Getting more virtual attendees to your online event is every event marketers’ reason for being—but with the rise of virtual-fatigue, attracting the same numbers you’re used to seeing at in-person events is becoming harder every day.
From jarring stop-start sessions to a lack of branding options, event marketers have dealt with some major obstacles as they were forced to dive head first into the world of virtual event marketing—and it’s those key details (or lack of) that can deter attendees from signing up.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
There are a ton of customized virtual event tools, tips and pro tactics that can help you build the type of buzzworthy online events attendees just won’t miss.
But before we dive into how to promote a virtual event it, let us be clear about one thing: Well-attended events are just one piece of the go-to-market puzzle.
Michelle Cogliano, Director of Field Marketing and Events at SecureAuth has some wise words on this very topic:
In this ultimate field marketer’s guide to boosting your attendee numbers, we’ve pulled together a step-by-step checklist showcasing exactly what to do before, during, and after the event to attract and keep virtual event attendees every time.
Before we get into the details, let’s look at the top tactics to kickstart your attendee roll-in.
Take some time to think intentionally about which of these tactics make the most sense for your brand based on your pre, during and post event planning strategies.
💡Connect with local industry reps to get to know your audience and start building buzz.
💡Develop event content based on audience’s *real* needs.
💡Run digital media ads to reach new and bigger audiences.
💡Make sure there’s an option to add the event straight into their calendar.
💡Send attendees physical gifts or merch to keep your event top-of-mind.
💡Send value-first reminder emails three days before the event, the day before, and 10 minutes before.
💡Get partners involved to create a wider offer to participants, and take advantage of their audience base.
💡Make it easy for account managers and account executives to drive event attendance with done-for-you promo emails and templates.
💡Always add an interactive social element to your event like a cooking lesson, wine tasting, or prize draw.
💡Provide a specific timeline to keep account managers and account executives engaged, organized and actively promoting the event.
Before you send the invites and watch those attendee numbers roll in, there’s a lot of planning to do.
From knuckling down on your goals, to building an event brand that reflects your audience’s needs, everything you do before the event will have a huge impact on how many people actually turn up.
But before we dive into the details, here’s one key formula to remember:
Your company goals (why) + Your audience’s needs (who) = An unmissable event (what + how)
Let’s break this down:
Ready? Let’s dive into those details.
Getting to know your audience is easier said than done—it takes dedication and a ton of research. But the results are so worth it and can help you create virtual events that grab (and keep!) your attendees’ attention.
Here’s how it’s done:
This next step is all about focusing on your event goals.
Because while high attendee numbers are a beautiful thing, your event Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) go a level deeper to outline exactly which metrics to watch and help keep your events actionable and revenue-friendly by giving you and your sales team solid data to move on in your post-event plans.
The right event KPIs help you:
These are just some of the metrics you should be ready to track from day one:
Other event metrics to look out for:
The event metrics you choose will ultimately come down to your current revenue strategy and the specific attribution model you’ve chosen for your event. Is this a demand gen event geared towards casting a wider net at the top of the funnel? Or an account-focused event aimed at evolving key relationships?
Keep in mind that you can also take data gathering one step further to make even your qualitative data actionable.
For example, if you measure what questions attendees ask, you can tally up how many people asked what type of questions to create a custom engagement score and arm your sales team with a hyper-personalized follow up strategy.
Better branding attracts better business—but as every great marketer knows, there’s way more to it than just adding your logo to your landing page. Getting it right is all about being laser-focused with your event branding decisions.
Here’s how to create event branding that attracts the right attendees:
Alex Yoder, Field Marketing Specialist at Lessonly is a big believer in kicking off attendee engagement long before the actual event.
“Increased communication and focusing on unique experiential touches has definitely helped increase our event attendance,” says Alex.
“Before each event, we always send some sort of event supplies—this could be wine for a tasting, painting materials for a class, or ingredients for a cooking class. We also send emails introducing everyone, asking ice breaker questions, and allowing registrants to connect on LinkedIn. This gives everyone a chance to get to know one another before the event.”
In the age of Zoom-fatigue, successful virtual event promotion is tough.
Field marketing experts like Alex know just how hard it can be: “Driving registration for events can be a challenge! Another hour staring at a screen? It's hard to promote,” she says.
But as a determined event marketing pro, Alex has a solution:
Make your event promo as easy as possible for your account managers.
“We utilize our account managers and account executives to drive all the event attendance. Making this process as easy as possible on them is key. For each event we package all promotional materials together—email templates, slides, specific links, landing pages, etc, and hand it off to our teams. We host pre-event syncs and send post-event wraps ups. Laying out a specific timeline and keeping them organized is key for successful event registration,” she explains.
Congrats! All your planning work has paid off and you’ve got a ton of super-engaged attendees walking through the (virtual) door. 🙌🏻
Um, hate to tell you this but... the work’s not over yet.
You need to make sure this event goes off without a hitch and your attendees have the time of their lives. If it works, they’ll be back for more and you’ll be known for hosting epic events people actually want to be a part of. Here’s how to make that happen during the event.
Gone are the days of clunky stop-start sessions—with the right tools, you can stream live and pre-recorded videos as effortlessly as Netflix.
These are the streaming features to look for next time you choose a smart virtual event platform:
Audience engagement is mission-critical to successful virtual events.
Research shows organizations that don’t attempt to engage virtual event attendees are 150% more likely to be unsuccessful.
The secret? Build engagement into every stage of your event, from in-session polls to live networking.
“Always include an interactive element in your event strategy,” says Noelle Peterson, Global Events Marketing Director at UserTesting, “Attendees are craving that human interaction and being able to network with their peers is essential.”
Here are a few simple ways to create awesome attendee engagement:
Phew! You’ve done great. Your attendees left the event feeling inspired and full of good thoughts.
Time to put your feet up? Not yet—because what happens post-event is probably the most important stage of the entire process.
Here at Goldcast, we talk about the importance of great follow-up a lot.
How you interact with your key accounts post-event is just as important as engaging with them on the day and can make or break the outcome of your event.
Here are a few simple steps to make the most from all your hard work:
No matter how awesome your outreach was, not everyone will attend your event.
But that’s okay, because you can learn as much from the no-shows as you can from those who turn up on time and in tune.
For the accounts that were invited but never showed up, an automatic email with a quick poll asking them why they didn’t come will help pinpoint your weaknesses so you can strengthen them for next time.
You’ve planned, promoted, and run an awesome event that everyone’s talking about—congrats!
Now it’s time to collate all your data in one place.
User Testing’s Noelle Peterson explains: “Getting qualitative feedback from event attendees is incredibly important. The feedback, insights and opinions of attendees will help make your next virtual event even better. Knowing what your target audience likes, dislikes, wants and needs while planning, you’ll be able to develop an event and content that is focused on the right topics and you'll see virtual attendance rates and engagement rise and stay high.”
Great attendee experience makes the virtual event world go around. 🌎
From creating a customized online event marketing and promotional plan to ensuring attendees feel special at every turn, there are a million and one ways to utilize exceptional virtual event tools to create the ultimate attendee experience.
As long as you build a solid toolkit, focus on personalized engagement, and keep your data hat on at all times, you’ll be known for hosting the greatest virtual events in no time.