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Fresh Ideas For Virtual Events In An Age Of Personalization

Virtual assistants, virtual doctor visits, virtual reality—it seems everything is coming up virtual these days. That’s why smart marketers understand that there is an unbeatable value when combining face-to-face communication with the amplification and exposure of digital.

It’s no surprise then that so many brands and organizations implement a virtual or hybrid component to their live event strategies, creating a real and meaningful link between the virtual and actual experience while fostering data-rich digital engagements to drive personalized experiences.

In a recent report by the Virtual Edge Institute, more than 80% of marketers surveyed indicated that a key objective for their virtual event programs was to expand the organization’s reach and audience. What’s more, brands like Microsoft point to virtual events as a big source for lead generation. And so as marketers are searching for new ways to capitalize on one of their biggest and most important investments—their events—here are a few fresh ideas to pump some new energy into the classic virtual event.

Data And Personalization
Ever want to know what your audience is interested in? What topics get them to actually engage? Do you want to personalize your content, but you aren’t sure where to start? Virtual events can answer all of these questions and more.

Because virtual events are digital, they are trackable by nature—and depending on how robust your platform is and if you use technology like second screen, you can even get slide-by-slide data on attendee engagement. Marketers can then use this data to drive more personalization for both face-to-face and virtual events while ensuring that your brand delivers exactly what your audience actually wants and needs.

Global Connection
Virtual events can be an incredibly powerful way to connect global audiences. Not only do they bridge attendees gathering in locations and venues around the world, but they also connect remote attendees or extend the audience for major moments of your event. Take, for example, how SXSW livestreamed the keynotes of both President and Michelle Obama to reach people at the event who couldn’t get in as well as people at home.

Many brands go completely virtual, connecting thousands of people, with no physical location necessary. By serving as the virtual hub, brands enable communities separated by distance to come together in a meaningful way. Organizations that help like-minded people engage with one another can foster incredible brand affinity, as long as it is done authentically.

365-Day Engagement
Yes, hybrid events are an effective way to bring in new audiences to large annual events. But think of the treasure trove of great content you are sitting on with those types of events. Like the Netflix of conference education, smart marketers are taking session content and then slicing and dicing it into bite-sized chunks that people can consume on demand. When done right, content can be released throughout the year to always keep your brand top of mind, while offering a variety of ways for people to cherry-pick and personalize their experiences.

Attract Younger Audiences
Millennials and Gen Zers expect a virtual or digital component to everything they do, whether it’s watching TV, shopping, or learning. In fact, many are hacking their way through education with resources like Lynda.com, YouTube tutorials, and MOOCs. And as these younger audiences rise in influence and buying power, brands are realizing the powerful medium they have at their fingertips in virtual or hybrid events. Cash conservative and natively digital, a virtual event is the perfect way to attract and start a relationship with audiences in these younger generations. Just make sure the experience is flawless, or you could lose them for life.

What’s more, expect them to tap into video streaming apps like Periscope or Meerkat, either when they are attending your events or when they passed on the opportunity and want to see what it’s all about from the convenience of their couches. And if you don’t think people are live streaming at your event, think again. In the first eight weeks following the launch of Periscope, 380 years (yes, years) of content were consumed by users. People are streaming everything.  

Innovations
It’s time to think beyond the traditional Web interface when it comes to virtual events. Try pairing virtual events with virtual reality, and give people at home the opportunity to put on their own VR headsets to experience the event for themselves. The audience may be small now, but given how hot VR was at CES, Mobile World Congress, and SXSW, we expect that audience to grow—big time.

What about Beam Pro telepresence robots? Think beyond the Snowden/TED moment. Wouldn’t it be cool to work with a sponsor and offer a scholarship to virtually attend your event via robot? Target a community influencer who can’t be there in person, and enable him or her to attend sessions, interact with other attendees, etc., and report back on the experience. It could go a long way in building brand affinity, with an influential voice within your audience.

And of course, you should encourage your attendees to livestream your event via Periscope or Meerkat. We’ve already seen how powerful the amplification of events can be through social media. Thanks to the ease of these apps, you could reach a much larger, much more engaged audience virtually, simply by empowering your audience on-site.  

By paying careful attention to the virtual aspects of your event (whether traditional or not), marketers can both leverage the valuable in-person experience while amplifying the reach of their brands.

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