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By: Freya Smale, Portfolio Marketing Director, Informa Tech Automotive Group
The need to virtualize events has forced our industry to adapt quickly.
To succeed at virtualization, it is vital to understand that virtual events are not the same as physical events. We must approach virtual as something new, by asking ourselves: how can we create valuable experiences in a virtual setting that will meet/exceed attendee expectations?
That’s what the team here at Informa Tech Automotive Group have done. Thanks to our Group resources, we have been able to research and reinvigorate virtual events.
From a marketing perspective, virtualization should cause your objectives and focus to shift.
Here at Informa Tech Automotive Group, we’ve summed this up into 3 phases of the marketing campaign.
Attract – very simply to effectively use marketing channels to attract the attendees from your industry.
Retain – ensure you keep the virtual event front-of-mind with your attendees, so they are present and engaged during the event.
Educate – to educate the audience to ensure that they know how to use the platform, so they can participate effectively in all the content and networking formats on offer.
The initial stage of the marketing campaign should be focused on Attract. We have learnt from our own experiences as virtual hosts as well as from our extensive market research, that the booking patterns for Virtual Events are significantly different. As no travel or accommodation is required, attendees have the luxury of taking their time to decide whether to attend. You will need to increase communication 3-6 weeks prior to the event.
There are, of course, a multitude of ways to encourage early bookings: share must-attend sessions, to create a feeling of FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out; create a pricing structure that favours early bookings; and offer content outside of the main event days, encouraging engagement pre event.
1. Content is King. In a virtual event setting, Content Marketing is vital. Creating original content outside of the event days keeps your brand front of mind. It also offers additional thought leadership and branding opportunities for your clients.
2 . Get Social. Engage your audience through our social channels. Your event stakeholders are your influencers. Encourage your partners to share, retweet, comment, like etc; adding their own personal flair.
3 . Education. Increased educational communication is required to teach event stakeholders how to utilize the technology. This is how you can ensure attendees are present at the event and your sponsors can network effectively.
As virtual event organizers, we are often asked What’s in it for me?
For sponsors and exhibitors, virtual events offer innovative thought leadership, branding, networking and lead generation opportunities. These 4 pillars are the foundations of any B2B conference and continuing to deliver here is vital. Choosing the right technology means that you can deliver far more value.
Virtual really comes into its own from a lead generation perspective. Unlike at a physical event, virtual offers increased data and analytics. For example, if you run a virtual session, you can easily see all registered attendees and organize follow-up through the platform. It is impossible at a large physical event to know who is in the room.
Speakers can equally benefit from this increased level of analytics. It’s powerful as a speaker to know who is in the room and tailor your talk to their needs. Leverage live chats, polls and surveys during a session to engage the attendees.
It must be stated that in some respects it is harder in a virtual setting, to keep the audience’s attention. Again, this is where the Educate element of your communications plan comes into play. As organizers, you must work with your speakers to create engaging content; teaching them how to maximize their time and utilize the interactive features of the platform.
Attendees are looking for the same expert content and interactive networking that they enjoy at a physical event. You are still asking them to take time out of their day. You need to demonstrate the value. Many virtual platforms will utilize live chat features for networking. We’ve looked to step up the networking, choosing a platform that enables video chat, 1-2-1 or 1-2-4 booth meetings, speed networking, private group discussions, and private breakout sessions.
Press attendees, in particular, benefit from these networking solutions, as interviews can be organized without the hustle and bustle of a busy exhibition hall behind them!
Create a marketing and communications strategy to Attract, Retain and Educate. As we like to say, here at Informa Tech Automotive Group, we ARE creating innovative and memorable experiences and we look forward to hosting the Automotive industry virtually this year!
About the Author
Freya Smale is the portfolio marketing director for Informa Tech Automotive Group. As a seasoned business leader and accomplished marketer with a distinguished track record leading highly successful and cost effective marketing campaigns, Freya has a wealth of skills and experience across all marketing disciplines from a diverse range of industry sectors. With an impressive history of successful Marketing Campaigns, Product Development, Events and Client Services functions worldwide in leading technologies she has contributed significantly to the promotion of innovation to inspire change across various industries. She currently works as Portfolio Marketing Director at Informa Tech, part of Informa Group PLC, a British multinational publishing, business intelligence, and exhibitions group, listed on the London Stock Exchange and a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.