By Kimberly Kee, Marketing Events Manager

In the pre-pandemic era, face-to-face marketing activities like trade shows and corporate events served as one of the most highly effective marketing tactics, outranking even digital advertising and email marketing. Real-life customer experiences are engaging, memorable, and can create profound brand impressions, making in-person events one of the most important tools in a marketer’s toolbox.

At the beginning of 2020, the event marketing industry faced an unprecedented new challenge: COVID-19. Long-time event professionals, like myself, were forced to pause, pivot, and take a serious look at the marketing landscape to find new ways to maintain our relevance. We had to use our customer engagement skills to capture a live audience… in a virtual world.

The events industry wasn’t thinking about how to go virtual at the beginning of 2020, but by June of that year, research conducted by CEIR (Center for Exhibition Industry Research) found that 81% of organizers who were forced to cancel live events had pivoted to virtual offerings. It has since become clear that virtual events have earned a permanent place in marketing plans everywhere, demonstrating just how powerful direct, real-time engagement can be, even when we can’t be together in person.

Thinking of engaging with your customers through virtual events? You’re not alone. Virtual events are proving themselves to be high-value opportunities to engage with an even wider audience than in-person events.

And if you’re looking for event topics to get you started, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are 8 inspired event ideas to help you connect with customers through virtual events:

Virtual Conferences

Here at AspenCore, we host quarterly virtual conferences on a variety of topics relevant to our industry. Our speakers, presenters, exhibitors, and attendees participate from across the globe. In addition to a two-or-three-day live conference, we offer on-demand recording access for 30 days post-event and, after that, offer the proceedings in a downloadable e-book.

Educational Workshops

You could also host a workshop designed to teach participants a skill in which your company is seen as being an expert, such as a leadership seminar, train the trainer, or best practices for using a product or service that you offer. Educational workshops offer opportunities for you to interact and engage with your audience while giving attendees an opportunity to advance their own professional development.

Product Launch Webinars/Live Streams

Hosting a virtual event is a great way to launch a new product and introduce it to a live audience. Increase interaction and engagement by offering a discount for event attendees, conducting a giveaway, or incentivizing your audience to help spread the word through social media channels.

Fireside Chat

These last two years have meant an increase in screen time, but a reduction in inspiration. To generate excitement with your audience, secure an industry expert or influencer, someone admired and respected within your user base, and host a fun fireside chat where your guest can share best practices and inspirational anecdotes that your audience can take home.

Panel Discussion

If there is a hot topic in your industry worth discussing, consider assembling a group of experts for a panel discussion that does a deep-dive into that topic. Debate pros and cons, engage in a live Q&A with the audience, and bring thought leadership to the forefront. All you need is an engaging topic, an informed moderator who can facilitate the conversation, and a group of chatty experts.

Virtual Facility Tour

Does your business have a facility worth sharing but you are not ready to host in-person guests? Try hosting an online facility tour of your assembly plant, design center, or warehouse operations. For interested customers and prospects, it’s the next best thing to being there in person.

Remote Awards Gala

Does your group need some recognition? Host a virtual awards gala and celebrate your successes, achievements, and wins. While this is a tried-and-true method of gaining staff loyalty, try hosting a similar event for customers to show your appreciation for their business. You could even have some of those customers present case studies of their success as part of the program.

Health and Well Being

Interested in offering your internal team and/or customers a much-needed break from their daily grind? Host a series of wellness breaks and invite a yoga instructor, personal trainer, or meditation expert to support your audience when it comes to their health. The event may not revolve around business, but it does send the message that you care about the whole person.

Conclusion

• Education for professional or personal development
• Keeping up-to-date with industry trends
• Fulfilling professional certification requirements
• Seeing and experiencing new technology, new products, or new services
• Professional networking
• Idea generation and thought leadership
• Building and maintaining relationships with suppliers
• Ability to engage with experts
• Gathering information for upcoming purchases or projects
• Recognition and celebration
• Get inspiration and motivation, or just taking time to recharge

There’s never been a better time to add virtual events to your marketing plans. Get to know your audience. Offer virtual content that aligns with they want and need and you can capture mindshare that supports your organization’s revenue goals.

Experiential marketing works, even from afar.

 

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