How to Promote Your Virtual Events and Increase Attendance – So, you’ve been able to arrange an awesome line-up of speakers, sponsors, and breakout sessions for your virtual event.
In fact, your date is set and your registration page is up and running. But on the D-Day, you discover quite a lot of no-shows from registered attendees.
No matter how impactful a virtual event is going to be, if the number of absentees overshadows the available participants, the entire event can get derailed.
That’s why a good attendance rate is one of the major priorities for event planners and organizers as they plan to promote their virtual events.
Thus, handling attendee experience from the registration to attendance phase can be the key difference between an average event and a successful virtual event.
We’ve analyzed the big reasons why registered attendees fail to show up and what can be done to limit drop-offs.
The result is this article you can follow in detail to resolve your low attendance rate problem.
- What Is a Virtual Event?
- Types of Virtual Events You Can Organize
- Advantages of Virtual Events
- How to Promote Your Virtual Event and Increase Attendance
- 1. Invite industry experts & influencers as speakers
- 2. Optimize event landing page to deliver unique attendee experience
- 3. Start with a pre-event Q&A
- 4. Utilize email marketing campaigns
- 5. Leverage social media
- 6. Share a sneak peek of your star speakers’ event prep
- 7. Initiate conversations with speakers on social media
- 8. Encourage & reward attendees to bring a plus one
- 9. Post behind the scenes exclusives with registered attendees
- 10. Consider charging a caution fee for no-shows
- Virtual Events FAQs
What Is a Virtual Event?
Basically, a virtual event is an online version of a physical event. It is usually done with the aid of a 3rd party application that has virtual event applications and capabilities.
They have become more popular following the coronavirus pandemic and the global lockdown in 2020.
Some events that had been earlier planned with set dates and venues had to be taken online due to the lockdown.
It quickly grew into a desirable form of virtual interaction for groups of people.
Those who would otherwise have bought plane tickets to attend an event now found themselves sitting comfortably at home watching the show live – while saving on transportation costs in the process!
Generally, virtual events are a great way to connect audiences globally using chat tools, live webinars, as well as digital content mostly served through a visually rich interface.
Types of Virtual Events You Can Organize
Here’s a rundown of some of the most common types of virtual events that have been providing organizers and their audiences with enormous value
1. Virtual Conferences
The demand for Virtual Conferences & Summits has pumped due to their stellar outcomes.
With the use of highly efficient online tools for engagement, organizers have been able to reach a wider audience, invite keynote speakers from across the world, save costs and achieve their objectives more effectively than a physical conference would have allowed them to.
No doubt, webinars have taken over nearly every industry that exists. In fact, webinars have turned out to be the star of the season.
For those who are just seeing the term for the first time, a webinar is a virtual event that connects individuals with viewers across the globe.
Usually, it is held in the form of a presentation, or a group meeting that holds on the internet but in real-time.
Webinars are often composed of polls and Q&A sessions to maximize engagement and achieve the purpose of the event being held.
3. Virtual Wedding Expo
If you’ve ever been married, you’ll agree with us that putting a wedding together can really be a nightmare.
From hall bookings to finalizing caterers, there’s always plenty of websites searching and running after vendors involved.
However, wedding expos have made it easier to avoid this chaos by bringing all vendors together under one roof so that attendees can make their picks.
This one-stop solution for weddings is going virtual to help make wedding planning even more convenient for people.
A virtual wedding expo allows attendees to search for event planners, caterers, musicians, designers, photographers, etc. – all with a simple click.
4. Online Trade Shows & Exhibitions
We’re certain you’ll agree with us that the basic goal of any business is to increase profit by maximizing leads.
However, will you really be maximizing them if you aren’t reaching a global audience? Fortunately, it is never too late to get it right.
Hosting a virtual trade show & expo can give organizers the chance to engage prospects across the globe using live chat tools, teach them about their offerings using live webinars, and eventually convert warm leads with an online store within their event, in a much shorter time.
5. Virtual Career Fairs & Job Fairs
Major corporations around the world find their best employees by increasing their reach and virtually meeting their future employees.
Rather than canceling career fairs, you can move them online. You can basically improve the quality of applicants with the help of various one-on-one audio/video chat tools, job boards, and effective video assessment tools.
That’s not all – a virtual career also fair gives employers the opportunity of showcasing their employer brand to a global audience.
6. Online Music Concerts
Music concerts, like every other event, were also canceled across the world due to the pandemic last year.
However, during the lockdown, many artists got together virtually to perform for their audiences as an act of solidarity and togetherness during those difficult times.
