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The Biggest Virtual Events Opportunity No One Is Focusing On

January 23, 2012

Introduction

Let’s talk opportunity, by way of an analogy. Amazon.com. Consider that at this moment in time, Amazon’s users have thousands (if not millions) of items in their shopping carts. Combined, I have to believe that the aggregate (but untapped) value of Amazon users’ shopping carts is in the millions of dollars.

Now, let’s consider virtual events. For public-facing virtual events, the average attendance rate is 35-50%. If a virtual event generates 10,000 registrations, let’s be generous and say that half of those registrants (5,000) attend the live event.

E-tailers like Amazon would love for you to take the contents of your shopping cart and “check out.” Virtual event planners need to focus on the 5,000 users who didn’t attend the live event and get them to “check out” (the on-demand archive of the event).

These “no shows” are an enormous opportunity for every virtual event planner, but I don’t see enough effort around this opportunity. So here are tips to get your registrants to “check out” (your event).

The basics: a follow-up email.

Imagine that users registered for your virtual events two months prior to the live date. You’ve scheduled reminder emails, but the users missed them. When your live event comes around, users have forgotten about it. This means that they’re also not aware that an “on-demand archive” exists. Sending a “Sorry we missed you” email is easy to do and gets you immediate results. Invite your “no shows” to experience your event “any day, any time.”

Scheduled webcasts.

Plan an editorial calendar in advance, which includes a few presentations after the live date of your event. Did you covet particular speakers, but they weren’t available on your event’s date? If so, plug them in to the post-event schedule. And, make sure you invite not just the “no shows,” but folks who attended your live event as well.

Scheduled chats (Experts).

Re-feature some of your presenters and invite them back for a 2-hour, text-based chat in your environment. Invite attendees to return and promote this opportunity to “no shows” (e.g. “A great opportunity to interact directly with our featured industry expert.”)

Scheduled chats (Sponsors).

Schedule a few dates to allow sponsors to host chats in the on-demand environment. This could be a nice up-sell feature in your sponsor packages. Note that sponsors tend to generate less response (attendance) as your experts, so plan accordingly.

Email Alerts for New Content.

Did sponsors upload fresh content? Or, perhaps a featured presenter provided an updated slide deck from her webinar. Send an email out, alerting users that new content is available in the environment. Don’t do this too often, of course – and, be sure to include an opt-out link, so recipients can be removed from subsequent mailings.

Activate Social Games.

Find some prizes, then activate a few social games. The games require that users login to the environment, engage with content and engage with one another. It creates fun for the users and active engagement for you (and your sponsors).

Conclusion

Just because users took the time to complete your registration page, doesn’t mean they’re “sold” when your event comes around. Utilize your event and its content, however, to “re-sell” the event to non-attendees. If you sell it well, your users will empty their shopping carts … and buy in.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

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The Importance Of The Virtual Event Debrief

August 30, 2009

postevent_review

Philosopher and essayist George Santayana was quoted as saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.  With virtual events, the “past” is fairly recent.  However, the spirit of Santayana’s quote holds true – we need to learn from our prior virtual event in order to make the next one better.

In the virtual events I’ve worked on, the conclusion of the virtual event is very much like crossing the finish line of a marathon – you’ve worked and trained hard and now it’s time to unwind, rest and relax.  The team that worked on a virtual event often has to move on to “the next project”, without much time to reflect on the event that just concluded.  As a virtual event show host, it’s your job to round up the team for a debrief meeting – you’ve all completed the marathon, but now it’s time for the half-mile cool-down jog to reflect back on the race.

The keys to a virtual event debrief:

  1. Define, measure and review virtual event goals and metrics – the first step in the debrief has to occur prior to the start of the project.  During or before your kick-off meeting, you and your team need to define the goals of the virtual event – and the associated metrics that you’ll use to quantify those goals.  Whether it’s “maximize sponsorship revenue”, “maximize user engagement” or “generate leads for exhibitors”, you’ll want to define measurable and non-subjective data points to serve as the basis of your virtual event report card.  So the first segment of the debrief is to review the data (i.e. the measured metrics).
  2. Review what worked – a combination of the metrics results – and, more subjective/anecdotal feedback regarding the overall event.  The key here is to understand why (or how) it worked and determine whether you want to repeat that success in your next event.  For the most part, what works in one virtual event should be carried over into the next.
  3. Review what didn’t work – again, a combination of metrics plus anecdotal feedback.  This is one of the most important components of the debrief – be honest in your assessments of what didn’t work – so that you are not “condemned to repeat it”.  My experience has been that when things don’t work, the reasons are usually “not enough lead time” / “too rushed”, “communications mix-up”, “human error” and “mismatch in expectations”.  Another category is “technology issue”.  I believe that all of these are correctable, with technology being the most straightforward and human error / communication / lead time being a bit trickier to nail down.
  4. Review and judge your constituents’ experiences – different event types will have difference constituents.  In a virtual tradeshow, the constituents include yourself (show host), attendees, exhibitors and presenters.  You may want to ask each constituent to complete a survey that’s specific to their experience.  Did attendees find the content useful?  How about the event experience – was it easy to navigate?  Did exhibitors have meaningful interactions with attendees?  For speakers, did they find the webcasting presenters’ interface intuitive?  Each constituent in a virtual event is important – if they were not 100% satisfied in this event, make it a goal to achieve 100% in the next event.

