You’re all ready to go with a great line-up of speakers, sponsors, and breakout sessions. Your date is set, and your registration page is up and running.
Now, how do you get those attendance numbers up?
Virtual events offer both new opportunities and new challenges in marketing your event. Below are some tips for increasing your number of virtual event registrants and attendees. These tips and strategies are informed from what we’ve learned from building a business driven by web marketing, best practices in the events industry, and other tips we’ve learned through working with hundreds of customers over the years.
Some of these tips are standard, best practices you should always follow when promoting events. Others are specific tricks to keep in mind when you’re going virtual. But taken together, they should all help you get those attendance numbers up to your goal and beyond.
First: Work With Your Audience’s Attention Span, Not Against It
This one requires taking a step back. But before you focus on promoting your virtual event, make sure the content and structure of your event is structured for a virtual audience. An event may sound great until a potential attendee clicks to find it’s 6 hours long with no breaks, and no time for engagement or networking! That type of conference may work when people have traveled to a conference center and are engaged face-to-face throughout the day. But a virtual event should be broken into smaller chunks to meet people’s attention spans.
Here is a great example of how Carter’s created a wildly successful event for new parents whose baby showers were cancelled due to COVID-19. First, they created an event to feel more like an interactive broadcast than a traditional “event,” complete with celebrities and prize giveaways. Then, they engaged people from the start by launching a “two-week social, digital, and PR promotional campaign with talent, influencers, and the Carter’s community.”
Target Your Audience on Social Media
Are you waiting for attendees to magically find your event, or are you meeting them where they are? The competition for people’s time is steep — and you’ll need to draw people’s attention in multiple different ways.
Make sure you have a robust, organic social media posting schedule highlighting your speakers, sessions, keynotes, sponsors, and other aspects of your event.
But don’t forget to consider paid social media advertising, which may be one of the most powerful ways to quickly get granular with exactly who you want to target. Think about who exactly is interested in your topic — what industry do they work in? What websites do they visit? Where do they read their news? What other pages do they likely follow? Reserving a budget for paid social advertising can bring your event in front of new audiences.
Keep Your Event Front and Center on Your Website
If driving attendance is a major priority for your company or organization, make sure your event is clearly visible on all applicable areas of your website. Too many companies keep their event buried in an “events” section of their site, which not all visitors see.
Bonus Tip: Consider adding “Light Boxes” (aka pop up boxes that overlay on your website) on your most popular pages promoting the event. When done well, light boxes can be an extremely effective tool at gathering emails or increasing conversions from website visitors.
Increase Your Email Marketing
In research recently conducted by Markletic, 76% of marketers said that email is the single most effective way to drive virtual event registrations. Within your email campaigns, create emails that highlight different parts of your event — from networking times to keynotes to breakout sessions.
Also, be sure to communicate with attendees who have already registered. This can include event reminders or related, pre-event content that helps keep excitement up about the event. Make sure you include an easy way for people to add it to their calendars.
This great guide from Bizzabo reports that your email base spends only 11 seconds skimming your emails, meaning you’ll need to communicate everything about your event in a glance. Emails with strong, bold images, clear calls-to-action, and messages that are relevant to your audience personally perform best. However, it’s important to always A/B test different variations of your promotion emails to find what performs best for your specific audience.
Give Your Sales Teams What They Need
If you have a sales team with lots of connections with customers, they will be invaluable in helping increase registrations — especially for smaller virtual events. Personal invitations will always feel more human and get a better response than mass-emails.
But make sure you give your sales team the tools they need. For example, make sure your event has a concrete, engaging description they can use, and an easy-to-use landing and registration page.
Cross-List Your Event
This will depend on the type of event you are having. But if your event is open to the public and you want to spread its reach, consider listing it on websites like Eventbrite, Facebook’s Event listings, and other similar sites. It’s often free to list your events on additional sites, and it can increase your reach, especially if your event is on a topic people are searching for.
Lean on Your Speakers
Make sure your amazing speakers or moderators are promoting widely on their own social channels. They may have a large audience who are fans of their work already, and will be inclined to tune in. Make sure you confirm early on if your speakers will be able to email their own networks with information about the event, or share on social media.
This should be a two-way street — make sure to promote your speakers on your channels as well and tag their pages so they can gain followers from your audience as well.
Offer On-Demand Content
Are you going to offer on-demand recordings after your event is over? If so, make that clear during registration. Even if attendees can’t make your event due to a scheduling conflict, they may be inclined to register if it means receiving all the on-demand content post-event.
They’ll still be engaging with your content and brand, even if it’s not live — which is a unique bonus of virtual events.