Which pandemic business practices will we keep and what will we change as we look towards emerging out of the COVID pandemic?
How To Make the Most Of A Digital Event
We have found in-person events to be one of the most effective ways to increase brand awareness and build the personal relationships needed to grow our business. In the last year, most of that activity has moved online. In this article, we would like to share how we prepared for our last virtual event.
Why Sponsor a Virtual Event?
In-person events are key for brand awareness, lead generation, and to prove that your business has staying power during difficult times. How does this translate to virtual events?
Your company can stand out at a virtual event, as many of your competitors may choose not to attend. Supporting an event important to your customer community during these difficult times builds goodwill. Finally, virtual events use digital tools for advertising, communication, and analytics so you can track how your company’s investment performed.
How to Maximize Your Sponsorship
Before the Event
Our professional lives have moved to the digital world, so having your brand show up there is important. Take the following steps to maximize your investment:
Be Visually Present. Make sure you give the event all the visual assets and links needed, as early as possible, so you can make the most of displaying your brand on the event website and other digital platforms.
Promote the Event. Highlight your participation at the event on your company’s website, social media accounts, and any other digital outlets you control. Make sure you use the conference hashtag and tag the conference or conference organizer to increase visibility of your social media posts.
Invite Contacts. Your customers and prospects will appreciate your message letting them know about the event. Additionally, if your sponsorship includes invitations, ensure you use them to show appreciation for your customers or to reach out to a prospect. This is particularly effective if the digital event has a registration fee.
Invite Team Members. Your agreement with the conference organizers may allow you to include additional team members/colleagues who wouldn’t typically travel to attend out-of-town conferences.
Book a Meeting. If the event offers any options for participants to book a meeting, make sure you reach out to attendees you’d like to meet with. Encourage attendees to book meetings with you by publicizing the event on your social media channels and adding a call-to-action link to book a meeting.
When we asked Brandelynn Perry, Director of Strategic Development at the Family Wealth Alliance and the host of the first virtual 2021 Alliance Summit for advice for small businesses investing in virtual event sponsorship, she provided the following: “Don’t be a stranger to the event organizers. We’re invested in your success – the more you keep us informed of your goals and promotional efforts, the more we can support you and guide you to tailored opportunities.”
During the Event
After drumming up participation and enthusiasm for the event, it’s time to make the most of the event itself. Follow these steps to reap the benefits of your participation during the event:
Customize your profile. Many virtual events will offer you the opportunity to customize your attendee profile. Always add a recent image and recent contact information. If you are there to do something specific, include that in your profile description.
Network. Of course, attend the meetings you booked! But, if that isn’t an option, use any networking events offered during the event. This could include a networking session, a virtual break-out session/room, or opportunities to reach out to participants during the event. To ensure that you make the most of these digital tools, make sure you've completed your profile (see above).
Give Event Content a Shout-Out. During the event, don’t be shy about highlighting key takeaways or quotes from speakers and sharing them on your company’s social media. Always attribute your source, tag them if possible, and include an image if appropriate.
Remember the Tags and Hashtags. Use the conference hashtag on all related social media posts you publish. That makes them more searchable. Tagging the conference or conference organizer will make it more likely the conference organizers will amplify your post with a shout-out.
As Senior Director of Strategic Programs at the Family Wealth Alliance, Brooke Morimoto says, “A great way to stay in front of attendees is participating in the live chat and Q&A areas. If you’re going to be on camera, make sure your virtual presence is just as polished as your in-person presence. A stable internet connection, good lighting, and a high-quality webcam and microphone go a long way in this new environment.”
After the Event
Once the event is over, your work truly begins. Remember to:
Follow up. Immediately after the event, send thank-you messages to the people who met you or attended by your invitation. Deliver anything they requested or that you offered.
Offer Takeaways. For those in your CRM who couldn’t attend, send an email noting a few key points you took away from the meeting.
Create Content. Publish a blog or article based on what you learned. Always attribute your content.
Social Media Post-Promotion. Continue to spread the good will with a social post thanking the organizers. Tag who you are thanking and use the conference hashtag. Similar shout-outs to speakers and their companies will also be appreciated and amplified.
Brooke and Brandelynn agree that keeping up the goodwill after the event is something they focus on as an organization. Brandelynn notes, “After the event is still a great time to contribute your thought leadership to the conversation. If you have content that’s relevant to the event’s focus areas, link out to it in your post-promotion and let the event organizers know. We’re happy to amplify subject matter expertise and continue to add value for event attendees.”
We hope these tips will help you make the most of virtual events. Small businesses in particular can benefit the most because these events don’t require the investment of travel, in addition to event expenses. These best practices can help you use the shift to the virtual world to your company’s advantage.
A version of this blog post was published in the Denver Journal Leadership Trust on March 29, 2021.