Under: Brian Cuthbert
When you go on the Pro Farmer site, you see a cool ticker-tape message: “Register for free to attend this year’s nightly Crop Tour virtual meetings & watch from your own home.” Crop Tour is perhaps their biggest annual event; I’ve had great conversations with marketing director Joe May about it in the past, and I’ve promised to catch up with him after this year’s event—going on now—ends.
One thing that I will definitely ask him is, when in-person events return to our world, will virtual participation be a part of that? In other words, will hybrid events be the new normal?
"There are people in your community who will never come to an event but would benefit greatly from it," Brian Cuthbert, group vice president, Diversified Communications U.S., told me a couple months ago, speaking about the potential of virtual participation in the future. "Are you leaving money on the table by not giving th ...
"There's definitely more data that we were able to collect with the virtual event than with an in-person event," Enit Nichani, vice president of marketing for North America at IGEL, told TechTarget this week. The article said that a reporting feature in vFairs—their digital platform of choice—enabled their marketing team “to see how many times a user visited a particular booth, what sessions they attended and how long they stayed for those sessions.”
"That's a lot easier than trying to take a physical or even a digital form, and uploading the data into those systems," said Laura Ramos, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. "Half the time, none of that ever happens."
There's no doubt that there are some drawbacks to virtual events. After all, we are social creatures. But there's also a lot to embrace. Here are other ways to take advantage of virtual events.
Go global. There should be no bar ...
I was watching an admittedly bad—but happy—TV movie the other night, and the ending focused on an in-person event where a contest winner would be announced for building the nicer house. A woman stepped to the podium: "I want to welcome everyone here tonight, and also all the wonderful people in our community watching at home who couldn't make it."
It makes sense, but of course, it's anything but revolutionary. We've been hearing awards show hosts saying that for years—although lately there have been no hosts. But you haven't really seen that introduction given at most pre-pandemic, business conferences. The thinking has usually been that by offering the conference virtually, you would encourage people not to come. Maybe let them buy some recorded sessions later.
Even when in-person events do return—and at some point they will; safety guidelines were being issued today—virtual will remain part of the mix.
"The single most important thing [for a virtual event] is realistic expectations about what the sponsor and attendee can expect," said Brian Cuthbert, group vice president, Diversified Communications U.S., in a webinar held early in the pandemic. "You are not reimagining the show. How many leads can I expect? How will the learning be? Are you implementing video? Are there trainers or is there an audio webinar?"
"We've been pulling together, in the past five days, a virtual event for the same time that the live event was scheduled," Alicia Evanko, executive vice president, Travel Group Global Events, Northstar Travel Group, added. "We're just doing an appointment event so we're using Zoom. We're exploring other options for the content piece.
"The #1 priority is bringing those buyers and sellers together because we're already getting requests, 'Hey, can you get me the list? I'll set those appointments up myself.' Zoom will handle the appointments. We ...
Whether you cancel or postpone an event should be "based on the information you have today. You have to look to your customers," said Alicia Evanko, executive vice president, Travel Group Global Events, Northstar Travel Group, during a webinar Thursday on Coronavirus and Your Events: How to Make Decisions that Protect Your Business and the Safety of Your Staff. (Members can watch the webinar or download a written transcript here.)
"For us our final decision to postpone our May event was customer feedback. You want to plan these things now. Because come the fall, everyone is moving their events. You want to get out ahead. Any event in May or June, it's a tough call... You have to consider who your audience is, how big your event is and if you want to keep it in the same calendar year. The sooner you get there the better."
Even in the couple days since that webinar, May events seem more fleeting. Evanko offered an example of an event that they wanted to m ...
When Brian Cuthbert, group vice president, Diversified Communications, spoke about event trends at SIPA 2019 in June, he focused on a couple key areas. One was creating increased networking opportunities.
"But beyond that, you just have to constantly experiment—there is no way to know what works. Should you write long, or short, post on a Monday or a Tuesday, I do not know. I can't even work out how to game the algorithm and I work here. But I do know if you think you have got it, it will change almost instantly. You have to keep throwing stuff at the wall and see what sticks..."
"What are you doing to create an experience that makes them feel a part of something bigger than themselves?" Brian Cuthbert, group vice president, Diversified Communications, asked during his session at SIPA 2019 titled Launching a New Event and Reinvigorating Existing Ones.
The theme for SIPA Annual 2019 is Make More Money and no session might symbolize that more than Launching a New Event and Reinvigorating Existing Ones with Brian Cuthbert, group vice president, Diversified Communications. "Learn tips on how to get started with generating revenue for an event, even when you don't have a separate department or resources dedicated to this endeavor."