Without question, turning in-person meetings into impactful, digital experiences was the biggest task the industry faced in 2020. The majority of event planners had never needed to rely so predominantly on virtual platforms as a gathering space for corporate events, sales meetings and awards experiences and it quickly became clear that digital events face unprecedented challenges in engagement.
Whether in-person or digital, one thing is certain – the organic excitement of convening together is the backbone and culmination of every attendee journey. Designing an effective communications roadmap that actualizes engagement has never been more important. Here, we look at a few ways to knock it out of the park for your next hybrid or virtual event.
How to Create an Engaging Communications
Strategy for A Virtual Event
Keep event branding in mind
Use your event branding as a forethought – a promise that despite the virtual venue, the audience experience will be prioritized, content will be valuable, and connections may be made. Event branding takes careful intention, thought, teamwork and time – and when communications teams work to establish a brand and pull those concepts consistently through the attendee journey, the effort is not lost on an audience.
Consider multi-channel event marketing
In a digital world, event communications face a bevy of noise and distraction. The need to cut through the distortion that leads to non-linear journeys is essential. With multi-channel event marketing, event planners and stakeholders can be less predictable in delivering a message clearly, at the right moment and in the right place. Connecting across a variety of channels is a clear and effective way to do so. The ability to track attendance, platform engagement, content consumption, interaction and customer acquisition rates within marketing and virtual event platforms helps to inform the future of your meetings.
In 2020, we watched how multichannel marketing absorbed channels that have at times been disparate: consolidating digital communications, social media, intranet, gifting, gamification and contests, and event platform notification blasts. From the initial save-the-date to the post-event survey, touchpoints are more intentional, more connected and more involved – building hype, buzz and brand affinity amongst all types of audiences.
A sub-trend within multichannel marketing is gifting and physical collateral and knowing when and how to impactfully integrate them into an overarching strategy. While there can be pressure to amplify the event experience with physical components, logistics of supply chains, global distribution, sustainability and overall cost all quickly impact decision making in this channel. Sourcing gifts for large, at-home audiences can be complicated and, in some cases, more expensive. Stakeholders and planners are challenged to weigh the importance of gifting versus allocating that budget elsewhere in the program – for example higher production value, or keynote speaker might be a more effective use of budget.
Remember the art of storytelling
A good story separates memorable content from the forgettable. In an age where anyone can produce an online video, impactful content and powerful production artistry continue to reign. Professional production elements are the key make-or-break ingredients in exceptionally executed meetings. In connecting digitally, this becomes crucial not only during the event itself, but also within the pre-and post-event engagement strategies.
In 2020, storytelling with video became a means of staying connected. In some cases, the transition of budgets allowed for more produced content – helping to enhance anticipation around virtual meetings. Content requests from event stakeholders trended towards humanization of leadership, authentic customer stories, heart-to-heart messaging, rally cries and creating shared connections with internal audiences. As we look ahead to 2021, engagement strategies pre-, during and post-event will continue to center on aspects that capture human attention universally.
Provide sufficient platform education
The nearly instantaneous transition to digital meetings left no one behind. Whether or not we were prepared for this amount of video conference calls, virtual meetings, and online experiences was irrelevant. Audiences are expected to navigate virtual platforms successfully. As meeting planners and hosts, it’s become our responsibility to ensure staff, stakeholders and audiences are considered, cared for, and fully prepared to navigate virtual platforms. Communications campaigns need have a new, all-encompassing track: education.
Audiences can range from the super tech-savvy to first-time Zoomers, but everyone needs to feel comfortable clicking into the virtual platform. Communications should clearly indicate what to expect, how to navigate the virtual experience successfully. Tech checks are the new ‘pre-trip’ – spotlighting fundamental user concerns like supported browsers, device specifications, ADA accessibility, potential VPN issues, FAQs, and log in credentials. As technologies change and new platforms rapidly hit the market, this communications track will likely continue to be an essential aspect of any engagement strategy.