Menu

Dr Virtual answers your questions – this month: ROI

In the first of a monthly series, Dr Virtual @ Cvent answers your questions on digital events…

Dear Dr Virtual @ Cvent,

I’m keen to roll out virtual events at my organisation. The problem is not everyone in senior management is convinced about the benefits of virtual. What return on investment (ROI) measures could I put in place to help my case?

Frustrated Marketing Manager, UK

Dr Virtual replies:

I feel your frustration – in fact, I am sure many other marketers and event organisers do too! Proving ROI often proves a challenge for many organisations hosting events whether in-person, hybrid or virtual.

While virtual events have been running long before the pandemic and the subsequent event restrictions, it’s fair to say that perception still lags behind reality about all the benefits/opportunities to be gained. Some still hold the view that virtual events result in fewer attendees, less engagement, and reduced content consumption. Of course, with the right mindset and technology tools, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

As a starting point, it is worth stressing to your Board that ‘going virtual’ means you can expand the audience reach significantly, both locally and globally. On average, registrations can be double, triple or even be 10 times what is achieved for in-person events.

What’s really important to remember is that whether events are virtual, hybrid, or in-person, the value propositions do not change. Events will still need to deliver on three fundamentals – content, connection, and experience. And the metric I like to use to measure success across them is attendee engagement. You’ll often hear me saying “engagement is the currency for all events” because it flows through every stage of the event life cycle – pre, during, and post event. Without engagement, events are far less compelling, and you greatly reduce the chance of turning an attendee into a long-term customer, partner, member, or donor.

Content

But how to engage with virtual event attendees? Let’s look at content. We all know that great content is critical for a successful event, but it’s even more critical for a virtual event. It’s what keeps your virtual attendees, who are surrounded by distractions, tied to their screens. Plus, virtual event content can be consumed before, during and after the event – essentially it becomes on-demand. Attendees are no longer confined to their schedules and their limited two or three-day agendas. At least one-third of your engagement will occur after your event, but only if your content is strong.

And the virtual element means that all the engagement activity of your attendees is even more trackable than it was before. You can see what attendees watched and how long for. You can understand their event journeys and get a view of how they got to your event, what they did when they were there and what they did following the event. If you ensure that your sales and marketing tech communicates directly with your event tech, you can build detailed virtual attendee profiles that sales and marketing teams can actually use – which is crucial for realising the return on investment for your events.

Connection

Moving on to connection, look at ways to shift the mindset within your organisation that you can’t form or facilitate successful business connections at virtual events. With the right virtual event technology in place, you can meet in real-time and follow up with attendees instantaneously. Typically, it can take one to three weeks for follow-up after an in-person event – that feels like a lifetime today. Delayed follow-up results in cold leads.

Imagine instead, right after the virtual event, you’re immediately connected to a salesperson for a face-to-face discussion that can now give you a more personalised one-to-one experience. What this all boils down to is that virtual events can lead to more insight into buyer interest, faster follow up, and ultimately, more connections.

Experience

Moving on to the last event fundamental – experience. Without the right experience your event could fall flat. We connect through shared experiences that are interactive, immersive, and memorable. With the right mindset, and some creativity, you can bridge the virtual experience gap. Remember that shared experiences can happen anywhere. You could mail your attendees a fun pre-event gift box or your event sponsors could offer a fun interactive virtual happy hour where a professional mixologist explains how to craft the perfect cocktail. Think of when you watched a sporting event or The X Factor final at the same time as a friend. Imagine you could do that while enabling your audience to interact with what they are seeing in real time!

It’s true that you will need to level up the video and production content of your virtual events to keep them engaging. Essentially someone in your team will need to take on the role of “TV producer” – it’s about making sure your content keeps people glued to their screens. You can make your virtual events more interactive by tapping into the attendee need for instant communication. Live interactive polling and Q&A offer that experience. Why not add a chatbot to take attendee questions in real-time? Or build a mobile event app with gamification to drive interactions between your attendees. Or you could offer up your exhibitors, sponsors, and salespeople for instantaneous one-on-one conversations to make interactions more personalised.

The nutshell is you can create compelling virtual events which will drive engagement and leave a lasting impact. Your ROI could be larger than ever anticipated. Good luck with your events.

To ask your question to Dr Virtual, send it via email to pharvey@ntmllc.com with the subject line Dr Virtual