If there’s one thing the last year has made obvious, it’s that virtual events are here to stay, regardless of how the pandemic progresses. Unsurprisingly, the number of organizations planning a virtual event doubled in 2020.
More interestingly, 55% of event organizers plan to invest even more in virtual events in 2021. The global virtual events market was valued at approximately $78 billion in 2019 and is projected to grow at over 23% year-on-year through to 2027. However, despite such a breezy outlook, only about half of those registering for virtual events actually end up attending. This can be chalked up to a number of generic reasons, including Zoom fatigue, but the fact is, there’s a whole lot more organizers could be doing to improve attendance at these events. This blog goes on to detail some of the ways this can be done.
Use The Right Platform!
Basic, but incredibly underrated advice. The technology you use can have a huge impact on your attendees’ experience during the event, and for that matter, may even influence their last-minute decision to attend at all. Ensure that your platform can handle an event of your size and that it has all the essentials needed for an interactive event, including polls, breakout rooms, live chat, feedback mechanisms, and so on. If you’re on a budget, there are a number of free webinar platforms you can explore as well.
Identify The Optimal Window
Take into account your participants’ availability. There are certain times during the year your attendees are more likely to attend events. This often coincides with their own sales or procurement cycles and can differ from industry to industry. Identify the best time for your event, try not to have it clash with other similar events, and most importantly, get your registrations in quickly. Use a scheduling app if you have to, to simplify the RSVP process for you and everyone concerned.
Start Promoting The Event Early
By and large, virtual event attendees tend to register in the last month prior to the event. However, this is no reason to not start promoting it as early as possible. Be the first ones to block a date in your participants’ calendars and use the intervening time to build interest, through updates, incentives, and syndicated content.
Maximize In-Event Engagement
Don’t neglect attendee satisfaction. 85% of marketers consider it a major success factor. Leverage a mix of verbal and visual communication styles to keep your audience engaged, including via videos, presentations, and talks. Make sure you spark conversation among them too. There’s nothing like a frank exchange of ideas to prevent fatigue creeping in. It helps your attendees network as well. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to dedicate a session before and after the event, just for networking. It can serve as a significant incentive for people to attend your event.
Gamify Your Event
Offer digital rewards to stimulate attendance and participation. Go beyond early bird discounts. Try and conceive of a points-based system, where attendees can earn points by registering early, by motivating others to attend, and even for in-event activities like engaging with exhibitors, speakers, and fellow attendees. At the end of the event, they can redeem these points for rewards, perhaps facilitated by your event sponsors. Attendees will remember a good experience that they’ve had, and initiatives like this can make your events an all-around interesting place to be for all your stakeholders.
Use Your Event Stream As An Asset
There are a number of ways you can leverage past or upcoming event streams to boost attendance. Pull out interesting videos from your previous conferences and syndicate those on your channels to create interest. You can upload the entire stream as well if you like. If you have certain pre-recorded vignettes ready for an upcoming event, circulate those too to give potential attendees a taste of what they can expect. Want to urgently fill up a few virtual seats? Try offering your existing attendees the option to buy additional seats at a discounted price. After all, organizations often have limits on their conference budgets. Don’t shy away from offering free passes to special interest groups, like students, industry trainees, and so on. If they like what they see, they could end up becoming key participants in future events.
While virtual events are by no means a nascent channel, like all digital properties, they’ve taken on a life of their own since 2020. Marketers are still discovering new ways to innovate and leverage them to create better appeal for target groups. What does this mean for you? Don’t hesitate to experiment with the format and approach of your events. If you find an unconventional method to target a niche, go for it. Systems in flux are excellent opportunities for business growth.
Katie Tejada is a writer, editor, and former HR professional. She enjoys writing about events, travel, decorating trends, and innovations for the home, but also covers developments in HR, business communication, recruiting, real estate, finance, law, and investing.
Virtual events stock photo by Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock