Aug 18, 2021 By Sydney

Marketing Strategies & Tactics

Where Should Your Next Event Be?

6-minute read | 7.5 minute listen

Pre-COVID-19, only 2% of advisers met with their clients through video calls—most conversations happened in-person, face-to-face. But with lockdowns, social distancing restrictions, and other changes brought about by the world pandemic, only 12% of advisers were able to meet with their clients in person—the majority (80%) relied on video calls or phone calls.

The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way advisers need to communicate with leads, prospects, and clients. This means advisers also need to adjust the way they organize prospecting and nurturing events, one of the main ways to build rapport.

With parts of the world now lifting restrictions and opening up, people are asking, “When should we organize virtual events vs. in-person events?” The answer to that question is: it depends on your goals.

4 Benefits of Virtual Events

Both virtual and offline events have their own merits. Virtual events are generally better for short, educational, lead-generating events, like this retirement class by Sensible Money. If you’re on the fence about organizing your event virtually, here are four benefits that will help you make a decision:

1. They’re Not Location-based

If you’re organizing an educational session for the purpose of generating leads, being “locationless” could help you get more attendees. Anyone with an internet connection and an interest in your topic can attend your event.

2. More Cost-Effective

Virtual events are 75% less expensive compared to offline events, which means you can offer lower ticket prices. You don’t need to book a large venue, get catering, or hire ushers for your event. All you need to do is promote your event (which you also need to do for offline events) and get a webinar hosting platform.

3. Scalable

Unlike physical venues, event hosting platforms don’t usually have a limit to the number of attendees you can have. You can have 50,000 guests attend your virtual event with little to no problems.

4. More Data

Because everything happens online, data is easier to track. Most webinar hosting platforms have an analytics dashboard you can review after your event. From there, you can see how many people signed up for your event, the number of actual attendees, average attendance time, and so on. Data makes it easier to gauge if your event was a success or not and what you can improve in the future.

3 Benefits of In-Person Events

Again, how you organize your event will depend on your goals. If your goals align with the benefits you get from virtual events (e.g. reach more people, generate more leads, etc.), then you might want to do that. But if your goals don’t, here are some benefits of in-person events for you to mull over:

1. Easier to Build Relationships

For in-depth, one-on-one dialogues, face-to-face conversations will always be better than mediated conversations. Sixty-eight percent of event attendees report they have a harder time networking during online events. It’s harder to pick up on physical cues when you’re chatting with someone through a screen, and you can only see their head—not what they’re doing with their hands, what they’re looking at, or who’s in the room with them.

Cici Prsha, CEO and founder of CJN Communications, told us in an interview, “We are built to, meant to, created to interact on a physical level – so when a face to face experience needs to go virtual – planners need to find ways to tap into the sensory experiences that make face to face meetings so great.”

If you’re organizing an event with the goal to build or nurture relationships—client appreciation events, for example—you might want to consider booking a nice restaurant and having a small dinner with a handful of clients at a time.

2. No Technical Errors

You won’t hear, “Oh no, I think you’re on mute,” at an in-person event. The biggest technical problem that could occur is a slideshow not working—but even then, speakers are usually prepared to present despite the technical difficulties. Likewise, your attendees won’t have a hard time attending your event because of internet problems.

3. Attendees Are More Serious About Attending

There are so many free online events nowadays that only 50% of people who register for an online event actually show up. But people who go to lengths to look up your event, buy a ticket, and book flights are clearly committed to the experience, and they’re probably going to be there unless something urgent comes up.

When To Organize Online vs. In-Person Events

If you’re still unsure of how you want to organize your events, we’ve compiled tips from industry specialists. We also talked to Bob Veres of Inside Information to get more expert insights about the question at hand.

Prospecting Events Are Better Organized Virtually

Value-adding virtual events, events your prospects feel are useful to them in their current financial state, work as well as offline events for prospecting, which is probably why financial advisers rated virtual events as one of their top important tools in 2021.

One of the advantages of virtual event prospecting is that you can cast a wide net. You can run a social media ad promoting your event to everyone who is interested in your topic, no matter where they are physically located. Your event registration form captures emails, bringing in leads. During your event, you’ll be able to see who is most engaged with your content and qualify them accordingly, turning your leads into prospects.

Short Educational Virtual Events Are Better

You can use virtual educational events as both a lead generation and a client nurturing tactic. Providing prospects with upfront value establishes you as the go-to expert in all things finance and makes prospects more open to having longer conversations with you later on.

But virtual events should be tailored to your audience’s attention span. Attendees of virtual events are usually more distracted because they’re in a separate environment, and your event is only one tab on their internet browsers. “My take is that virtual events are fine for one-hour presentations,” Veres told us, “but not for conferences.”

The longer your event, the easier it’ll be for your attendees to get distracted and not finish your event.

Smaller Events Are Better Done In-Person

Mitchell Whitney, CEO of Whitney & Associates in Des Moines, Iowa, said, “The smaller in-person events are still performing better, as far as conversions to appointments and also production from events.”

With smaller events aimed at building relationships and driving conversions, physical interaction works better. While the pandemic makes it more challenging to organize physical events, they’re not impossible, and your clients will appreciate you for putting in the effort.

For Multi-Day Conferences, Consider a Hybrid Approach

Hybrid events are conducted in-person but also give attendees the choice of accessing your event virtually. More event marketers are looking toward hybrid events because they cater to both people who like attending events physically and those who feel safer staying at home.

“Interestingly, there were a number [of attendees] (I don’t know how many) who kept their hotel registrations and attended virtually from their hotel room or the pool in Las Vegas,” Veres told us, describing his experience at the AICPA Engage Conference, “I ran into people in the elevator, in bathing suits, who told me they were looking forward to my session the next day.”

If you have prospects who are still hesitant to attend physical events, a hybrid-style conference could be your best option.

Ensure the Success of Your Virtual or Offline Event with the Right Marketing

Whether you decide to host your event online or offline, you need to spread the word for people to attend. Communicate to your ideal attendees what your event is about and what they’ll get out of it through email drip campaigns, social media, text messages, and so on.

“Virtual meetings aren’t going away,” Prsha told us, “so it is important to continue finding ways to engage audiences and maintain the level of interest that is needed to make an event successful while providing the kind of ROI that both attendees and stakeholders are looking for.”

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