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How to be Successful With In-Person and Virtual Events

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

In the ERP/CRM channel, we all host, sponsor, and attend a variety of events such as webinars, trade shows, and user events – virtual and online. As the world endeavors to get back to normal, what are the best practices and latest trends for planning, attending, and following up on events in our ERP/CRM industry? How can marketers select which events to sponsor and fit that into their marketing budgets?

You’ll find expert advice on those topics, and more, in this month’s recap.

Introducing the Discussion Leaders

Chelsea Didio, RSM

Steve Dwyer, WithoutWire

Danielle Parks, Enavate

This month’s panel of experts has seen it all when it comes to hosting marketing events. With years of experience in the channel, they’ve had to adapt to changing products, changing partners, and especially now, the changing times.

Thank you to our sponsor for the March 2022 call, The Partner Marketing Group.

Let’s hear about the challenges they’ve faced and how they’ve overcome them with resounding success.

How to make a virtual event successful

Danielle: The first step is defining what sort of virtual event it is. For many years we’ve been doing “online meetings” and webinars to demonstrate a product or establish thought leadership, for example. On the other hand, in the last two years, we’ve had to hold large-scale events online with breakout sessions. Each type of event requires good forethought and planning, and doing so well in advance.

It’s important for the entire marketing group to understand that just because the meeting is online doesn’t make it less important than an in-person event. Planning the topic, including engaging content, targeting the right audience, and inviting the right person to present are all critical factors in a successful event. (As a side note, someone who knows the product inside and out isn’t necessarily the best candidate as a presenter. Or training can be given to help them improve their public speaking skills, with dry runs before the event to help them get used to it.)

Chelsea: Preparation includes not just planning for the actual event, but also planning for the post-event follow-through afterward. You don’t want to wrap up the event and then start asking questions such as ‘Okay, what are we doing now? Who's doing the follow-up? What are we doing?’ Make sure you have those mechanisms in place and discussed with either your subject matter experts, your sales team, or whoever is working on the event with you. Make sure there are talking points and takeaways. Prepare the team for what follows so they can get right to it at the back end of the event.

It is a really critical element because, obviously, we’re hosting these events for a reason. There's an action or a next step that we want these people to take with us. Maybe that's a meeting, maybe that's attending another event or meeting for lunch, etc. Just make sure you have an idea of what that is before you start the event.

Outstanding examples of virtual events

Danielle: In 2020 we had planned large in-person events. The organizers had to pivot at the last minute and move them online, which was a challenge for everyone involved. Choosing from a plethora of online platforms was a struggle, especially to find one that would enable audience engagement and recreate the “in-person” feel virtually, like with the party we would normally have to meet people. It was a multi-day event, and we decided to go ahead and try.

I think it is important with virtual events that you take chances and try things. So we hired an entertainer, a comedian, and a magician. The magician was amazing! We had the event on Zoom and we had over 150 people connected. He was engaging and entertaining and interactive. Everybody registered, then we had the event, and then anybody that attended got a gift shipped to them. Something small, but anything small adds up when you have to mail it.

We also had some raffles during the event to keep things interesting too. Budgeting for these things is important. Overall, it went really well. We definitely got good audience engagement and positive feedback which made it all worth it. Because of that, we later held a second virtual event. So you have to think outside the box, try to engage, to recreate that experience any way you can.

Steve: Around when COVID hit a couple things that we did were, as an ISV, to engage a complementary ISV to tell a compelling story. And we especially liked that it was reusable content. So we could post it on our website and refer back to it and push the recording to people as well. Then it combined the marketing power of our partner too. So you get a little more reach, better attendance, and those kinds of things.

How to get people to register for and attend the event

Chelsea: You want to have good content; something that's relevant for your audience, for them to be willing to take time out of their very busy day to listen to you speak. It obviously needs to be something that is, for example, very influential to their decision-making or research process. Or, if they're already using a software solution, your content should be something that they're dying to learn, or information about a new release – something that's really going to grab their attention. So obviously content is critical.

I feel it’s important to include an agenda, or highlights, to let people know what they're signing up for. Obviously the more vague it is, the less attendance you'll have. So you want to be very clear about what you're providing. Especially if there's a demo or something more technical included, they need to know that upfront so they know what to expect when they attend.

One thing that’s had success lately is the lunch and learn concept. We send them a link, and they get to order a $10 to $15 lunch from somewhere in their area that gets delivered to their house 15 minutes before the event starts – a similar concept to what was mentioned about gifting. Not everything has to fall on you and your team. If you can budget for it, you can do some cool things with third-party vendors. It also allows the client a layer of privacy; with so many working from home, they don’t have to disclose their home address to you. For you it doesn’t matter, you don’t have to deal with it. And the lunch concept has worked really well for us. We've had some people abuse it, of course; it's part of the risk you take. However, it usually ends up being a really great experience.

Danielle: I think it’s important to ensure you’re inviting the right people but also in the right channel. So if you're doing an event in our channel and you want to invite users who might pay to have a copy of your event content, then putting an ad on or other similar sites makes sense. It's okay to spend the money there, especially if you're doing this in-house, meaning most of the cost is your team’s effort.

We shouldn't forget about social networks and using the right hashtags. A lot of times your team member’s network is bigger than your company’s network. I think you should get everybody involved, making sure people are sharing posts with their followers. It should also be easy for attendees to register and access the recording. They should also be made to feel comfortable with attending just to get the recording; that's okay.