What’s the most exciting conference you’ve ever been to? Trick question. By and large, conferences have a reputation for being a bit dull.
So let us rephrase. What’s the most memorable event you’ve ever been to? No matter your answer, it probably involves some amount of socializing, entertainment and/or new information.
But now that more conferences are going virtual, the in-person parts that once carried an otherwise uneventful event have to be entirely rethought.
Since it may be some time before we can “attend” anything that isn’t online, now’s the time to plan a truly immersive virtual experience for your next conference. Need some inspiration? Take a page from these successful online events.
1. Penguin Strategies – Content first
Leave it to a marketing agency to prove what we already know about well-attended conferences, virtual or otherwise: Content is still king. With only a three-week runway, they were able to reimagine the format and still secure a 75% attendance rate to their first-ever digital conference in March 2020. (A number considerably higher than the 44% of attendees who RSVP to the average webinar.)
How? As Penguin Strategies CMO Shoham Eckhaus told HubSpot, “Deliver the right topic at the right time; share high-quality content from experts in the field; stay focused; and engage influencers to share with their networks.”
Deliver the right topic at the right time; share high-quality content from experts in the field; stay focused; and engage influencers to share with their networks.
In this case, the event featured a timely topic (CMOs Surviving in a Panicked Economy) and respected speakers and thought leaders like Kipp Bodnar, HubSpot’s CMO.
2. Salesforce – Embrace interactivity
When it comes to unique and interactive virtual events, Salesforce has set the bar high. With a mere 10 business day turnaround time, they were able to pivot their World Tour Event into a (wildly successful) online experience for more than 80,000 livestream attendees. In total, the conference footage has been viewed over a million times across social media.
Their secret? Interactivity. Specifically, audience members were asked to vote on which real-time app demo was their favorite during the AppExchange Demo Jam. Turns out, folks appreciate having their voices heard.
3. SBC Digital Summit – Create a virtual experience
Virtual conference goers at this year’s SBC Digital Summit were greeted with a familiar event space. Though virtual, it replicated many of the same characteristics of a physical event center.
Arrival and check in took place in a virtual lobby area. From there, attendees could “choose their own adventure,” entering exhibition halls to get acquainted with booth vendors and watching featured speaker presentations in the conference auditorium.
4. Quintessa’s Virtual Estate Experience – Break the 4th wall (with at-home goodies)
The Quintessa winery in Napa, California is ensuring would-be travelers still get the full in-person experience at-home. Their ingenious take on wine tasting includes a virtual tour of the premises and breaks the fourth wall by mailing three half bottles to registrants for guided sampling.
This way, participants get to pretend they’re in two places at once, engaging their senses with fine wine and a view all from their very own home.
5. SaaStr Annual at Home 2020 – Provide opportunities to network
If you attend the “World’s Largest B2B Software Conference,” you probably expect to leave with a contact or two. SaaStr’s Annual at Home 2020 event partnered with Hey Summit, a suite of organizational and marketing tools, to provide attendees with seamless digital networking sessions.
It’s important speakers and fellow attendees still have an opportunity to connect, especially if they can’t do so in person.
Whether using breakout sessions in a video conference, inviting attendees to join you on a messaging platform or having a Q+A webinar, it’s important speakers and fellow attendees still have an opportunity to connect, especially if they can’t do so in person.
Done well, virtual events can be just as enthralling as the “real” thing, while also offering companies a way to save on production costs, increase global attendance and reduce their carbon footprint. Just remember, the more engaging your online event is, the larger your RSVP list is likely to be.