Virtual is Here to Stay

“The radio and the telephone and the movies that we know may just be passing fancies and in time may go” are lyrics Ina Gershwin wrote to “Love is Here to Stay” after her noted composer husband passed before completing the song. As a result of the pandemic and recent news that Regal is shutting its theatres down for now and people’s transition to digital platforms, these three things may indeed be passing fancies.

Because of quarantines and rules governing large assemblies of people, virtual events have become extremely popular. Initially, many marketers assumed they would pass once the pandemic is over, but 90% of respondents to a Conde Naste survey this May said that even after “live” events return, they’d still be interested in virtual events. One would assume that a 111-year-old organization would not be so agile and nimble, but the global publishing giant quickly planned 200 virtual events for the remainder of 2020 since the pandemic was declared.

Just as impressive is that the survey discovered that more than 70% of those polled or more than 700,000 had already participated in at least one of the 150 virtual events Condes Naste had held since March. Buoyed by the success of these, the publisher launched its first-ever Virtual Events Upfront, a sponsored virtual event in June. “Out Now Live” replaced the canceled Pride Festival, and the event drew 12,000 attendees. What should brands draft a virtual event strategy consider?

Brands putting on a virtual event for the first time have many things to consider, starting with whether it be a one-time event or a series. Important considerations include the event’s length and content, number of speakers, and other features like polling and pop-ups. Will there be a fee, sponsors, and activities like networking opportunities? Will the event be “live,” pre-recorded, or a combination of both? Answers to these are essential before moving forward.

Appropriate virtual event software that can be customized is also important. There are dozens to choose from, but it should meet the brand’s needs and include such things as user polls, sponsor areas, user engagement metric reports, virtual lobbies, and private and public chat capabilities.

Sponsoring a virtual event is less costly than a “live” one, and there are several options available to sell for which different price options also need to be considered and set. The top one is Presenting Sponsor, which would allow the brand to deliver a 30-60 minute “live” or pre-recorded presentation while answering questions in real-time. Another is a virtual booth like rooms at a “live” event where attendees can chat with the sponsor. The lowest cost is advertising sponsors by promoting them in social media posts, emails, etc.

Promoting a virtual event is no different than marketing any other. Every possible platform and possibility should be leveraged and utilized. However, publishing a dedicated website or landing page will make the virtual event special and help make it stand out. In promoting the virtual event, just be sure to clearly answer the main question of what value it will deliver to the brand’s target audience.