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Working in the New Normal: Effective use of Virtual Events

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As firms adjust to a socially distant business environment, they
are increasingly using virtual conferencing technologies to reconnect. Yet hosting virtual events is completely different from
in-person events.
 
Our new, socially distant work environment has taught business leaders that our worlds are more interconnected and fragile than we could have imagined. The crisis has also taught us that we need a more agile approach to connecting with clients. Our ability to meet clients face to face has evaporated causing investment management firms to turn to new technologies. In this article we review the options and best practices for hosting virtual client events.
 

Three Categories of Virtual Conferencing Software

There are three categories of virtual conferencing software. At their core, the types of software use much of the
same technology; however, the communication modes distinguish how the software is used. Virtual conferencing can be for small teams, used to broadcast presentations to many attendees, or to host reasonably large events.

Considerations for Moving from Physical to Virtual Conferences

The following guidelines prompt critical thinking about how firms must adjust to deliver best-in-class client
experiences to their virtual event attendees.

Physical Events Prioritize Time, Virtual Events Prioritize Client Interests

Think of a conference you attended in the past. Everything is organized around a time-based agenda: sessions, lunch, networking, etc. Sitting in the hotel ballroom, attendees’ attention is captive at event sessions, one after the other, based on a preset agenda.

Contrast that experience with a virtual event. Attendees are no longer captive in the hotel ballroom; they’re sitting comfortably in their homes with all the associated distractions of work and life. Virtual events are competing for their attention. Sure, the attendees registered and plan to attend your virtual event, but they still have their regular work and an overflowing email inbox, all on the same screen.

A virtual event host now must compete for the attendees’ time; therefore, hosts must rethink their event strategy and focus on how to retain the attendees’ interest through the content and overall experience. Expect that attendees will participate in sessions transactionally, and hosts should take action to retain attendees’ attention throughout the event.

 

Virtual Events Produce Data … Use It to Your Advantage!

Physical events typically produce very little data for analysis. Firms know who attended, but that is usually it. Virtual events, on the other hand, provide information on which sessions were attended, which documents were accessed, which topics were of interest through time and attention reports. Activity data should be integrated with a firm’s CRM and marketing automation system for analysis.

Firms can leverage this information both strategically and tactically.

Strategic Insights Examples:

    

Tactical Insight Examples:

The following provides some examples, but the information also can be further sliced and diced in myriad ways, including by persona, AUM, client lifecycle stage, and firm.

           

By aggregating event data with other data (e.g., CRM, sales, etc.), firms can identify opportunities to extend and deepen relationships.

  • Topics considered most interesting
  • Best performing panelists and speakers
  • Content downloaded most frequently
  • Videos that held attendee attention the longest
 
  • Prospects who were most engaged and the topics that held their interest
  • Client interest in strategies for which they are not yet using (cross-sell opportunities)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repurpose Event Content for Marketing Initiatives

Recording physical events can be expensive. It requires on-site audio/visual staff and post-production services to
craft the final video. Surprisingly, when a presenter participates from home, the virtual event software creates a copy
of the video that is usually of reasonably good quality. Snippets from virtual event videos can be repackaged and
shared on social media to demonstrate the firm’s investment expertise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Communication Strategies are Needed

Because attendees are no longer captive at your physical event, and knowing that they consume your content transactionally, special attention is required to fully engage them. Extra communication is needed before, during, and after the event to ensure registered attendees are aware of the agenda and sessions of interest, as well as follow-up communication.

Virtual event communication tactics:

  • Provide capabilities for attendees to save the event and individual sessions on their calendars
  • During each session, presenters should provide instructions on how to attend the next session
  • For those who failed to attend sessions that they previously demonstrated interest in, send emails with a link to the session recap
  • After the event, send an event recap email with instructions on how to access the session replay and other event material

 

 

 

 

Actively Promote Attendee Engagement

Last but not least, in order to provide an engaging and educational experience for clients, firms need to recreate the
level of engagement at a virtual event that attendees would normally experience at a physical event.

Engagement features to promote attendee engagement:

  • Polls
  • Q&A
  • Group chat (based on a session or topic)
  • Virtual vendor booths
  • Event feedback/survey

 

Preparing for Broadcast

As firms adjust to the “new normal” working environment, they are wise to reconsider their communication strategies for both internal and external meetings. Their clients are adjusting to using videoconferencing quite regularly and may come to expect a video communication component for most meeting types. As we eventually recover from the Covid-19 crisis, the interesting questions will be: How will communication be forever changed? Will events go back to being in-person? Will clients show a preference for virtual events? Or will some sort of hybrid event become the norm?

 

1 Representative vendors have not been reviewed by Cutter Research, and this is not an endorsement of any vendor solutions.
2 At the time of posting, Zoom has posted updated security guidelines in wake of numerous security breaches.