Initiatives like One World: Together at Home have been used to buttress their support via virtual events.
7. Virtual University Fairs
Top universities usually set up a number of programs and fairs geared at helping their students get a head-start on information and opportunities to reach their education as well as professional goals.
Because of this, leading universities base their programs encouraging top prospects from across the world to come and join their institutions.
However, in order to engage with the global cream, the first step is to be visible and accessible. Virtual University fairs can be accessed using any smart device, from any corner of the globe.
With this diversity, here is how virtual events of the following type assist students & alumni engage with Universities and top employers alike across the world, benefiting all the stakeholders in the process.
Virtual Open Day – This allows prospective students to get accustomed to the rich culture at a university, interact with faculty, and fill lead-capture forms via a virtual event. Virtual open days help in attracting & engaging three to five times more students than a physical event.
Virtual Education Fair– This assists universities in showcasing their infrastructure, culture, and programs to a wide prospective student base from across the world. Also, a virtual education fair helps in educating the student masses about higher study options via one comprehensive event.
Virtual Student/Alumni Networking Fair– Here, students are connected with successful University Alumni which boosts engagement with rich interactive tools like webinars, discussion forums, audio/video/text chats.
Virtual Job Fair– This helps students/alumni network with top employers and find sustainable careers through an accessible, online platform, rich in interactive tools.
8. Virtual Onboarding Fairs
Generally, brands and business owners agree that success relies heavily on new hires themselves. Thus, to ensure that companies direct their new hires from foundation to success, an effective onboarding program needs to be put in place.
A Virtual Onboarding Fair can let businesses boost productivity for distributed hires and train them through rich interactive tools such as webinars and audio/video chats.
The icing on the cake – they can also measure the performance and make alterations at any point in time.
9. Virtual Benefits Fairs
Hosting a virtual benefits fair can help employees get lots of information about employee benefits via an easy and interactive online event.
It takes out the hassle and long hours that HR personnel has to spend on each employee. It also provides a much better way for employees to access appropriate plans.
Although the list of events going virtual continues to expand, it is quite an exciting process to explore the possibilities and the opportunities that these virtual events carry within themselves.
10. Virtual Magic Team Events
Since it has become so easy to host meetings virtually, a global or country-wide team can meet — and in fact, meet more often.
However, it can be sort of a challenge to connect with one another when everyone isn’t all in the same room.
This is why online magic shows have grown to be some of the most popular forms of virtual entertainment through 2020 and 2021.
Basically, everyone loves magic — both the young and the elderly. And nothing gets people out of their shells like the comedy and surprise we feel at a magic show.
With some online magicians, the most interesting aspect is that you are not just watching a performance — the interactive magic happens on your side of the screen.
This is why today, online magicians and virtual mentalists such as Jon Finch are the busiest entertainers in the world.
Advantages of Virtual Events
You might be thinking that virtual events can never quite measure up to the same standards and natural reception you’d get from physical events.
However, we’d like to share 10 advantages of virtual events that should sway your opinion about the subject.
1. Makes an awesome first impression
Virtual event registration lets event planners create customized forms, take easy payments, and gather analytics quickly, all of which improve the customer experience right from the start.
2. Delivers good leads
Trade shows using lead retrieval apps can quickly follow-up and manage leads more conveniently.
Lead retrieval ensures exhibitors get to access important personal data shared by attendees at registration. Generally, going virtual can let you get more leads with less stress.
3. Highlights great programming
Event planners are smart at allowing their creativity to fly as they create immersive virtual event experiences, customized event schedules, and engaging sessions.
The trick is having a flexible Virtual Event Platform and solid support.
4. Improves sponsor and exhibitor value
With virtual events, you may not need to discount on exhibitor fees due to the value that going virtual brings.
Basically, virtual event technology offers limitless ways to develop sponsor packages and keep events profitable.
For instance, sponsors and exhibitors get to find out who visited the virtual booth or virtual session, when, and how many times.
And for attendees, one of the major benefits of attending virtual events is that with less physical travel, they can get more time to interact with a lot more sponsors and exhibitors.
5. Offers improved attendee feedback
In addition to the rich data that you can get during virtual event registration, you’ll also discover that an online event provides a variety of different metrics to help you plan future events.
Some of these metrics include the actual number of people attending a session, the sum of people attending at a certain time, and the speakers with the highest rate of engagement at the conference.
6. Helps enhance attendee growth
Another major (and in fact, more obvious) benefit of virtual events is that they remove geographical limitations. It really doesn’t matter whether event-goers are in Guangzhou or Detroit, the number of attendees can grow exponentially.
