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Think about the events you hold in your business: sales and marketing meetings, conferences, tradeshows, corporate meetings, training sessions, job fairs, and more.

Now imagine making those events available to a much larger, highly attentive audience that can conveniently gather and exchange information, browse exhibits, receive product demonstrations, provide feedback, and network with colleagues through a live, interactive platform on their computer.

The perfect fit for today's global, fast-paced business environment, virtual events can deliver the impact and effectiveness of face-to-face events at a fraction of the cost.

By eliminating the barriers of travel and nonproductive meeting time, virtual events can extend a company's reach to new global markets and to individuals who cannot attend traditional physical events.

Follow these 10 best-practices to ensure you have a successful virtual event.

1. Establish Roles and Responsibilities

Once you decide to hold an online event and select a virtual-events provider, hold a project kickoff meeting to identify core stakeholders in the event. In addition to Marketing, be sure to include Sales and any other relevant teams in the meeting to establish good communication and collaboration right from the start.

The primary purpose of this meeting is to review the project scope and define roles and assign responsibilities for the event team and service provider.

2. Sponsorship Sales Considerations

One way to ensure sales success is to create and carefully review sponsorship sales materials in collaboration with your sales team. Clearly define and differentiate sponsorship tiers to increase the effectiveness of sales efforts. You may also want to involve your experienced event provider for input or training on establishing sponsor packages, sales materials, pricing, and other best-practices in sponsorship sales.

3. Messaging and Positioning

As with any event or project, positioning and message creation begins with a thorough evaluation of event goals and deliverables. First identify the ideal sponsors and attendees and determine how many of each you need to make the event a success. Work through the value proposition both for sponsors and for attendees.

This important exercise will put into focus the event messages, campaigns, promotions, and content that you will need to reach your target audience.

4. Choosing and Coaching Speakers

The delivery of the presentation content is just as important as the message. No matter how thought-provoking or high quality, your content will not create the necessary impact if it is not delivered in an effective way that engages and captivates the audience. Therefore, it is critical that you train and coach your speakers.

Moreover, enlist experienced, eloquent professionals who are comfortable in front of the camera to deliver the message and create the necessary impact with your target audience.

5. Promotion

This is perhaps one of the most critical elements of a successful event. Consider starting your campaign at least 45 to 90 days prior to the event. Before investing in new promotional tools and online tracking tools, think about how you can use the ones that you already have available, such as websites, emails, newsletters, social-media channels, and online ads.

6. Driving Live Day Attendance

Now that your attendees are registered, it is very important to confirm their attendance for the event day. Send a minimum of three reminder notices to registered attendees: the first, a week prior to the event with an "add to calendar" function; the second, one day in advance; and the third, the morning of the event.

7. Making Your Booth "Sticky"

Work to make your booth "sticky" so that visitors stay longer, absorb the sponsor's message, and interact with booth representatives. Staff the booth with the most knowledgeable people who can address questions the attendees may have about your products or services. Ensure the booth has premium content such as demonstrations, FAQs, and whitepapers to add value to each user's visit.

8. Maximizing Sponsor ROI

Sponsors should heavily promote their participation in the event, both before and during the live day. To maximize leads, they should keep their booths staffed during the event day so that they can engage booth visitors in live mode. Sponsors can also participate in an event "passport" program that rewards attendees for visiting specific locations, viewing targeted webcasts, or participating in other scavenger-hunt type of activities.

9. Conference Sessions

The best conference sessions engage the audience with objective editorial content, not a sales pitch. When possible, include a recognized, well-regarded industry guru in the program to add value and attract larger audiences. Just as you would do at a physical event, engage attendees with live question-and-answer sessions, and use your platform's audience-polling capabilities to maximize presentation impact.

10. Post-Event Marketing

After your live event ends, promptly following up with new contacts and leads is critical. In addition to making leads available to the relevant parties, organizers should hold a post-event meeting with the event partner to review event metrics and share feedback. Organizers should also meet with the sponsors to review event reports and return on investment. Remember, long after the live event day the virtual event can, on demand, continue to reach new attendees and generate leads.

* * *

Even though they require extensive planning, virtual events are generally simpler to organize and execute than traditional events. In today's time-sensitive and cost-sensitive business environment, virtual events provide greater opportunity to reach more decision makers on a global scale and gain far more valuable attendee and lead information in the process.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Wieser is the vice-president of business development at CGS/VirtualEvents365 (www.virtualevents365.com). He is an industry pioneer and a longtime veteran of the virtual-events space. He can be reached at virtualevents365@cgsinc.com.