Best practices for a new era of virtual events

05/26/2020 - Jin Woo

We’re entering a new era of virtual events. Here at 280blue, we’re closely examining the trend to advise clients on how to make the biggest PR impact. While this is a new world to all of us, we’ve spoken to numerous editors, analysts and conference organizers, as well as consulted the advice of numerous blogs — and we’ve identified a few best practices that we want to share.

Unfettered Media Access and Exclusives

What’s interesting about this new era, first of all, is what hasn’t changed. Often, the most fruitful relationships with the press come when you provide unfettered access to your executives, team leads, customers, partners and advisors. This was true before and still holds true with today’s virtual events. The reason is that such access enables reporters to get a full cross-section of perspectives and build unique stories around your organization. What happens behind the scenes or within the “walls” of your organization is often where the true story of innovation can be found. 

In addition to unfettered access, editors appreciate when you think of them to help tell an interesting story with a fresh perspective as trends emerge, technology adoption ramps up or companies emerge from the pack.

Along with unfettered access, editors appreciate when you think of them to help tell an interesting story with a fresh perspective — as trends emerge, technology adoption ramps up or companies break from the pack. When you find a unique way to package the story — and offer it as an exclusive — reporters have a much greater motivation and willingness to go deeper with the piece. 

You should also consider making a multi-tiered news announcement that’s tied to an overarching theme. That way, editors can gravitate towards whichever news items their audiences would be most interested in, while still including a mention to the components of your news.

Accessible, Memorable and Digestible Event Content

Apart from one-on-one media access, you’ll need public-facing virtual events. Other event ideas could include opportunities for keynotes, sessions and press conferences. The most important thing to remember — being that we’re now inundated with virtual meetings —  is to keep the event memorable, fun and educational in an easily digestible and consumable way. 

On the media side, that means giving editors covering your space ample time to learn about the topic beforehand. Let editors ask questions in advance, so that they can be addressed during the session. 

While working from home has its advantages, it can be hard to juggle a full-time job, take care of our kids and pets and manage every other disruption each day holds — virtual events included. To make it easier for reporters, make the content easy to digest by providing a recording after the event, including time-stamped transcripts. If any press attended the event, go one step further: provide specific timestamps for when their questions are answered. 

If you’re organizing a custom event, rather than participating in an already established event gone virtual, you have the opportunity to make it much more accessible to attendees. For instance, provide access via a multitude of platforms including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. Then, simplify the signup process by enabling features like social logins. 

Post-event, you should create shorter snippets that are easily consumable: a playlist on your YouTube channel; a blog series with embedded videos; a series of social posts with social tiles that feature key takeaways or interesting sound bites; or a podcast series focusing on different segments of your event. 

If you have a virtual booth at an established event, you may be limited in the number of assets you can share. One way to stand out is by creating a landing page featuring all of your relevant assets and fresh content. This is a good practice, regardless, as event platforms or organizers can limit the number of hostable assets during the event.

Timing is Everything

As you may have noticed, new conference dates are being announced by the week. While some conference organizers are still debating physical events later this year, others have conceded that many shows will be virtual for the foreseeable future. As these dates are confirmed, you may decide to be a part of these shows, or you may choose to build a custom event between shows or immediately following them.

Controlling Costs

While established shows and vendor shows have predictable levels of attendance, possible  leads and overall value for your company, the shift to virtual has many organizations wondering whether the value of sponsoring or exhibiting justifies the price. Of course, the anticipated keynotes and featured sessions will still be impactful in virtual form, but will young startups who are still establishing their credibility be able to stand out? 

If you’re considering custom events, explore working with strategic partners to develop a joint virtual event — allowing you to share some of the event costs, while benefiting from the combined list of customers and prospects.

Looking Ahead

There are many more best practices that we’re sharing with our 280blue clients — and many more that we’ll learn as we virtual events evolve and best practices are refined. We look forward to providing an update as we all help each other adjust to this new workplace environment. 

If you’d like to talk more in-depth about virtual events or how 280blue can help your organization, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at jin@280blue.com.