Virtual Events: Strategy Before Execution

My mother used to tell us that “things are going to be different” as we drove home from our annual summer beach vacation. It was her way of getting the family focused on the upcoming routine and discipline of school and work. I remember feeling that her words were both a warning and a promise of adventures yet to come.

That lesson is easily applied to the challenges that lie ahead for associations considering alternatives and augmentation of their future live events. While live events are likely to rebound, they will likely look and feel different—and virtual events are most certainly going to play a larger role.

Strategy—and Transparency—First

Our inboxes are suddenly full of marketing emails from companies touting their virtual platforms. Associations must make smart decisions in selecting providers. But I’d argue that it’s not about the platform alone.  It is the strategy around going virtual that is far more critical, just as creating your objective—the why behind an event—is most important for live programs.

It also seems like every organization is trying to keep their brands relevant by offering virtual content to members and customers. I fear that “webinar fatigue” is quickly setting in. Senior leaders are not going to engage in webinars longer than an hour if at all.

As you develop a virtual-event strategy, be mindful of creating fresh content or perspectives and avoid the same old formats. No one wants to waste his or her time on a virtual event that is primarily a commercial for products and services. I’ve seen several webinars that have been advertised as providing content, but were basically bait-and-switch events designed to generate leads. It’s fine to offer resources (either free or fee-based) but don’t obfuscate your message or impact by immediately reaching out to participants with marketing messages.

Five Steps to Success

Following are some lessons we have distilled from talking with dozens of clients and attending many recent virtual events:

  1. Have a clear strategy
  2. Engagement is necessary
  3. Deliver timely and relevant content
  4. Establish metrics and measurements
  5. Offer additional resources

Refer to this short, recent video, in which my colleague Sarah Michel offers some practical suggestions for making your virtual events successful.

What steps have you taken when designing your virtual event? If they are here to stay, why?

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