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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jun 10 , 2020

A virtual conference can offer just as much value as an in-person event — here’s how to ensure your marketing conveys that message.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What message you need to share with potential event attendees
  • The key advantages of a virtual event 
  • Ways to alter your thinking about your target audience
  • How to get your vendors and speakers involved in marketing efforts

We’ll just say it: 2020 hasn’t been a great year for live events. From industry conferences and weddings to stadium concerts and everything in between, events around the world are being canceled, postponed, or moved online.

The good news: You don’t have to throw away all the work you’ve done thus far to put on a stellar conference! If you’ve already secured speakers, nailed down sessions, and promoted your event, turning a live gathering into a virtual one may be just the right solution for you.

If you’re stumped on how to market your virtual event, whether it’s inaugural or monthly, check out the expert tips below.

hawksem: virtual conference

You want to clearly establish what your conference has to offer for the people who are attending and the businesses that are participating. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Deliver a clear message about your event’s value

When it comes to your virtual conference, being able to clearly show its value is crucial. You want to establish what your conference has to offer for the people who are attending and the businesses that are participating. 

Carefully consider questions like:

  • What is your theme, and how is it different from other conferences in your industry?
  • What is the value in the speakers you’ve chosen? How do they help set your conference apart?
  • Does everyone making the conference happen clearly know their role and responsibilities?
  • What concerns or topics will you be addressing during your virtual event? 

The great thing about virtual conferences: a seemingly unlimited capacity for attendees! But before the RSVPs start rolling in, you’ve got to let your attendees know what they can expect to come away with. That’s why, when creating your marketing messaging to promote your event, make sure to highlight all the reasons why the event will be worth their time. 

2. Highlight the advantages of a virtual conference

Sure, there are some aspects of an in-person event that can’t be matched virtually. It’s not as easy to make a new connection by striking up a conversation during a networking happy hour, for example.  

But that doesn’t mean you can’t think outside of the box and create virtual experiences that mirror IRL events. Start a unique hashtag, for example, and encourage attendees to share key takeaways, speaker quotes, and spark dialogues on their social media pages (while someone from your company does the same).

Other benefits of a virtual conference include:

  • Making it easy to record and share specific sessions 
  • Allowing attendees to check out material at their convenience, not on a set schedule (which also means that they won’t have to choose between sessions)
  • Reducing costs for both organizers and attendees
  • Allowing for more (or better) speakers than a physical event

Some of your attendees may have never been to a virtual conference before. Others may not have any idea how it works. Make sure you have high-quality, clear content that shares this information with people interested in attending your conference. 

Consider setting up an FAQ section on your event website or addressing those questions in an email once potential attendees sign up. The more information you share, the better idea your attendees will have of what to expect when the day of the conference arrives.

hawksem blog: virtual conferences

Cast your net a little wider as you determine who you want to invite to your event, where you want to market it, and how you want to target your ads. (Image via Rawpixel)

3. Cast a wider net for attendees

Previously, you might have focused your marketing efforts on a specific geographic area or past attendees. It makes sense, as these are the people who are most likely to put in the travel to attend your conference. You might also have focused on individuals at a specific income level or those who hold certain positions in their company.

Going virtual gives you a wider range of people who may be able to “make it” to your event. Since you’ve taken travel out of the equation, attendees don’t have to request time off work or manage the larger expense associated with a hotel room and airfare. 

Cast your net a little wider as you determine who you want to invite to your event, including where you want to market it and how you target your ads. 

4. Offer teasers as part of your marketing content

People attend conferences that offer them an exciting experience, a chance to check out something new, or an opportunity to learn something about their industry. Creating teasers — whether it’s video clips, session themes, or pieces of content — can serve as a kind of event preview and a way to attract attendees.

Let your audience know that there’s something big coming and they need to be part of it. With fewer resources needing to be spent on venue and coordination details, you can invest more into making sure the event’s content is high caliber. You can trickle these teasers into event reminders via email as the date gets closer.

Pro tip: With the money you save on things like food and venue fees, you can likely afford to still send swag bags to your attendees. It’ll be a great way to make them feel special and it’ll serve as a reminder of your unique virtual event.

hawksem article: virtual conference event

Remember: Moving your conference online doesn’t mean there’s less value in what you’re offering. (Image via Rawpixel)

5. Get your vendors and speakers involved in the marketing

Your vendors and speakers want to see as many people as possible attending your conference so they get maximum exposure and can feel like it was worth their time. (After all, they’ve still got to prep, get dressed, and make a presentation!) Don’t be afraid to get them involved in the marketing process. 

Your vendors and speakers likely have social media pages, websites, and followers. Invite them to help you spread the word. You can hold a joint giveaway or create graphics and captions they can easily share across their channels. By working together, you can substantially increase your overall marketing reach. 

If you plan to still host vendors, you may also want to invite them to set up their online stores ahead of the event. That way you can promote them and allow people to purchase or look into their offerings before the actual event.

The takeaway

Moving your conference online doesn’t mean there’s less value in what you’re offering. It does mean that you’ve got to think outside the box, be flexible, and get creative to ensure your attendees know and trust that your event will be worth their time.

When marketing your conference, remember to be mindful and authentic in how you market your virtual conference, make sure you highlight the value, and offer teasers for what people can expect. 

Need more digital marketing help? That’s what we’re here for. 

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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