In these extraordinary times, we are reminded that connection matters. Feeling connected is a fundamental need, and one way to stay connected is through events. In-person events may be on hold for a while–which is why organizations and businesses are adapting by moving their events online.
If you are new to virtual events, you may be skeptical of their value. You may ask, “will this be as helpful for advancing my business as an in-person event?”
Our answer: with the right mindset, yes! Here are our tips on how to utilize virtual events to the fullest:
Adopt the mindset of an optimist to get through challenging times
Having a positive outlook is contagious. Need proof? Just think about that one friend who is always cheerful and lifts your spirits every time you hang out.
As the psychologist and decision-making expert Daniel Kahneman asserts, there are many meaningful benefits to being an optimist. Kahneman points to being happier, feeling healthier, and being able to bounce back from setbacks. "[Optimists] are resilient in adapting to failures and hardships, their chances of clinical depression are reduced, their immune system is stronger, they take better care of their health," says Kahneman. "They feel healthier than others and are in fact likely to live longer."
In other words, embracing the mindset of an optimist can improve your well-being.
Becoming an optimist through positivity is a skill, though–and like with any skill, you need to practice. To get started, focus on reframing unfavorable situations to look for something positive.
Here is a powerful reframe to help you begin to see virtual events as an option for your business:
I know that now may not be the right time for an in-person event. I'm moving forward by exploring a virtual event so I can connect with people with similar interests and introduce my business to new audiences.
As shown above, the first step is to acknowledge the reality of the situation. Then, remind yourself why you host events. Reframing your mindset to highlight why your events matter can be what you need to get unstuck and moving forward again.
Now, let’s talk about a technique to leave a lasting impression with your attendees.
Create a memorable talk by leveraging the "peak-end rule"
Imagine you are on a family vacation at Disney World resort in sunny Orlando, Florida. It is the first day of your holiday, and you and your family step off the shuttle and walk towards the Magic Kingdom entrance.
After security, you approach the guest check-in area, and your excitement starts to build. You nudge your family to go first, and then you reach into your bag to grab your admission card. But upon discovering it isn't there, your excitement rapidly starts shifting to panic. A cast member (Disney’s term for an employee) waves you forward, and you explain that you can't find your admission card as you keep furiously searching for it in your bag.
The cast member smiles, asks you to step ahead, and join your family.
Another cast member walks over and asks you for your name, quickly looking you up on a tablet to verify your admission. Once verified, he/she brings you to guest services and only moments later, hands you a new admission card. You thank the cast member for his/her help and enjoy a fun day exploring Magic Kingdom with your family, which ends with a spectacular fireworks display.
This story could happen to any family, and it's an example of the peak-end rule in action.
As Dan and Chip Heath describe it in The Power of Moments, "When people assess an experience, they tend to forget or ignore its length–a phenomenon called 'duration neglect.' Instead, they seem to rate the experience based on two key moments: 1) the best or worst moment, known as the 'peak'; and 2) the ending."
Your mind creates memories from experiences, and it happens whether they are bad or good. You tend to remember experiences as snapshots of memories. For instance, a cast member saving the first day of your vacation from disaster by getting you another admission card, family photos with Mickey and Minnie, an amazing fireworks show.
So how can you apply the peak-end rule to your virtual events?
If you take part in a virtual event as a speaker, open your online event by building rapport with attendees. One way to do this is to ask attendees this question in the chat:
How are you feeling today?
Read some of the common responses that you see (e.g., excited) and give personal replies and shout outs to a handful of attendees. This small engagement will create a sense of connection with you and your audience. Plus, the energy will give your virtual event a positive kickstart.
Once you’ve done so, highlight what you'll cover in your introduction. Then, be sure to let attendees know you'll share valuable resources like the presentation deck or a how-to guide after the event ends. This will help your attendees understand what to expect so they can focus on what you are sharing, rather than trying to anxiously scribble down everything that you are saying. Offer a Q&A session towards the end of your event–it will be an opportunity to help your attendees crystallize what you've shared with them. Plus, you'll discover feedback that can be used to improve your next virtual event.
As your event comes to a close, remember to allow some time to summarize the topics that you've talked about. The summary or thank you slide is also an excellent time to remind attendees that you'll share resources after the event ends.
Take part in events that invest in interactivity
Today, event platforms can make the virtual experience of attendees very close to that of an in-person event. While many people still think of virtual events as just another webinar, they can be so much more than that. So when evaluating event options, be sure that the event you are taking part in offers multiple ways to interact with the audience.
At Running Remote Online, a virtual conference that we hosted on June 17-18, we put a lot of effort to make the networking experience as real as possible. Just as at our in-person events, we hosted an Expo zone where attendees could interact with 35+ companies-leaders in the remote field in real time–ask them questions, take advantage of the exclusive offers, and even join live demos.
Plus, a virtual booth doesn’t require you to send several team members to a different city, print rollups, and produce swag with no guarantee of greater leads in return. This is particularly notable for SaaS companies who can show all advantages of their products in online demos.
Networking is another important interaction you want to engage attendees in. Today, virtual event platforms have a lot of fun ways to do it–from AI that recommends the most relevant people, to round tables with social games, to chat roulette. Not to mention, this is where a virtual event can actually beat an in-person one–you can connect to an unlimited number of people from all over the world in just a few hours. If you’re thinking about entering new markets, looking at international virtual events can be a great first step.
As one attendee, Susie Canright, shared after Running Remote Online: "This was hands down my favorite online event since entering shelter-in-place. I thought I had 'seen it all' with online conferences, but this actually felt like being at an expo. Great thought leaders, content, flow of sessions, and experience all around. Subscribing now so I don't miss the next one!"
Analyze your results
Last but certainly not least, a valuable perk of a virtual event is the capability for quick analytics. After the event, you can get detailed analytics of your performance: how many connections you made, how many people clicked your link, and what the conversion rate was. While the ROI of in-person events is often hard to prove, here you have the hard evidence whether or not you should extend your sponsorship.
All in all, the results of taking part in virtual events can be outstanding. But like with an in-person event, your success will depend on your activity–you need to pick the right event in terms of demographics and approach, build a good rapport with your audience, and be proactive and engaging in event chats, Q&As, networking sessions and live demos at your booth.
Virtual events allow for top-class content from any place in the world without extra expenses on flights and accommodation. What is more, even if you miss part of an event, in most cases you still can access all recordings and discussions online.
Running Remote Online is a free online edition of the wildly successful Running Remote Live conference, held annually for the last three years, which delivers insightful case studies from top remote work experts who have scaled their businesses without a physical office space. A post-event pass provides all content and special offers from event partners, all for only $49. Don’t miss the latest insights on the future of work!
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Anna is the Partnership Manager for Running Remote, the premier event for remote-first founders. Anna completed her undergrad at Saint Petersburg University and her Masters at Université Rennes II - Haute-Bretagne. Her focus is on growing the remote work community and raising awareness around how the future of work IS remote work.