Inner Circle

Event Marketing  

Choose Your Own (Virtual) Adventure

by Tyler Day


Like everyone else, producers of live conferences and trade shows have had a challenging spring. As such, many are working tirelessly (and well outside their comfort zones) to take their physical events online. Selecting the right technology platform is arguably the first essential step to ensuring a successful live-to-virtual pivot.


Let Your Objectives Determine the Platform
While it can be tempting to jump right into conversations with vendors, it’s imperative to first define the primary (and secondary) objectives for an online event. Do you want lead generation or meaningful audience engagement? To provide inspiration to attendees or commerce opportunities to suppliers? Connections? Revenue? All or none of the above? Your goals will drive decisions about the right technology and about formats, content, budgets and more.


To illustrate, if ongoing engagement is a priority, a year-round webinar program might be your best choice. Platforms that support livestreaming, customer experience and on-demand capabilities might be best for purely educational-driven events. If delivering value to sponsors is important, more emphasis may be given to the online marketplace, matchmaking powered by artificial intelligence and analytics.


Understand All of Your Options
Digital events span a wide spectrum of options, each option offering its own set of unique features, pricing models, approach to user experience and more. To find the best platform, it’s important to understand the options available.


Video conferencing
On their own, these platforms are best for single-use education-based sessions such as conference calls, webinars and product launches. Livestreamed or recorded sessions can be hosted on your website or on various social media platforms. In addition, most full-scale comprehensive event platforms integrate these tools for interactive sessions.


Virtual and hybrid event platforms
These platforms offer full-scale, interactive digital experiences that support key elements of event objectives, including education, attendee networking and exhibitor engagement. These can be utilized for online events, hybrid, or in some cases, as part of a year-round community. Each platform is slightly different, but can be best understood by the user experience, categorized as:


Utilizing best practices for user experience and web design, content hubs offer a full range of activities within a simplified interface. Smaller than a website and larger than a blog, content hubs provide flexible, branded and curated information your audiences seek. The idea is to build an optimal online experience instead of replicating an in-person event experience. Most content hubs offer integrations with other event-related applications like registration, video conferencing, social media, e-commerce and more.


The approach of a simulated event hub is similar to a modular content hub in terms of a central portal. Though here, the platform and experience are designed using simulated event locations to make the user feel as much connection to the in-person event as possible. Pre-built templates or fully-customized environments are available for lobbies, registration desks, session auditoriums, sponsor booths and more.


Perhaps the next-generation of virtual event engagement, these platforms utilize 3D technology to create an interactive experience where the user has control of their avatar to explore the conference as they would an in-person event. This gamelike technology is new and capable platforms are minimal, but expectations are for it to be a growth area, especially with events with younger audiences.


Let the Adventure Begin …
… and know that you’re not alone in the journey. Leverage your industry colleagues, event technology organizations and agency partners to help determine your path and keep you on course!


Tyler Day is a senior member of the virtual event marketing team at mdg and author of the Virtual Event Platform Resource Guide. Contact him today to discuss digital strategies for you event(s).


Looking to learn more about this topic? Jacquelyn Wells, mdg’s Vice President, discusses the future of hybrid events, lessons from COVID-19 and what it means for in-person events in this mdg 3×5 video. Click the link below to hear her insights.