Business Event Industry Events Tech

Virtual Conferences – the New Reality is Working

Written by Tara Thomas

I had my first experience presenting at a Virtual Conference and it was a success, as far as I’m concerned. If this is the new reality going forward, I believe we’ll be fine.

For all of the organizations that have depended on trade shows, conferences, and other types of events to help generate business (sales leads, product sales and demos, etc.), fear not. There are great companies who have figured out how to “pivot” – make sure that the event you’re signing up for is one of them!

Virtual conferences are just another step forward in the evolution of digital marketing. Events, to date, have been places where “old-fashioned” business continued to take place: face-to-face meetings, looking at new products (ranging from superyachts to office equipment), finding out “what’s new” in the industry, and networking. Now that these events are not taking place – at least in the near future – these needs must be fulfilled another way.

Virtual events are the new wave and companies that host these types of events have been inundated with requests, now that they are the only option (in a post COVID-19 world, before there’s a vaccine). I’ve been interested to see how well virtual events take the place of live events, so I was looking forward to seeing how the first event went (where I was a speaker).

Verdict: it went well – and I judged it (as a speaker) on the following criteria:

  • How many people “attended” live – and the session was recorded, so there’s an opportunity for many more to see it in exactly the same way that it was presented.
  • How engaged participants were, as measured by questions and activity in the chat features.
  • How many people wanted to connect before/after the event.

Based on the engagement criteria, I’m surprised (and happy) to report that more people reached out to me than have in the past. I’ve connected with them and look forward to future conversations with each one.

Typically, at a live event, there’s a quick rush after the session for people to come up to the speaker and ask questions, one at a time. Sometimes, enthusiastic attendees take a lot of time, so the others (waiting in line) don’t get a chance to talk to the speaker, especially if pressed for time (another session is starting, the speaker needs to be somewhere, etc.). Sometimes cards are exchanged, quickly. And then it’s over. There isn’t always follow-up, cards can be lost, conversations are forgotten (what did I speak to that person about?) I don’t always remember, if I didn’t write it down, do you?

The differences here were all positive:

  • Everyone could ask a question or reach out in a chat, so that I was aware of everyone’s questions and comments. No one was “shut out” because of time.
  • I answered each question – one-by-one – but in this virtual event set up, I had the leisure of reaching out, online, to each person to connect after the session. There was no rush to “move on” to the next session (they were timed a few minutes apart, to allow for this.)
  • I had each person’s profile available, to understand who they were, where they worked, so I could better understand their questions and issues.
  • There was time during the event to do this networking – I didn’t have to “miss anything” that was going on to do have this networking time. This is critical, as it’s often “when business happens.”

As an attendee at other sessions, it was also nice to be able to see/hear other people’s questions. And I was approached by someone who had read my bio information and wanted to meet before I spoke; the platform allowed him to reach out and connect, setting up a potential time during the day to meet online (10 min.). My thought was: it’s only 10 minutes? I can commit to that. As it turned out, this new  contact had great technology for me to look at and the demo he did took quite a bit longer. But I was happy to spend the time with him and I’m hopeful we’ll end up being able to work together. Success!

The other great advantage of this event was it had great representation internationally. Most of the attendees at my session, for example, were from outside of the U.S. And I was able to hear sessions with speakers from other countries, all from the comfort of my home/laptop. It was wonderful! No more international travel time (which takes days) to hear great speakers and meet international colleagues.

I’m hopeful that these virtual events will be able to help with the incredible loss of sales leads that each industry is seeing. If my experience is any indication, these virtual events, if done well, have the potential to fill in some of those gaps in the sales funnel. And to help people continue to connect and learn, online.

Not sure about how to market in this new environment? Contact me and let’s chat!

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Tara Thomas

CMO & Co-Founder at The Meeting Pool
Tara is CMO and Co-Founder of The Meeting Pool, and a round-the-clock marketeer who works with tech companies on marketing activities including branding, events, social media, public relations, communications, strategy, and operations. Her background in the marketing of technology applications and online services spans a broad set of technologies including software-as-a-service, B2B, enterprise, financial services, publishing, real estate, and automotive markets. She has over 15 years of expertise managing strategic event marketing programs for companies including The Television Bureau of Advertising, Oracle, IPIX and The Cobalt Group, a leader in the automotive marketing space. Most recently at Certain, Inc., Thomas oversaw a myriad of strategic marketing initiatives that were essential to Certain’s growth.