How to convince audiences that virtual events are still worthwhile

Elly Uz is the marketing manager at PureWeb, an interactive 3D streaming service based in Canada. She is an experienced storyteller who oversees all aspects of brand and social engagement around the use of innovative technologies for enterprise, including 3D visualization, extended reality and digital experiences.

Opinion Nothing went according to plan in 2020. Trade shows, conferences, concerts, and all other business- and consumer-driven in-person events were either converted into online experiences or canceled altogether. This year, we’re left questioning where virtual events will go from here.

Several companies have committed to hosting immersive digital experiences in 2021 — from the Consumer Technology Association’s CES to Adobe Summit to SXSW. Typically, these in-person mega-events transform big cities like Austin, Texas, and Las Vegas into festival-like atmospheres; nearly every restaurant, hotel, and convention hall plays a part as thousands of attendees swarm.

Now, all of that energy has to be translated for a streaming audience. This means photorealistic 3D manifestations of trade show layouts, complete with virtual visits to booths and interactions with people and products. The challenge for marketers and businesses, then, is how to create and market a virtual event experience that an audience will want to attend.

How can you break through the clutter?

It’s important to give your target audience a sneak peek. Content creators can produce teaser videos well before an event is “all systems go” with their networking capabilities and product configurators. Many people have to see it to believe it. Once you begin creating a vision for what your virtual event can be, you figure out things like where it fits into the marketing and sales strategy (looking at your business goals will provide indicators for this).

To inspire customer engagement, be clear about what kinds of things users will be able to do. Can they walk around in the event space? Build an avatar? Join in conversations that they overhear as they get within earshot? Perhaps they can configure their dream cars, kitchens, or shoes. Show them how this experience is much more than just a bunch of webinars on a landing page.

Event marketers are in the midst of a seismic shift that’s been accelerated by recent events. Consumers are expecting real experiences online rather than a series of webpages and disjointed ads and videos parading as “events.” As we grow to adopt the technology of our time, it’s up to us to evolve to meet those expectations.

Read more: Are you dialling in? Best practice for virtual and hybrid presentations

Photo by Gabriel Benois on Unsplash

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