“Bringing that human connection back to [events in] the digital world really comes down to personalization. How do you feel connected with other attendees, and speakers and the organization hosting this event? Creating opportunities for them to participate and not just be behind a screen. Being thoughtful about what their day looks like. Actively reach out to attendees asking for their participation and input is really important. ‘What do I want to get out of it?’ It’s not just about the content.”
That comes from Gina Joseph, VP of strategy & partnerships for VentureBeat—which covers transformative technology—speaking to Digiday in an excellent webinar on Friday about the April pivoting of their annual GameBeat Summit 2020. (Watch it here.)
VentureBeat was able to successfully pivot and keep their 120-plus speakers, the 50 sessions and even more incredibly all of the sponsors for the GameBeat virtual event. The sales team even brought in additional partnerships once the event became digital.
“We did not lower our sponsorship levels for the virtual event,” Joseph said. For VentureBeat, the key was still fulfilling the needs of its audience. “How can we develop customized opportunities for our partners? Instead of saying how can you fit in, let us figure out where your challenges and objectives are, and let’s work together. That’s where the opportunity is—finding a partnership where it’s very targeted and focused. Marketers are looking for partners that can provide a differentiator.”
Here are some more highlights from Joseph’s talk:
Listen to your audience. VentureBeat will ask their audience, what do you want to learn more about? Then they’ll make introductions within that community, “The more that we can show that we listen and then execute on that, the better,” Joseph said. “We’re really big on keeping authenticity top of mind when you’re developing any strategy and to keep that loyalty from your audience.
Let your attendees and sponsors know that you’re providing more virtually. “With our events… it’s not just about participating at an event and making a splash,” Joseph said. “We’re a media organization and you can get news coverage [from us]. We’re publishing content real-time or amplifying it for our online community. Now for virtual events, it’s been more important to develop that pre-, during and post-event strategy. That’s one of the things we amplified with our virtual events strategy. This is content that is now accessible to anyone in the world and it’s on demand. And now it’s content that our partners can take and have something to point to. It’s no longer about just reaching the people in the room who are physically at the event, the scale you can get [is so much larger].”
Expand what you do. VentureBeat turned one event into a series. They’re planning another fall event on the same themes. “All of a sudden everything is very accessible,” Joseph said.
You can get better metrics for sponsors at virtual events. How many people did I reach? How many people were engaged? “That’s hard to measure in a big room,” Joseph said. “In a virtual event you have clear metrics. There are more ways to track [those numbers].”
It’s easier to reach out to more people. “Everyone is much more accessible at virtual events,” Joseph said. “The virtual format gives sponsors the opportunity to hold more one-to-one meetings and have access to Slack channels to have more direct and engaged lines of communication. Over the course of the two-day event, we saw over 12,000 Slack messages and 90% of those were direct one-to-one messages. I got to connect with so many more sponsors and speakers in the virtual event than I could physically do with in-person events.” She said that they reached out during the event to get real-time input from attendees.
The “rooms” where it happens are not limited. Joseph made a good point that with fewer limitations on people in a room, there should be more opportunities in terms of diversification—of speakers, of audience. If you also can get any kind of international audience, virtual can accommodate. “Speaker accessibility becomes a big opportunity,” she said.
What does a virtual strategy look like for content? “We have a live Q&A following sessions even if they are recorded,” Joseph said. And to replicate a walk down the hall you might have with a speaker after the session, VentureBeat offered an “extended live Q&A where you go to a virtual room and continue that conversation.” Finding ways to participate it becomes a different experience.”
Again, you can watch that webinar here.