7. Saves attendees money
Unarguably, one of the largest stumbling blocks to event attendance has been eliminated: travel costs. With a virtual event, the attendee only requires a computer and an Internet connection (and of course, that glass of wine or soda.)
8. Saves planners time
The bulk of the time that goes into event planning is tied mainly to in-person events such as hotel site selection, on-site event staffing, and signage.
Virtual events basically chuck out all these activities and give event planners more time to focus on event programming, building sponsorships, and creating a smooth attendee experience.
Thus, underlining the popular mantra; time is money!
9. Delivers additional value
Typically, events have multiple overlapping sessions. This means it is impossible for someone to physically attend two interesting panels simultaneously.
However, virtual events help solve this dilemma. With on-demand content available to attendees 24-7, a lot of people will feel better about signing up.
10. More networking options
One interesting thing about virtual event platforms is that they give so many opportunities to build professional relationships such as creating special interest meet-up spaces, hosting cocktail parties and entertainment, and providing detailed attendee directories.
Additionally, online events often cater to introverts and those people who shy away from traditional networking by keeping them engaged at their own pace with the use of polling to curate small, specific discussions.
How to Promote Your Virtual Event and Increase Attendance
1. Invite industry experts & influencers as speakers
One of the most proven methods of increasing event attendance is to get industry experts and influencers to speak at your event.
The reason is simple – these folks already have an existing rapport with your target audience.
Thus, they bring with themselves the expertise and the authenticity your audience desires. Attendees flock up to listen to and learn from an experienced and admired expert.
Basically, featuring such experts is a simple way to increase attendance. The only problem you may face would be in booking time with these speakers.
So, take the first step by creating your wishlist of speakers. Approach them and try to get confirmation from them as early as possible.
If, for example, you’re planning on hosting an event in December later this year, now would be the perfect time to get going at it.
2. Optimize event landing page to deliver unique attendee experience
Take advantage of first impressions – they matter more than you think. Your event landing page is where your potential attendees first get to know about your event in detail.
Blow their minds away with a clean page UI, clear communication, and a crisp event offering. The truth is we’re all fatigued by zoom invites and lengthy agendas with twisted jargon.
Why not make the promise of your event and the value it offers simple and easy to understand right from the beginning?
Expose as many details about the event as possible in a simple, comprehensible way – what’s the idea & the purpose of the event, what problems does your event seek to address, what to expect from various sessions, who to contact for more details, etc.
3. Start with a pre-event Q&A
Put yourself in the same position as your potential attendees – wouldn’t you love to get answers to questions you have about an event you’re thinking of investing your time and energy in?
Allow your attendees to ask questions from their favorite speakers or the organizing team before the event proper.
Consider including a real-time Q&A section or even a chatbot on your event website. Virtual event platforms make this pretty easy to set up.
You can easily create an open as well as a moderated Question & Answer section from the organizer dashboard.
4. Utilize email marketing campaigns
Put a lot of effort into your email marketing campaigns for event promotion to a tee. Sending the right email, at the perfect time, with the most engaging content and tone is crucial to keep registered people interested in your event.
According to Hubspot, about 40% of marketers have also affirmed that email marketing is most effective for promoting events.
Here are some quick tips:
- Send exciting and interactive content that your attendees would be willing to share with others.
- Never stop sharing important session and speaker details at regular intervals.
- Continue to remind them about exciting offers, contests, and discussions to participate in.
- Make use of relevant, personalized CTAs.
- Make sure readability on desktops, tablets, and especially mobiles is excellent.
- Do a regular analysis of your campaign to identify which attendees are most engaged, what content is getting the most attention and which CTAs are working best.
5. Leverage social media
Make use of organic and/or paid promotion to blast your virtual event invitation to your followers or fans.
Also, keep posting updates about your virtual event using a specific hashtag, and engage in the conversation.
If you want to see fast improvements in your registration volume, then be sure to invest heavily in paid ads.
Paid promotion lets you reach out to the right audience, desired geographical regions, and demographics.
Popular social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are always introducing new features for advertising, including their remarketing settings.
Social media remarketing itself could, in fact, be quite profitable for a business. In the case of your virtual event, remarketed ads can help you reach out to those people who visited your event’s page but left without registering.
They work to display ads to these same set of people, and essentially nurture them towards conversion.
6. Share a sneak peek of your star speakers’ event prep
If you invite the right speakers to your event, there’s a good chance that some of them would be star speakers who are attractive to attendees.
Take note of this and work with them to develop a pre-event session snippet.
