Your first thought might be: How does that not hurt in-person event attendance? Hear us out.
When Salesforce began live-streaming parts of its annual Dreamforce conference, they sought to give people who couldn’t attend in person a taste of their massive event. Over the years, they’ve added more and more virtual experiences — which are broadcast for free — and yet their in-person attendance rates continue increasing.
Coachella, the music and arts festival that hosts 250,000 people, sold out in three days before it started live-streaming the event in 2011. When it launched ticket sales for the 2012 festival, it sold out in three hours.
I realize these examples are enormous, internationally known events, but the underlying message is the same regardless of event size or type: Giving your audience the option to attend virtually is another promotional tool. And we all know that better event promotion can lead to event program growth. It’s a way to improve visibility and gain attendees who either haven’t heard of your event before or just can’t make it.
Offering a virtual event option with your in-person event can drive growth in other ways as well. By streaming your event online, you can invite others who may not necessarily be your target consumer, but who could play a crucial role in your future events — potential sponsors, for example.
Think about the last time you, as an event marketer, considered an event sponsorship. Along with event goals, attendee demographics, and financial commitment, you likely also thought about the event overall, its vibe, and how it aligns with your company’s mission — outside of what you can find on the event prospectus. Attending the event in question is the best way to find out if there’s a mutual fit. Offering a virtual event option is a cost-effective way to share your in-person event with those who could be potential revenue streams.
Another audience that would find a virtual event option incredibly beneficial is your prospects. If you’re hosting any events for your current customers, like user groups, those can be powerful sales enablement tools. Prospective customers want to know you can support them in various ways. By giving them access to the virtual event option, you’re showing them what they could expect as a customer and boosting their confidence in their purchase decision.
While it’s clear how blending in-person and virtual events can offer great value to a company, it begs the question: What are some best practices to make sure the effort of doubling up leads to event success?