Virtual Events May Be a Great Answer in These Down-Travel Times

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Half the respondents who have attended a virtual event said they would do so again. But only a third of those who have not attended a virtual event indicated an interest in attending one. So there's an education component here. But a virtual event remains an attractive option because it helps offset the biggest stressors of attending events—being away and logistics—especially in these troubled times of people traveling less.
 
Education Week's Online Summits "are an ideal way for busy educators to access timely information about a range of critical issues in K-12 education easily by using their phones or desktops and integrating their learning directly into their usual workflow," wrote Matthew Cibellis, director of programming, live & virtual events, for Education Week, in his 2019 SIPAward-winning entry.

"This cross-departmental partnership led by the editorial team's deep, rich content in a multitude of K-12 areas provides learners meaningful continuing education from experts in the field and practitioners in schools."
 
The video-friendly Online Summits take place monthly—in fact, the one in January, titled Getting Reading Right, was probably their most successful. Their fully registered audience was 2,540 with 517 live during the event.
 
"The livestream ran really smoothly; we saw really awesome retention of viewers," Cibellis wrote me in an email. "We had around 93 live viewers and that number didn't fall at all throughout the full half-hour livestream; that's a first." A couple days after the event, they had 305 views of the livestream. "Our average on-video time is 11 minutes and 7 seconds, and 59% of attendees watched our livestream. We have 18% watching for 30 minutes, which is frankly, remarkable for any video let alone our online summits."
 
Copyrightlaws.com holds free Zoom On Ins—20-minute live video sessions on a popular copyright topic that Lesley Ellen Harris conducts virtually. Testing the market, they put on six of these meetings from Jan. 10-28 and added many new names to their mailing list and eventually some did sign up for paying courses. Copyrightlaws probably can't continue at that pace—6 in 18 days—but with as many as 250 people signing up for a Zoom On In (on open access and copyright in January), they have found a good formula to build their audience.
 
"It's another way for us to get amplified," said Harris. "Someone on the call will tell one or two colleagues to sign up for the next one." Harris uses Zoom, so people can see everyone else in the "classroom." People can also join by audio—if they don't want to see everyone or be seen. Read more.
 
Here are three tips for holding virtual events from the Bizzabo blog:
 
1. Use Slack. One of the few potential drawbacks of virtual events is the lack of community. But Wistia wanted to make sure that their aptly named CouchCon was full of networking opportunities. They accomplished this by creating dedicated Slack channels that event attendees could join, meet their peers, and share resources.
 
2. Repurpose. Virtual events offer the opportunity to easily repurpose content. Each session can be recorded and streamed to virtual attendees. After the event is over, these sessions can then be used as marketing materials like lead magnets. Gainsight does this with its PulseCheck event. To help build the company's email list, they offer the recorded sessions for free to new subscribers. After your virtual event has concluded, use the recording as marketing collateral to continue building your business.
 
Get sponsorships. Just like many live, in-person events, Drip, popular email marketing software, found sponsors for their virtual get-together. Zapier, Twilio, Big Commerce, and more were a part of the festivities. Just because you're hosting a virtual event doesn't mean you can't get sponsors. Not only will sponsorship help financially, but it will also lend your gathering more credibility.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…