When many big events moved online in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizers and attendees found themselves navigating virtual conferences for the first time. Some may have enjoyed the benefits of an online event and may want to keep an online component in the future. Promoting an online event can present unique challenges, however. Let’s take a look at a few strategies that can help you increase your attendance in a virtual space.
What is an Online Event?
An online event may refer to any special happening taking place at a specific time, on a particular online platform. This encompasses a wide world of web-based occurrences. This might include a small group of people that require a special link or password to enter the online space, or it might be completely open to the public. Every attendee might be able to participate, or participants might include a small group of people, while others watch. The event might be exclusively online, or it might include an in-person or online component.
This is just a few examples of online events that any type of business might host:
Webinar: A “web-based seminar” usually involves one or two instructors who explain or describe a topic, using a slide deck or similar content to help viewers follow along. Usually, the attendees can ask questions during or after the webinar.
Conference: Online conferences weren’t very common prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but helped many professionals connect when in-person meetings weren’t possible. Online conferences might include dozens or hundreds of attendees across one or several online spaces, and might also include webinars, presentations, and other activities.
Live Stream: A live stream shows real-time footage of an in-person event, which might involve one person, a small group, or a large group. Viewers can watch the event as it unfolds, and can sometimes connect with each other or the event hosts via a text-based chat system.
Interview: An online interview might refer to a one-on-one meeting, such as a job interview, or it might refer to a promotional interview with online viewers, like a talk show or a podcast. In a promotional interview, an expert might describe to a host a new product or process they’ve developed.
Workshops: An online workshop brings professionals together to discuss and improve a project. Attendees might share their project online using a link, show it on a video screen, or describe it. They might ask questions of each other and provide feedback throughout the workshop.
Demonstrations: In an online demonstration, an expert will show how a process or activity works, and how to conduct the activity properly. Viewers or attendees might follow along, or simply watch.
Career Fairs: An online career fair, similar to an online conference, has only recently become more common. An online career fair will include industry professionals and individuals interested in careers in the industry. This might include one large, virtual meeting space for everyone to introduce themselves, as well as several smaller virtual spaces for professionals and job-seekers to meet.
Luncheons: Just like an in-person luncheon, a virtual luncheon invites attendees to discuss and have lunch together, except this meeting takes place in an online space. To encourage attendees to eat together, the host might provide gift cards for a meal delivery service.
Class: An online class can be a great way to train new employees, show clients how your product or service solves a problem, or build rapport with leads. You might combine this with a demonstration, slidedeck, ebook, or something else to make it more engaging.
Professional Development: Professional development can help to strengthen relationships within your organization, which may have weakened if you’ve moved away from the office. You might learn a new skill or program together, or participate in online team-building and communication improvement activities.
Benefits of Online Events
Though online events present some challenges, there are also many benefits. It can take some trial and error to manage and facilitate a great online event, but online events can present additional value.
Lower costs: This is perhaps the most obvious benefit of online events. With no need to travel, book a venue, set up booths, cater and more, you can direct more of your budget towards working with speakers and creating high-quality presentations.
International audiences: With online events, attendees and speakers don’t have to travel to meet. This opens the available pool of attendees and facilitators to your entire industry, not just local professionals or those nearby.
Lead magnets: Online events also give you the opportunity to create a lead magnet. If your event is intended to nurture relationships with customers or bring in new leads, you can record the event and provide a replay option that leads can download. This way, your event continues to create value.
How to Promote Online Events
With a better picture of what online events are and how you might use them to get additional benefits, let’s take a closer look at how to promote online events.
This is one of the most important steps when it comes to promoting online events. Your online event must have a central page that potential attendees can easily find. Use essential keywords, like the event’s name, the year, and your industry, to help improve SEO for the page.
This page should have all the information attendees need to understand what the event is about, what will happen during the event, and how they can participate. As you promote your online event, you can link back to this page.
With your landing page set up, the next step is to communicate with your existing audience. If you have a regular newsletter, promote your event at the top of your newsletter and link back to the event landing page. You’re most likely to get attendees and participants from your current audience, so this is a great place to start.
If you’ve held the event in a previous year and you have contact information for the participants, this is another great way to promote your online event. Take a look at your email lists and see if any recipients might find an online event invitation particularly useful or interesting.
Though you’ve already created a landing page, you can also promote your event on other areas of your website. Potential customers are likely to visit your homepage, blog and other high-traffic areas of your website. These potential customers are also likely to be potential event participants. Use these high-traffic areas to direct web visitors to your landing page, and you can use your online event to convert visitors to leads as well.
If you are active on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or another platform, use this to promote your online event. Connect with similar businesses as well, and ask them to repost your content. If your event includes speakers or guests, connect with them as well. This way, your guests and other professionals can share your event with their audiences. Remember to post multiple times about your event; consumers have a lot of content competing for their attention on social media, so it’s helpful to mention your event multiple times.
Search ads, such as those displayed at the top of a Google search, can help increase the odds that interested participants will find your landing page when they make a relevant search. You might pay for search ads based on clicks or impressions. This can be a very efficient way to reach attendees. However, careful budgeting is important for this step, since paid ads can quickly eat into your event’s ROI.
Social Media Ads
Paid ads on social media can also be an effective way to reach attendees or participants. Once again, you’ll need to target your ads and budget carefully. LinkedIn can be an effective way to reach professionals in a particular role or industry. Facebook can be a great way to reach out to people locally. Instagram can be helpful for reaching people with particular hobbies or in particular lifestyle stages. Twitter can be ideal for engaging participants for a livestream event.
As participants sign up for the event, they should regularly receive reminders, so they don’t forget. Depending on your promotion schedule and timeline, you might send an email a month before the event, a week before, a day before, and one hour before. These emails might include additional information participants might need, a schedule for break-out sessions or speakers, links to slide decks or other resources, biographies about industry professionals or facilitators, or links to any relevant software or platforms.
Since they’re less formal and don’t require travel or much planning, it can be difficult to generate a lot of excitement for online events. Incentives can help participants get more excited about your online event. You might offer a giveaway related to your products or services, or another incentive, such as a cash prize or gift certificate for participants or attendees.
Though online events allow you to reach a wider audience, you might not be able to reach everyone at one time. As previously mentioned, online events allow you to repost content for others that might not be able to attend the first instance.
You might record your webinar, demonstration, workshop or another event, and make it available for download. When your event is finished, you might convert your landing page into a download page to attract and convert additional leads. Use the previously mentioned methods to promote your online event to promote your downloadable content as well.
Plan your timeline carefully and be sure that your landing page clearly shows what your online event is about and how to get involved. Test your virtual meeting software, recording software, and landing page before you launch your online event. With the right preparation, testing, and promotions, your online event can be a success.