How to create engaging customer experiences during virtual events

In the past, virtual events were an exclusive or niche occurrence, hosted by organizations with the resources and the tech to coordinate them well. Today, digital events have become more normal than convening physically.

For over a year now, the coronavirus pandemic has completely shifted the events landscape, and companies have had to get creative about making virtual events worthwhile and engaging for their customers. With this mass digital transformation and the move to the virtual space, impressing your customers during virtual events has become critical. 

But how do you host engaging events that stay true to your brand and personalize your customers’ experience?

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This article will share nine fantastic methods to make your virtual events more engaging. Plus, it will list dynamic ideas to help you get started with planning!

Establish event goals

Identify your goals or objectives—what are you trying to achieve with this event? These are examples of goals you can set for your event: 

  • to increase brand recognition
  • to boost customer engagement
  • to improve customer experience
  • to establish your brand as an industry leader
  • to promote an upcoming product
  • to raise awareness about a social issue.

Defining specific goals that are relevant to the aims of your business is vital. The goals you set must serve your company and its growth and development. It’s also important to set and track specific customer experience goals to make sure your audience has the best time.

Identify your target customer

Not only do your goals relate to the overall brand, but they also directly affect your event logistics. Knowing what you want from a particular event can help you make informed decisions on its details. 

For example, how many people do you wish to invite to the event? If your event promotes a product that’s aimed at a particular demographic, you would invite people who fit that demographic or have previously purchased that product. 

Of course, your audience size and goals then have an impact on your budget and other areas of your event management. Thus, the objectives and size of your event are the most important two areas to tackle at the beginning of your planning process, as they guide how you construct what happens during your event.

Choose the right platform

It’s easy to see how both of these factors are vital for choosing the right virtual platform to use. Think of your ideal video conferencing hardware as you would a physical venue: how many people do you want to present to? What features (or services) do you need to make the event run smoothly? What kind of atmosphere and experience do you hope to achieve? 

No, the virtual event will not mimic a physical event, but you should still consider these aspects of event planning. Using the right platform will give you all the support you need to make your event exactly what you want it to be!

Put together a team

Your company may have an events team or department, but it will need support from other departments. The first department that comes to mind is tech support or IT, but other departments could contribute skills to the planning process too. 

Consider listing all the elements your event may need and identifying teams or departments that specialize in that field (for example, designers for promotional content, sales representatives for marketing and customer communication.) Select one representative from each relevant team to form a core go-to-team for your event.

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This ensures accountability and faster productivity as each team member will be responsible for specific tasks. Make clear goals and deadlines for tasks and set up a communication channel using a collaboration platform to plan and update one another and stay on track.

Promote the event

This is one of the more important parts of curating your digital event. There is no event without your attendees, so you need to prioritize finding ways, not just to get them interested and registered, but to get them to attend! Your audience will view the content you share in your promotions as a taster for the actual event. 

Put the work into creating a buzz around your event:

  • Establish a theme for the event that carries throughout all your promotional content. 
  • Use the social media channels available to you, ensuring you personalize content to the kind of customer that uses that platform. For example, your Twitter promos might be trendy while your LinkedIn ads are a bit more formal. 
  • Collaborate with your sales team to engage your existing customers and prospects, and to send out invites using sales channels like emails or calls on your business VoIP.
  • Inform your sales team about the event and provide them with the relevant information so they can easily engage customers.  
  • Post regularly on social media to keep your event on users’ timelines.
  • Encourage your speakers, sponsors, or collaborators to promote the event to their followers to increase the reach of your marketing.
  • Integrate a competition with the winner announced live during the event.

Test your platform

There’s nothing more embarrassing than heading an event and not knowing how to use the technology you chose! You don’t want to have to ask your guests, “Uhm, do you know where the screen share button is?” The aim is to facilitate a smooth experience. While there may be technical glitches you cannot avoid, deal with the ones you can by testing your platform. 

Learn where the relevant buttons and functions are. Make sure you use a good VoIP router with a steady connection. Read up on how to troubleshoot any possible issues. And, just to be safe, ensure you have your best IT guy on hand.

Integrate the physical

Going digital doesn’t mean your event has to be entirely online. I mean, look at Beychella! You can follow up an in-person conference with a virtual implementation session. Live stream your events, as many theatre companies have begun doing during the pandemic. Keep some of the human connection that makes physical events so great by hosting an online/offline event.

Physical accompaniments to your event can also go a long way in making the experience special for your customers. Send a pre-event package to registered participants with items you will use during the event. Include a personalized note saying, 

Hey, Bob :)! Can’t wait to see you at our upcoming event… You can enjoy the rest of the goodie bag, but please keep the bottle of wine for the event as we would love to enjoy it with you! See ya.

Incorporating physical elements gives a human touch to the experience and makes your customers feel involved and engaged.

Prepare your content

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Planning and logistics make sure nothing goes wrong during the actual event, but what will happen during your event? What content will you offer attendees? There are so many options to consider. You can: 

  • use a PowerPoint or presentation
  • integrate images and videos into talks
  • play a film or clip and discuss
  • share links to information via the chatbox
  • bring in relevant speakers and influencers
  • have a contest for the duration of the event
  • use live polls (if your platform has that feature).

Your platform is yours to innovate with. Discover all the features your platform has to offer and play around with them to create an exciting experience for your audience. But it’s not just about what the platform has to offer. It’s also about what you put onto it. Make sure your content is crisp using content-editing apps.

Have a post-event plan

This may not matter for the duration of the event, but the post-event plan does matter afterward! Reflect on the success of your event and the ‘failures’. Track your KPIs and revisit your original goals. Rewatch a recording of the event at a later stage. Collect feedback from your attendees and use the platform’s experience analytics. All of these will help you improve your virtual events and create a better experience for your customers in the future. 

And now for those five dynamic virtual event ideas mentioned at the beginning of this article:

  1. Host an information-sharing session (webinar, lecture, or workshop).
  2. Test a new product with your attendees, sharing a sample in their event package.
  3. Host a practical learning session, like a cook-along if your business is a restaurant or a DIY session if you’re an interior design company, and include ingredients or materials in the event price.
  4. Interview an industry expert, leader, or influencer, with a Q&A for the audience.
  5. Run a series of events or a course.

Final thoughts

Although it is not a super simple thing to do, creating intriguing and exciting virtual event experiences for your customers is possible. And with the amazing features and services that digital platforms have to offer, you can really get creative with your virtual ideas. The key is to look at events as a whole—what you do before the event affects the ‘during’ and what you do after influences the next event’s ‘during’ too.

 

Cover design: Vignesh Rajan

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