July 10, 2020

How to Bring that “In-Person” Feel Back to Virtual Events

Sruthi Kumar
Sruthi Kumar

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Revenue teams have been asked to do more with less and as the digital world becomes more saturated, programs that bring back the feel of in-person experiences have grown more important. This is why we have brought together Sendoso experts from across all departments to share creative ways we have maximized sales and marketing ROI in this new climate.

Across 4 unique sessions, we share proven strategies for driving revenue growth, how to achieve measurable results from sending, and maximizing ROI. Whether you’re in sales, marketing, or customer success, these insights will bring success to your team.

So let’s recap: Last quarter, in-person events were cancelled and we quickly pivoted our plans. But we now realize we’re living in a new reality, and virtual events are here to stay (check out a quick virtual event “how-to” guide here). Budgets are constrained, channels are limited, and physical events aren’t possible—so what do we do? Find ways to bring back the “in-person” feel to virtual events.

The New Norm: Adding Offline Elements to Virtual Events

The new event playbook means maximizing ROI; focusing on what can generate results, and continue to build human connections in a virtual environment.

In our world of in-person events, we (of course) leveraged digital outreach. We tried to make sure we were setting up meetings with accounts we cared about and driving booth traffic from titles that were relevant to us. We did this using emails, social media, paid ads, and other purely digital strategies.

This virtual experience of your brand and messaging all lead up to the break from virtual: the physical event. We then had an opportunity to break the digital noise with the in-person relevant experiences that we curated for them with an intimate event or a fun moment that we created for them at our booth.

Now, there is no break from virtual. The event that we are inviting these prospects to and driving interest from our customers is also virtual.
So how do you break up this virtual journey? How do you bring back the in-person experience and connection that we are all missing in our personal lives and business lives?

With an offline channel like direct mail.

Try sending your audience a swag box before your event with items from all your sponsors to get your attendees excited about joining the event and learning from all of you. Or you can send a cocktail kit to recreate the feeling of a happy hour from an in-person event with a smaller group of prospects.

Driving Virtual Event Registration and Attendance

You’ve got your virtual event content planned, but how do you guarantee you’re hitting your registration and attendance goals? Here are some ideas:

Our world doesn’t look the same as it did six months ago, so stay relevant and empathetic to your audience. Run a campaign around giving back and offer Sendoso’s CharityChoice as your audience registers for your event. Our customer PubNub did this for a recent webinar, and gave the option of donating to their charity of choice upon registration. Since implementing Sendoso, webinar registrations have increased by 32%.

You can also drive attendance to your virtual event by sending out a digital eGift card before the event starts. Our customer Lessonly put together an intimate conversation with their CEO named a “coffee connection.” The marketing team sent Starbucks eGifts the day before the even and saw 60% virtual event attendance.

Personalizing Virtual Event Follow-Up

So the right prospects and target accounts attended your event, but how can you ensure the conversation continues? Every field marketer knows that the campaign is not over once the event is over; you need to execute the critical step of following up.

An example of follow-up is something we tried for our first virtual event since pivoting due to COVID-19. We had a four-city roadshow set to kick off later this year and we were unable to do it in person, but we still had ideas for session content, customer speakers, and product announcements to make. So we pivoted to a half-day virtual event hosted on ON24.

With a lot of work leading up to it, the event went flawlessly.

As a post-event we sent attendees a $5 CharityChoice gift card. This allowed us to further qualify leads before passing to our  SDR team for call downs (a great way to bridge the gap between marketing efforts and sales.) We saw a 41% higher response rate than the traditional email follow up (81% response rate vs. 58% prior). Not only was it great engagement but 25% of the CharityChoice respondents became opportunities.

Increasing Virtual Event Engagement

Another change that occurred as a result of COVID-19 is that our field marketing team is now also responsible for cross sell & upsell numbers, because net new acquisition is more expensive than retention.

In a global economic downturn, focusing on existing customers is more important now than ever. So we set up three virtual events across three different time zones with customers to share send ideas, network with peers, ask questions and discuss best practices.

To help drive attendance, and to make the happy hour more engaging, we sent a Cocktail Courier Kits that included vodka, pineapple, lime, and jalapeño toppings. Sendoso hosts would teach attendees how to mix the cocktails live on camera, then everyone could have a drink and discuss ideas similar to a traditional in person happy hour. Those who did not sign up in time for the cocktail kit to arrive before the event received a wine.com eGift card.

The addition of the cocktail helped us bring a different layer to the event where folks understood we were recreating an intimate dinner or happy hour type of event, and instead of having to use their own resources, they were able to have a shared experience of making the cocktails with the whole group. One of the goals was to create a space for an experiential event versus a webinar or content presentation and we ended up with a 90% win rate of opps that attended the event.

5 Fun Virtual Event Ideas

Where virtual events come up short is the social and fun aspects of being at a conference—networking, the lunches/coffee breaks, unique session formats, and activities like group workouts, volunteering, or parties.

Virtual events tend to be all about content, which is valuable, but can be consumed on your own time later. In order to drive live attendance, virtual events need more engagement and urgency. Folding in various offline aspects can help you accomplish that.

  1. Send codes for virtual workout classes. You can recreate the early morning group workouts that in-person events offer too. Keep this to a select group of top target accounts that you would like to further conversation with.
  2. Virtual events compete with a lot of other digital noise. They compete with other events happening at the same time, slacks, emails, plus everything happening in the person’s home; their kids and dogs. Offer your attendees a little relaxing moment with a Headspace meditation between sessions.
  3. Some people love collecting knick-knacks from different sponsors on the expo floor. Bring back that exciting moment to the attendees with a “Conference in a Box” featuring branded swag items from all the sponsors that gets shipped to attendees.
  4. A lot of us miss traveling, so send regional gifts and treats with a note that says, “You couldn’t travel to San Francisco, so we brought San Francisco to you!
  5. Recreate some of the in-person staples like event name tags. Pro tip: If you’re using Zoom, send a digital version of the name tag to your attendees so it can be their personalized background as they are taking part in the event.

Final Tips for Virtual Event Success in the New Normal

As we said earlier, virtual events are here to stay. So how can you continue to successfully tackle this new challenge?

Take stock of your skills: How can we apply your team’s talents in new ways?

Field marketers, brush up on your digital marketing skills, or take advantage of your existing skills. The skills it takes for your team to be successful to help the company has changed, so make sure to take stock of what you can do and then fill the gaps with skills from other teams or different vendors.

If the world around you is changing, change your role alongside it.

Adapt to the changes and help your virtual events stand out!

Don’t be scared to ask for what you need.

Budgets and roles are changing, make sure you are asking team members and leadership questions and for support where you need it.

Be open-minded, new opportunities will present themselves.

This is an incredible opportunity to be creative, let’s seize the moment to stand out from the crowd!

Register below to listen to the full session, and sign up for upcoming sessions in the Sending for Success each Friday in the series for more strategies on driving revenue growth, achieving measurable results from sending, and maximizing ROI.

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