Each year prior to 2020, companies and their marketing and sales teams had clear strategies in place to generate new leads and facilitate new business connections. Now, proven formulas and initiatives for garnering news business have been flipped on their heads. Classic lead generation events, such as SXSW and NAB Show, were cancelled and shifted online, which led business leaders to seek out creative ways to meet their pipeline goals.

Months later and in-person events are still not a possibility with the continued need to social distance. Many enterprise leaders who relied on tradeshows, conferences and industry meetups to fill their pipeline and generate new leads, are still looking for solutions.

With the need for today’s business leaders to reinvent their strategies for lead generation and bringing on new clients, customers and users, many are turning to virtual events. These online events, such as large scale virtual conferences and smaller webinars, are paving the way for lead generation efforts in the face of the pandemic.

However, there are certain elements to consider when producing or aligning with a virtual event. It’s important for businesses to outline clear goals and understand how to account for the limitations virtual events present.

Virtual event benefits as an alternative to physical events

Regardless of the pandemic, it’s important to note that virtual events were becoming the norm for a while and also present exciting opportunities for different methods of engagement. While virtual events are inarguably safer during these times, there are many benefits to virtual events which shouldn’t be downplayed.

For one, businesses have the potential for broader audience reach. Without the need for a physical location and the travel costs associated, virtual event organizers can offer attendance at lower rates or for free. They’re also able to attract more diverse or even global audiences. Casting a greater net with more reach can make all of the time which goes into prepping for a virtual event or webinar really worth it.

Additionally, virtual events provide opportunities to lean on technology in creative ways for interactivity and engagement. With tools like Zoom, ON24 and other web conferencing platforms, attendees can still meet face-to-face, just virtually with their webcams to continue to engage with each other through more personal means.

Tips for virtual events and webinar engagement

Here are some tips on how to improve your virtual events and overall approach to increase lead generation.

    • Lean on technology and data: When producing a virtual event, you are able to use more data to inform your approach. You can perform deep market analysis to attract the right audience, target job titles or demographics with specific ads geared toward them and more.
    • Setup KPIs and success benchmarks: How many registrants is ideal? How many do you expect to join live versus consume the event and its videos on-demand after the fact? How many demos of your product do you aim to get from your virtual event? Setting up goals and a marketing plan and strategy with which to reach them will help you to stay on track and ensure you’re budgeting your time and resources effectively.
    • Provide clear communication: Build a user-friendly event website and keep in contact with prospects and registered attendees with a thought-out cadence. Give them actions to perform before the event to excite them and start engaging them with your brand, as well as offer them resources to consume after the event has ended. Provide them with reminder emails and calendar invites so they can block off the necessary time and know how to join easily day-of. Engaging registrants before the event start and providing them with a well structured roadmap for use and networking can help them know what to expect and when, which can make all of the difference to attendees.
    • Ensure full accessibility and visibility for all users: Since so many consumers watch videos online and at home with the captions on, make sure these same elements are provided to them as they consume your virtual events. Offering captions, as well as interactive transcription of your virtual events and sessions will help them stay engaged and attentive. These tools can be applied both live through real-time captioning and transcription, as well as after the fact on recorded videos. Captions are proven to help with information retention, as well as help to meet accessibility needs of viewers with disabilities. Many consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing for example, won’t be able to participate if accessibility tools aren’t provided to them. Helping to create an inclusive and accessible interface where all can participate will help your brand reach the greatest pool of audience members possible. These tools can also serve on-demand viewers who are watching your virtual events after they air, with search functionality so they can access specific parts of the discussions they’re interested in.
    • Develop a comprehensive “follow up” strategy for further engagement: If lead generation is your goal, creating a strategy for follow up post-event is critical. Understanding who on your team will be responsible for following up with attendees and converting them into demos or opportunities can help you to reach your benchmarks, but also stay organized so attendees aren’t spammed by multiple individuals at your organization. You may put on an all-star virtual event, but over communication post-event can taint the experience for attendees and make them not want to engage with your brand and its events in the future. It’s also a great opportunity to tout your next event or offering once the event has ended so you give attendees an action item for continued engagement with your brand.


Prepare, but don’t fear meeting your goals virtually

Led generation through events is still viable during COVID-19 times. Enterprise lead generation opportunities have simply shifted in nature due to the pandemic. The typical events and lead generation conferences may not exist in their natural formats, but they’re leading companies and marketers to test out new platforms and reinvent the ways they market themselves and reach new audiences, which is never a bad thing.

From smaller breakout events and topic-focused virtual events like webinars to large-scale conferences with virtual exhibitor booths, there are so many lead generation events ideas being activated on. While a vaccine is likely on its way, it’s best to continue to prepare your business to meet its goals for lead gen through virtual means in at least the short term.

Take advantage of the interesting capabilities platforms like Zoom and ON24 offer to businesses hosting webinars and events. Attendee polling and interactive note taking tools based on AI transcription, can make for interesting engagement methods to reach your target audiences. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised by all that virtual events have to offer.