Event marketing

Going Virtual: Best Practices for Rewriting the Event Marketing Playbook

A common misconception among first-time virtual event planners is that digital is easier to execute than in-person. But reality is virtual is just a different beast. A digital execution requires heavyweight and is a fast-changing channel that is still heavily experimental. Rather than trying to force the trappings of what happened in person into an online experience, the most successful companies have reinvented their entire program and strategy from start to finish.

As the organizer of the huge Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the Consumer Technology Association started from scratch in preparation for the all-virtual event in January 2021. “We had to change our mindset and no longer produce physical spectacle,” said Jean Foster, senior vice president of marketing and communications. “Like any organization, we had a playbook on how to approach CES. We tear our playbook through marketing, through our content, through our sales and through sales engagement, because the physical is a very different experience and we let’s really create a new playbook for a digital environment.

Ideally, marketers should lay out the roadmap in person and design a virtual event strategy from scratch. eMarketer has identified three key best practices for event marketers rewriting the playbook:

  • Reevaluate the objectives of a virtual event strategy. With so many transformations underway, now is the time to reconsider the goals of an event strategy. These main goals can be very different from what might have been achieved in person, and that’s okay. A virtual event cannot accomplish all the same things, but it must accomplish what was intended.
  • Find out what type of event is good for achieving those goals. There are several varieties of virtual events that B2B companies can run, either as a host or as a sponsor. This is a time to experiment and get creative, so it’s important to consider all options and select the appropriate type of event based on established goals.
  • Realize that virtual events have the power to reach a larger audience (if you want). In August 2020, Bizzabo surveyed event marketers in Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America on the benefits of virtual events: 80.2% said they saw significantly more reach and were able to attract a wider audience. There are several reasons for these benefits: Virtual events free both organizers and attendees from venue space limitations; physical accessibility is no longer a factor; travel is not necessary; and it is often cheaper (or free) for participants to join.

“Marketers need to recognize that a virtual event is a marketing activity that takes place against the marketing objective,” said Peter Micciche, CEO of enterprise event management software company Certain. “Are you trying to speed up a sales cycle? Are you trying to educate your community? Are you trying to enter a new market? Are you trying to entice customers to sell? They are all different goals and they all require a different strategy and approach.

To launch a virtual event, marketers should use the event lifecycle to divide planning and logistics into three stages: pre-event, event experience, and post-event.