It could contain a few quotes about the event or about their session topic, a sneak peek into their talk, or the presentation they are plan on using – just anything that will get attendees excited.
You can share this on social media, send it out as a personalized message, or include it as part of your email campaigns.
7. Initiate conversations with speakers on social media
Be sure to tap into your speakers’ network on all social media channels. It is an awesome place to attract more attendees to your event and a great way to create content to share with registered audiences.
So, engage with your speaker on the social media channels that they are most active on.
Begin a conversation with them, welcome them to the event, ask them questions such as what they are most excited about for your event, or tag them in relevant posts that talk about the event.
In addition, you can also work with them to develop personalized ticket discount coupons, offer a limited-access networking opportunity at the event, or just do a pre-event Livestream.
8. Encourage & reward attendees to bring a plus one
If you’re familiar with how referral campaigns work, then this shouldn’t be a problem for you.
You can reward attendees who refer more attendees for your event. Encourage your attendees to get more like-minded people to your conference or event – it could be a colleague, a friend, a mentor, or even an entire community they are a part of.
Rewards could range from gift cards and vouchers to mobile phones and laptops. So, set up a referral and reward program and inform your attendees about it.
Once someone adds a plus one to their registration or even shares information about your event publicly requesting for more people to join, show them your gratitude and dole out a reward to them.
9. Post behind the scenes exclusives with registered attendees
We all love a quick laugh or a run down a memory lane, don’t we? So, if you put together some iconic footage from your previous events or a joke your speaker/panelists shared during a briefing call, it will stir up curiosity and excitement in your audience.
You can even share short clips showing the organizing team working hard to set up the event.
Here, you’ll have to rely heavily on video marketing. Other concepts that could work like a charm include creating a couple of memes, time-lapse videos, and candid clippings, under 30 seconds or less.
10. Consider charging a caution fee for no-shows
Lots of event organizers charge a no-show fee from attendees. This isn’t too different from a security deposit.
However, if you want to do this, you must let your attendees know about it beforehand with full transparency.
Tell attendees exactly why you are charging this nominal fee, and that they will get a full refund after attending the event.
In addition, let them know that the only reason this fee will not be refunded is only if the attendee doesn’t show up.
Similarly, you can also send attendees an assured voucher of the same (or slightly higher) amount you charge as a caution fee.
When the attendees grace the event, they’ll get a passcode that lets them use this voucher.
You can as well turn this into an intelligent cross-branding or partnership opportunity with your event exhibitors and sponsors.
Virtual Events FAQs
Can any event be hosted online?
Yes, absolutely! There are plenty of conferences, recruitment and careers fairs, product launches, trade shows (from all sectors), and open days all hosted online.
Be aware that there is basically no limit to the variety of events you plan to host. You should first think of what the event would look like physically and then translate it into the virtual alternative. Hence, if you can imagine it, then it is possible.
What are the unique features of a virtual event?
This relies on what you want to achieve with your virtual event and what virtual platform you’re hosting your event on.
Some virtual event platforms feature one-to-one live chat and videoconferencing, live seminars and presentations, integrated social media channels as well as ‘real time’ delegate networking features, and more.
There is really no limitation to the interactivity of a virtual event, thus, don’t be surprised to find branded booths, sponsor areas, resource centers, etc., present.
Can I see who attends my virtual event?
Now, here’s one of the greatest advantages of hosting your event virtually. You will be able to gather important data on your delegates – from those who register through to those who attend.
As a matter of fact, you can even see every action and activity they perform whilst logged in.
This can give you extremely valuable insight in terms of analysis and future marketing purposes.
What type of business would host an event online?
They include some of the largest global corporations, through to top universities and even the public sector.
Basically, they all share the same simple objective – to connect and communicate with their audiences (internal or external) in a meaningful as well as engaging way.
A virtual event achieves this cost-efficiently, overcoming obstacles like time, resources and location.
For businesses hosting a virtual event, the greatest advantage is being able to reach a limitless audience regardless of their location anywhere across the globe.
With a virtual event, your attendees won’t need to engage in expensive and environmentally unfriendly travel which can boost your attendance rates dramatically.
Are there any benefits for someone attending a virtual event?
From the view of a delegate attending your virtual event, the main benefits are time and convenience.
They can attend at any time, from any location in the world, and still have the personalized experience they would get from a physical event. They also get to consume content in their own time.
Promoting your virtual event can be daunting at first, especially when you are trying to plan an event for attendees who are uncertain about virtual participation.
However, if you keep these tips in mind and infuse them into your plans, you will have a much easier time whenever you want to promote your virtual events drive signups, and increase attendance.