With the growth we’re seeing in this industry, chances are that when one virtual event concludes, you’re rushing off to your next one.  My recommendation is to stop and take a breath.  Take the time to gather the team and do a debrief.  Then, document the debrief and be sure to review it before you start planning the next event.


The ABC’s Of Lead Follow-Up For Virtual Events

July 4, 2009

Image Source: flickr (user: k1rsty)

Image Source: flickr (user: k1rsty)

Suggestion to Virtual Event Exhibitors: Don’t treat your lead list like a telemarketing list!

With the wealth of attendee engagement data generated (and stored) at virtual events, exhibitors have unique insights regarding the worthiness of their lead pool, giving them the ability to intelligently segment their leads and generate unique follow-up paths.  All too often, however, exhibitors treat their virtual event leads as a single pool, applying the same follow-up activities to the entire pool.  In a Virtual Edge posting titled “Don’t Overwhelm Your Attendees“, Michael Doyle writes about aggressive email follow-up by virtual event exhibitors.  I’ve observed the same behavior as Michael describes – in addition, I’ve attended a number of virtual events that resulted in follow-up via phone call.

A colleague of mine once received a follow-up phone call from a virtual event exhibitor – the call was placed by a telemarketing staffer, who had no knowledge of the virtual event (that my colleague attended).  The staffer simply had a name and phone number, with a goal of generating interest in the company’s products and services.  In my opinion, virtual event exhibitors will not be effective in handling lead follow-up in this manner.  Virtual event leads should not be treated like a generic lead list!

I recommend that exhibitors segment their leads into A, B and C categories.  Be forewarned – this is going to take some effort, but it will pay off in the long run with stronger ROI.  Here goes:

  1. The “A” leads – typically, your top 10% of leads.  They registered and attended the live virtual event.  They generated numerous touch points with your booth, your booth reps and your content (e.g. 8 booth visits, 20 document downloads, 5 chat sessions with your booth reps).  They generated at least one meaningful chat session with you – whether it was private, 1:1 chat with one of your booth reps – or, a meaningful chat/dialog via group chat in your booth or a lounge.  The “A leads” are requesting a follow-up engagement with your sales team – either implicitly with their level of engagement with you, or explicitly by requesting a sales follow-up via chat or email.
  2. The “B” leads – the bulk of your leads – they registered and attended the live virtual event and had at least one booth visit or one view/download of your content.  So yes, they interacted with you, but didn’t do enough to gain “A lead” status.
  3. The “C” leads – folks who registered but didn’t attend; attended but didn’t visit your booth; or, folks from other exhibitors or from the virtual event show host or vendor.  Note: based on the structure of the virtual event sponsorship tiers, you may or may not gain access to these leads.  Intelligent follow-up is based on intelligent segmentation – exhibitors should certainly review their lead list to identify leads they should not be following up with – and those leads should be removed from the “C lead” pool.  There’s no use in following up with attendees from other exhibitors, attendees from the virtual event host or the platform vendor company.  In fact, doing so only makes your company look disorganized.

Now that the important task of segmentation is complete, follow-up paths can be identified for each pool.  Here are my suggestions:

  1. A leads – schedule immediate sales engagements, via phone, virtual meeting or in-person.  If the “A lead” had extended engagement with a sales rep in the virtual event, have that sales rep present during the engagement, to continue the conversation and carry over the context from the virtual event.  If the “A lead” had great discussions with a product marketer or product manager, invite that person to join your sales rep(s) on that initial call.  For any explicit requests (pricing proposal, additional documents, etc.) – make sure to send the information over in advance of the engagement.  Think of the “A leads” as ROI waiting to happen – so treat them like royalty.
  2. B leads – it’s important to be strategic with the “B leads” – don’t hand them over to telemarketing for a vanilla phone call and don’t start sending them generic email blasts about your products.  Instead, study their behavior at the virtual event – what content interests them?  Then, create communications that deliver value and personalize the content based on their activities – for instance, send them a White Paper that provides additional information to the Case Study that they downloaded from your booth.  Again – this is going to take work on your part, but it’s work that’s well worth it.
  3. C leads – this may sound counterintuitive, but – don’t follow up with the “C leads”.  Instead, build a new profile in your CRM system (or, update the existing profile) and associate the information you learned [e.g. they’re interested in the topic of the virtual event, but did not attend].  Your job as a marketer, then, is to match subsequent interest (from the “C leads”) back to their user record.  What you’re trying to do is assemble an engagement profile over time – perhaps the “C lead” does attend the next virtual event and visits your booth – or, the “C lead” registers for a podcast you’ve syndicated with a tech publisher.  Now, you have so much more data for your sales team.  Don’t feel like the acquisition of a “first time C lead” gives you the right to start bombarding her with phone calls and emails.  Consider the “C leads” as potential – where the value is to be delivered (with subsequent engagements).

In summary, your sales team should receive only the “A leads”.  The “B and C” lead pool remains under the auspices of Marketing, until a point where any of them reaches an A list eligibility.  This approach should make everyone happy – Marketing, Sales and even the atttendees/leads!


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