audience ahead of time, and use them to lead a dialogue between co-presenters.
Use Polls to Encourage Participation
A lot of companies poll attendees after events to get their feedback. And while that’s great at keeping engagement strong, why not poll your viewers while you host your event, too?
Listen, we’ve all been on the other end of a digital event or meeting. As such, we know how easy it is to get distracted and space out — especially when there are pets, kids, and cellphones calling our names. Using polls during your events will keep your viewers’ eyes on the screen and encourage their input into whatever you’re talking about. It also gives them the chance to ask questions and take advantage of the more give-and-take nature of a digital event. Another added bonus is you’ll get some interesting data that you can use as you refine your content for your next event.
Make sure you create these questions ahead of time and plan out when you’ll be posting them during the event. This will not only ensure you don’t forget about using them but that you use them when they make the most sense, which will also encourage more engagement.
Don’t Let Digital Get You Down
Excuse the cliché, but we’re all in this together. Marketers worldwide are having to learn (and quickly) how to modify their live events for the digital space, and it makes sense for there to be some growing pains. Look for takeaways as you go that can help inform future events, including audience feedback. Be on the lookout for the less-obvious stuff, too, such as how many people are signing up versus how many people are showing up and sticking around.
There’s a lot to be gained from digital events; you’ve just got to work out the kinks first. Don’t let them intimidate you, and don’t put them off until things “go back to normal.” We don’t know how long that will be, and right now, finding ways to engage and interact with others is extremely important. Good luck with your next digital event, and we hope this guide helps you prepare!