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7 lessons learned from going virtual with ConnectLive

Laura Whitehead

Pre the world we now find ourselves in I would have said that compared to a physical event, planning and hosting a virtual one is a piece of cake. I would also have said that I was always glad to celebrate the last day of every event and all the work that was put into them.

Well now off the back of doing just that it turns out that neither are true.

Taking our two physical ConnectLive user conferences virtual was a mammoth task and took focus, determination, and sheer hard work to pull off. We presented a brand-new event experience, reached a bigger audience, and delivered a user conference that matched – if not surpassed previous years.

During our virtual ConnectLive 2020, we were able to support:

  • 4700 registrants
  • 65 on-demand education sessions
  • 70 iManage and partner speakers
  • 20 customer speakers
  • 30 partners in an online pavilion

Whilst we were able to accomplish all this I did miss the much-needed traditional post event in person martini celebration with the team (our Zoom recap call just wasn’t the same).

However, I was not alone in missing the physical interaction, the social networking, the energy you get from a traditional in-person event experience as some of our customers echoed.

“The virtual platform did a better job than I expected to fill the void of not being in person,” Jerry Justice, CIO at Benesch Law.

So, in the spirit of sharing about how virtual events will take shape in the coming months – here are 7 lessons learned/pieces of advice for anyone taking their events virtual:

  1. Beware unlocking a Pandora’s Box of offerings for attendees. It’s very easy to get carried away with the opportunities that going virtual easily presents – multiple tracks, guest speakers, interaction, Zoom yoga sessions, online entertainers. If you don’t keep a close eye on the desired end results for these experiences, your event can explode and become all things to all people – something that’s impossible to deliver to a high standard. Making sure you are clear on the overall objective, audience, and outcomes is key and will ensure you create an experience to deliver.
  1. Playbooks will need to be rewritten for attendees and staff. The physical event I have been attending year on year came with a traditional playbook that we always delivered and attendees came to expect, such as when and where they should book their spot, sort accommodation / travel, turn up, view an agenda, or go to ask further questions. In every virtual setting, these parameters will be a bit different and require complete understanding and communication well before the event takes place so attendees can be well informed ahead of time and have a better experience.
  1. Virtual events change everything – especially for sales teams! It’s important to ensure you work closely with all your internal teams so they understand how to leverage this new experience. Regardless of how involved they had been in the whole virtual event planning process, our sales team still had wanted more interaction opportunities with customers and prospects during the event, as well as the opportunity to network. In a virtual setting that accommodated many time zones, the event had to be more about content absorption and interaction with pre-sales teams, while sales team interaction would predominantly come in the follow up / post event phase.
  1. You can not over communicate. Attendees are getting so many invites to virtual events these days and with as their attention spans already limited, they often skim read most pre-event communications. Then they expect the same concierge service they usually receive at a physical event to be present the day of the virtual event. And when it’s not, they forget and have to ask questions during the event, which can detract from their learning. Assume all the pre event comms, explainer videos, and instructions will need to be repeated during the event; if you do that you will be prepared!
  1. You can not under invest in production. If you are prerecording you must remember that a lot of your presenters might not be used to the new medium of virtual presentations, not have the right setup for them, or might not immediately have the confidence to complete one successfully. This all takes time, planning, coaching, and editing. Investing in a strong production team that has the right skills to help presenters through this and make them look their best at the event will pay dividends.
  1. If content wasn’t already king before – it certainly is now. Our virtual event acted as a launch for a significant content campaign for our partners and customers that has a lifespan well beyond the event itself. This investment in well executed, well produced content will pay off as we seek to reach wider audiences, by promoting it to prospects, promote it on social media, and enable it to be used by our sales teams and on our website.
  1. There is no going back. Even before the pandemic, we had considered how to develop a virtual component to our event to broaden our audience reach. Whatever happens from here on, in all our events we will have some form of ‘virtual’ element as we’ve realized the prospect of delivering a hybrid event is a positive one which will only enable us to continue to grow and foster the iManage community.

To see more about our how virtual event played out, register now.

About the author

Laura Whitehead

Laura is an experienced, results-driven B2B marketing leader. Passionate and collaborative, Laura creates and empowers high-performing teams that deliver data-smart strategies, build brands, create resonance, and drive a positive customer experience.

Previously, she led marketing for other IT companies, including ClusterSeven, LexisNexis and InterAction.