With extreme preventative measures in place, some events are beginning to happen in-person. But many events, especially larger ones in high-risk areas, are still being converted to hybrid or virtual events. The event world seems to be rapidly going virtual- a trend that began a couple years ago and has now become the standard in the wake of the pandemic.
With AR and VR technology among other developments, virtual events are more sophisticated than ever- and event creators have used them in unique ways to bring people together during a time when most of us felt isolated and afraid. But it’s not all about having fun. We hardly need to tell you that lead generation is paramount to building and growing a successful event business. As more and more events go virtual, planners are asking one of the biggest questions that loom over the industry right now: How can virtual events be leveraged for lead generation?
Virtual Events Exponentially Expand Your Audience
Obviously, one of the most important advantages of virtual events is that they allow you to connect with a broader audience. If you were planning on hosting a small event, you can make it a much larger one with the right social media promotions, advertisements, and interaction with guests before your event. If your event was already big, it has the potential to become much larger in the virtual space! Yes, virtual events can suffer from lack of direct, face-to-face communication and the excitement of experiencing entertainment in person. But with today’s developing technology, it’s still possible to create an immersive experience that’s even “bigger” than an in-person event.
Virtual events can foster more remote leads and connections simply by exposing guests to a much broader audience. For example’s sake, let’s say you’ve been looking to partner with a brand that uses a specific technology that you want to learn to use- but you lack the access and/or knowledge to use it. You’ve searched far and wide (well, as far and wide possible during a pandemic during which most of us are working largely from home), but you can’t find anyone to provide access to the technology or help you learn it. Think about it: You’re more likely to connect with more diverse professionals at a virtual event than an in-person event. That’s because your reach is virtually unlimited- pun intended.
Virtual Events Cut (Some) Costs Significantly
Venue capacity and travel expenses don’t apply to virtual events. Furthermore, larger events that are traditionally held in person are going virtual. Microsoft’s largest event of the year just went virtual; so did World Force Sydney Reimagined by Salesforce and Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference.
Yes, these are huge companies with budgets that can afford the latest in technology. But as we pointed out in countless earlier articles, the kind of AR and VR technology that adds new dimensions of immersion to events is becoming much more affordable and accessible. Event apps and platforms simplify and guide planners through the process of creating virtual events. And the expense of the app and event tools you’ll need will likely amount to less than you would have spent on an in-person event. Why? Virtual events automatically cut out the costs of renting a venue, catering, and lodging if guests are traveling from outside the local area.
Virtual Events Expedite the Sales Cycle
Virtual events may also result in quicker sales of products and services. In person, there are distractions in the environment, and face-to-face conversation can lead to longer deliberation. We’re not saying that virtual events should be used to deprive potential consumers of the opportunity to ask questions, get answers, and interact with products and businesses. Actually, today’s technology is aiming to ensure the opposite- virtual events often offer product demos that allow users to interact directly with the product, such as superimposing an outfit over a person’s image. SurveyMonkey’s latest virtual demo provides viewers with a walk-through of the product’s interface. From there, viewers can experience how simple it is to send a survey with SurveyMonkey. SurveyMonkey also visually demonstrates how seamlessly it integrates into users’ daily workflow.
There are countless examples we could use, but the point is that virtual events are capable of providing interactive, immersive experiences in which potential customers get a genuine feel of the product. That said, there is no car salesperson to talk with face to face after giving it a virtual “test drive”, just as there is no store associate to convince users why they should choose the makeup they just “sampled” online. This autonomy could be a potential drawback, but for one thing, many customers love it. Although they may appreciate being able to ask spontaneous questions face-to-face, many customers feel stymied by persuasive salespeople. They want the freedom and space to try products on their own- and come to their own conclusions. And virtual events don’t leave customers hanging. Any quality virtual event provides pop-up links to learn more or interact with a company representative or specific vendor.
Once they do experience a product demo, there are no direct conversations or sensory overload in the environment to distract them from taking the next step. Any negotiation before purchasing happens on the spot, not at a later date or time. The takeaway here? Virtual events can not only provide similarly impactful experiences as in-person events, but they may also speed up the sales cycle.
Virtual Events Have The Live Factor
Many people mistakenly believe that virtual events don’t allow attendees to interact with each other in small groups or one-on-one. That’s just not true. Live chat (including video) and polls are two easy ways to facilitate audience engagement. You also benefit directly by reacting in real time to your attendees’ wants and needs. When you’re taking live polls and surveys, you’re getting live reactions to your content, and can adjust the experience based on these reactions. The element of spontaneity does not have to be lost on virtual events.
Virtual events also reduce some time constraints. For example, in a physical space such as a store or warehouse, you may have to go search for a product a customer asks to see. Or a customer wants to interact with a manager or supervisor- not one of your associates- but these people are not physically present, or even in the same building. Those potential delays can be essentially eliminated in virtual space by providing pop-up links to readily available staff. If you and your staff are working the event from your respective homes, you’ll be there the entire time to answer questions and have conversations. Just designate specific people to do certain tasks or answer questions about specific products or topics.
Virtual Events Allow You to Record Content (and Make it Shareable)
One of the top marketing advantages of virtual events is that content can be recorded to share later. Share it on your company website and social media pages, and make it available for your attendees to share as well. Many companies and products have gone viral in this way. With today’s technology, it’s easy to make content available from any place, at any time. These means more potential leads and networking opportunities- and at a faster pace than word of mouth!
Virtual Events Give You Live Access to More Data
Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about the in-depth data that can be collected live at virtual events. Instead of merely sending out surveys and interacting with attendees before and after an event, virtual settings allow you to record data in real time. You’ll have direct access to invaluable demographic and behavioral information about your customers. You can easily view the number customers have downloaded specific videos, demos, apps, and other content. This makes it easy to make improvements to future events based on the live reactions and behaviors of attendees. Generally speaking, live reactions are much truer to life than those gleaned from surveys (although surveys play an important part of generating leads as well). Simply put, live reactions are spontaneous; customers just act them out rather than think about them the way they do responses in surveys.
The key takeaway? Live data helps companies facilitate more targeted and personalized marketing strategies.
How Can You Best Utilize Virtual Events for Lead Generation?
We’ve given you some key ways in which virtual events can potentially enhance lead generation, but now what do you do with them? It’s important for event planners to develop an organized strategy for generating leads virtually. Start by asking yourself who your audience is, what their needs are, and how your company is satisfying them. You’ll want your event design to clearly convey that you understand your clients’ needs and relate to them personally. Not only that, but you’ve developed a way to meet them that is unique or better than the approaches they commonly see.
Don’t just tell, but show your customers exactly what you are offering. You can do this with product demos, live Q & A, and live chats that allow attendees to directly interact with each other and your brand. Just as with in-person events, industry experts generate leads. You can put together a panel of experts, but sometimes snagging just one expert does the trick- if that person is popular or beloved among your target audience. Featuring the right experts to present at your event generates leads and helps define you as a leader in your industry. As with in-person events, it’s not enough to just be associated with industry experts. Building long-term relationships with them leads to stronger, more enduring networks and opportunities.