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Learnings from the virtual conference circuit

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Learnings from the virtual conference circuit

The business world is getting used to virtual events. At first, they were a novelty, then the fatigue set in and now everyone is keen to leverage and make the most of them. The planning is just as intense for a face-to-face event, but the results can be mixed. Here’s what we have learned from our online events this past year.

Phocas software has participated in many virtual events as sponsors and product specialists and hosted specific online training for our software. Here are some tips on what we have learned to make virtual events fun and to engage in encouraging your audience to set aside some time to participate.

Free or paid?

Did we say the competition is ferocious? The virtual conference circuit continues to develop, and people have experienced technical issues, audience disconnects and competing priorities, and they forgive these things – if they don’t have to pay. To date, we have had better success with free events, especially those that run for half a day or less. It’s hard to get people to pay to do training in their bedroom or home office; so we think it's best to make the purpose of the online events to build ongoing trust with customers and prospects. If you have to charge, think about the value you are offering and consider your unique selling point —do you have a terrific keynote — that people are unlikely to hear elsewhere for free?

How to cut through?

To stand out from the crowd in a marketing campaign or brand experience, you have to mix it up and test new things. Phocas recently launched a new budgeting and forecasting tool that helps finance teams manage complex budgets in less time and has workflows for more collaboration companywide. The webinar format works well to run through a demo and answer questions, but last month, we offered a virtual cocktail event for partners called Booze and Budgeting. And guess what – the attendance rate was 95% on a Thursday night. People loved learning how to solving their budgeting issues while later making a new cocktail.

What’s the best time and day?

Lunchtime is the best time for webinars and we find Monday or Tuesday for a one-day conference or Wednesday and Thursday for a two-day event. People like to have Friday to themselves to close off the week and get back to their customers.

How to get feedback and start conversations

Building relationships is the main reason we all attend trade shows, so how can we make up for this online? A vital feature of webinar technology like go-to Webinar is that we know who registers, attends and how long they stay online. Next up on the Phocas virtual conference circuit is the IMARK Product and Service EXPO, a buying group for HVAC, Plumbing and Electrical distributors. Our data analytics software is designed for these industries, so Phocas is sponsoring iMARK’s event.

To elicit feedback from the attendees, iMark designed a clever competition where all sponsors submit content to be assessed or reviewed. Phocas created a 5-minute product video and if iMark members view the entire video and provide their feedback they will be rewarded with prizes.

Here’s a sneak peek of the video.

We’d love to hear from our readers on successful online events – what did you do differently to achieve excellent attendance and engagement?