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Virtual events have taken the B2B world by storm out of necessity. Still, there’s a lot to learn about how to make them a success. eMarketer’s principal B2B analyst Jillian Ryan shares her tips for needs to happen before, during and after a virtual event.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, events were a major cornerstone of B2B marketing. This face-to-face touchpoint was essential for connecting with an audience and building community.

But that all changed when the pandemic hit, and the events playbook of early 2020 went out of the window. More than half of US marketers surveyed by Chief Marketer in May 2020 said virtual events were a part of their marketing budget that received funds previously allocated to in-person events.

But the trappings of in-person corporate events don’t convert easily to virtual. When shifting to digital events, 58% of marketers in the US and UK said they needed to rethink their event strategy to ensure success and meet goals, according to August 2020 research from Integrate.

Virtual event organizers should start from scratch and use eMarketer’s checklist during each part of the virtual event life cycle.

Before the event

  • Staff up new skills and talent for virtual. A virtual event is more like a TV show than an in-person production. Whether you are hiring a new team, outsourcing to freelancers, or training existing staff, make sure they have strong broadcast skills.

  • Vet and select a technology platform. It’s a little bit of a wild west out there, but many webinar platforms and in-person event tech providers are transforming their offering to serve virtual conferences. List out requirements first, then speak with vendors to see how they can meet your needs. You may have to cobble a few providers together to build your own best-in-breed virtual event stack … at least for now, while vendors play catch-up.

  • Driving registrations cannot be an afterthought. Just because it’s an online event with most attendees working from home doesn’t mean you can be lax about promotion. Make sure you target the appropriate audience and reach it through personalized invites and marketing.

During the event

  • The content agenda must draw (and keep) a virtual crowd. Crafting a compelling and engaging content experience for a virtual event is no small task. You need to strike the right balance, thinking beyond the standard webinar while also realizing the flashy keynote presentation that would have wowed audiences in person just doesn’t translate to the virtual stage.

  • Be creative to drive engagement alongside content. This isn’t a standard webinar. You need an added element of interaction between attendees and the content, or between attendees and speakers. This can be accomplished through interactive features like live chat, quizzes, and content recommendations.

Post-event

  • Maximize the potential of the event’s content library – reuse and recycle. After a virtual event, there will be arsenal of video content that you can repurpose for future marketing and communications.

  • Event data should inform all follow-up. Unlike an in-person event, where tracking attendee foot traffic and behavior can be a challenge, virtual events can capture all attendee interactions. This means you have a lot more data to work with—a blessing if you are prepared, and a curse if you are overwhelmed.

B2B events
 
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Ryan offers more details on each of these checklist items, in the Insider Intelligence’s report The Rise of Virtual Business Events: Best Practices for 2021 and a Look at a Hybrid Future.