Size Matters: How to Run a Virtual Event with 18,000+ Registrants



Posted: July 3, 2015 | Event Marketing

How do you run a virtual event that has a whopping 18,000+ people registered? Good question!

Like live events, virtual events are typically run by marketing program managers to help support demand generation within a specific market. Unlike their live counterparts, there is a common perception that it is easy to run a virtual event. But, I beg to differ! These online extravaganzas can realistically take anywhere from 4-6 months to plan and organize!

But even with this immense amount of time and effort, virtual events are worth it. Not only can they can replicate the look and feel of a live event and translate that into a virtual space, but they aren’t constrained by location or capacity. Plus, they are often cheaper! Notably, virtual events facilitate a high quantity of engagement and conversations, whereas live events often facilitate more in depth conversations, but fewer of them. So, if quantity and reach are your goals, then a virtual event may just be for you!

So, back to my original question: how do you run a virtual event with 18,000 registrants? For all of you scratching your heads out there, I am pleased to present some insider tips and tricks to successfully run a large scale demand generation virtual event of your own:

Tip 1: Obtaining (the Right) Partners

Know this—not just any ordinary partner will do. You want to obtain sponsors and partners that find this event as important as you do and thus will actually help you promote it! Incentivizing your partners as well as making the entire process easy for them is important, which is why we here at Marketo have a gamification program. The more attendees a partner drives to an event, the more prizes they are rewarded! (Takeaway here: everyone loves free stuff!)

To make it easy for our partners to promote our event, we also provide a partner promotion kits that includes art, email messages, and social messages that our partners can just copy and paste, making the process as simple as possible for them.

Side tip: Remember to assign each individual partner a unique partner URL so that you can track how many registrations they specifically drove. This is how you turn a virtual event into a large demand generation program.

Tip 2: Timing and the Art of the Sell

When you promote your event is more important than most think. A high majority of people register 2-3 weeks before a virtual event. So even if you try promoting the event months in advance, you will notice the registrations will be incredibly weak until closer to the date. To get the most bang for buck, time your promotions to all go out as close to your event as possible. Waiting this long to rev up the promotion train may sound very scary since you undoubtedly have registration goals you must meet, but, rest assured that the response to your first invite will give you a good sense of how many people will end up jumping on board, and from there, you can adjust your promotion plan as needed.

Timing also needs to be coupled with the art of the sell. What does this mean? Each message you send out should be a selling point that convinces someone of why they should attend your event. At Marketo, we actually rank our selling points and then make sure each message is exhausted before we move on to the next. It’s important to coordinate your messages across channels like social and email to ensure consistency.

Tip 3: Speaker Quality

The speakers you provide at the event matter. And the topics they address matter, too. It’s all about messaging and positioning. The higher the quality of speakers, the more likely people are to sign up for your event. It’s that simple. At the end of the day, people attend events to get closer to revolutionary speakers (and the brands they represent). So, do your part to recruit the trendiest and most talked about speakers in the industry.

At Marketo, we make sure to bring in high caliber speakers and even have a review panel to confirm our decisions. For instance, the best session we ran at our virtual event last year was given by Twitter’s Stephanie Hollingsworth who spoke about “Success within 140 Characters”. The topic was clearly relevant to a marketing audience for understanding how to leverage Twitter for demand generation initiatives.

Question: Answered

Now you know how to effectively host a virtual event with 18,000+ registrants! To recap: if you strategically bring in the right partners, time your campaigns well, and recruit quality speakers, you’ll have the most important ingredients for running a large scale demand generation virtual event. Not only will you have endless new content to leverage in the following days, but you’ll also have engaged your strategic partners, generated lots of new names and leads, and created a revenue-generating program to boot. Sound amazing? It is!

Phillip Chen is Sr. Enterprise Marketing Manager at Marketo, where he runs field events generating pipeline within the Enterprise. Phillip previously launched nurture at Marketo and managed demand generations programs for the B2C audience. Phillip graduated from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada with a Bachelor of Commerce.

Read Phillip's Blogs

#ROI ain't no virtual reality! How to get the most bang for your buck for your #virtual #event efforts

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