Just to give you a little context, part of my job is building out custom virtual events for our customers.
You may (or may not know this), but I lead an innovation team at Grass Valley and our core product is building out enterprise virtual event solutions for our customers.
(This is a screenshot from one of our customers… not something random I pulled off the internet). 👇
So we do these quite often.
My marketing team conducted a survey/feedback session from some CMO’s we’ve worked with, to try and understand the most useful tools/tips they’ve discovered, when putting on their own virtual events over the past year.
I figured this would be useful for anyone who’s planning on continuing to run virtual events, or is still running virtual events for the foreseeable future.
Here’s what we found out.
Understand Your Metrics
Kashif Naqshbandi, CMO at Tenth Revolution had some good points on what to think about before you launch your event.
‘The cornerstone of any good online event strategy should be to ask ‘why are you holding it in the first place? Do you want to generate leads or hard, immediate sales? In other words, is this event a B2B or B2C event and ultimately what is the customer lifetime value? Are you trying to create brand awareness? Or are you simply looking to add value to your existing (and potential) customers and educate them on how to get the most out of what it is you offer? To be successful, you need to be very clear on the eventual outcome of the event, or else you’ve no way to judge whether it’s been a success.”
Polling / Q&A Sessions
No surprise here–we are big fans of Q&A sessions. But we aren’t the only ones who love implementing live Q&A sessions into virtual events.
Take a look at what Andrew Smith, Founder of CozySeating, had to say about using Q&A sessions for their virtual events:
“When it comes to organizing a good virtual event, keeping the audience engaged is crucial. A Q&A session is the simplest way to do this. You will get the questions in a variety of ways, including chat boxes, a microsite, Google formats, or by asking the crowd after the session. Your key aim is to make the viewer feel as if they are a part of the performance. You may also keep the viewer interested by conducting polling and surveys during the presentation or by asking trivia questions.”
Eden Cheng, the marketing director and founder of WeInvoice, listed live polling as #1 in a list of helpful tools for creating engaging and interactive events:
“Polling is an excellent way to increase engagement among audiences because it calls for responses that most people are always happy to give. It could either be multiple choice polls or even open-ended questions. You can then choose to use the information for your own feedback or publish the results for everyone to see and discuss.”
On that same note, Tanner Arnold, President & CEO of Revelation Machinery, also talks about live polling during virtual events. He mentions how you can, “keep the audience interested by conducting polls and surveys during the presentation or by asking trivia questions.”
Top Q&A Software/Apps
- Swift Q&A.
- Tribe Community Platform.
Top Live Polling Software/Apps
- Swift Polling. The best polling platform. (Biased… it’s my company)
- Pigeonhole. Large range of different session Q&As.
- Turning. Feature-rich audience participation platform.
Inclusivity and Interactivity
Next, we heard from Mark Condon, CMO at ShotKit about his top tips for running virtual events.
Here’s what he had to say:
“The best tip to hold a virtual event is to make it inclusive and interactive. With more and more organizations and brands hosting virtual events on social media platforms, it has become very important to work on the interactivity and creativity quotient of such events to get people’s attention and hold it. People are less likely to remain in an event where they don’t feel involved and have to be mute spectators. Use chat tools and live tweeting to engage the audience.”
There’s nothing like staring out at an uninterested, tuned out audience, even if it’s on a computer screen. One of the best ways to bust past this barrier is with the help of icebreakers.
Here’s what Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding, suggests for using icebreakers at the start of your virtual events:
“An easy way to make virtual events more engaging is to start with icebreaker questions. For example, you could prompt attendees to “share your name, role and favorite sandwich.” These questions give everyone a chance to participate early on, which gives them the comfort and confidence to continue participating throughout the event.”
Michael goes on to offer some pro-tips for optimizing icebreaker questions:
“First, choose fun and easy questions that someone can answer without too much thought. For example, “What is your biggest fear?” is a little red-light, and not something everyone will be comfortable sharing. Something more trivial like “How you like your coffee” is good. Also, for group size, stick to maximum 10 people per icebreaker group. If you have more attendees, then you can split them into breakout rooms, which will keep the time commitment short.”
Top Icebreaker Ideas/Games
- Two truths and a lie.
- Quick questions.
- Take a picture of..
- Trivia icebreaker game.
- Virtual scavenger hunt.
Petra Odak, CMO at Better Proposals, focused on post event experience as well — making sure the attendees get a great “after event” experience.
“My best piece of advice for anyone who wants to run a virtual event is to have a great post event program. Breakout sessions and rooms, discussions on topics from the event, the ability to talk with other attendees and the presenters — these are all great ways to get more value from an event.”
Personally, I’ve seen uploading the content (post event) to a CMS or sending out video clips to the attendee list to work very well.
In closing, I would leave one last quote from David Richards, CMO at Slidefare.
“I think Jana Boruta puts it best in her book, Digital First Events; event planners increasingly need to see themselves more as experiential marketers. We sell experiences first, they just happen to be in the form of events.
Looking at it from a customer first perspective, there are two potentially opposing challenges: Keep the event interesting enough to beat out potential distractions.
Simply scheduling back-to-back webinars can feel more like being stuck in a series of university lectures than attending a live event with real people.
Finding the middle ground between intuitiveness & engagement, based on the abilities and needs of attendees, is a balancing act. For example, holding a trade show for video engineers might allow a much more technical set of tools for the average attendee compared to hosting a conference for the average business person.”