Virtual Events – Six Tactics To Create Memorable Virtual Experiences

saas breakthrough episode 157

Welcome to a special SaaS Breakthrough Episode with our host and Banzai VP of Marketing, Ashley Levesque, covering Six Tactics To Create Memorable Virtual Experiences.

As marketers, we have the responsibility not only to run events, but to craft memorable experiences that highlight our brand, our humanity, and our desire to connect with our attendees.

In this episode, Ashley will guide you on how to implement each tactic, using examples from her own experience running virtual events. Enjoy!

 

Isn't it time to level up your scrappy marketing team with a weekly dose of high-octane content?!? ?


Show Notes:
00:55
A Reality Check on Virtual Events in the Marketplace
02:05
Hot Take: Boring Webinars Are Killing Your Brand
"If you are running boring webinars, they are killing your brand. They're making people rethink if they want to do business with you. I mean hot take if your marketing department can't put together an engaging webinar, what does that say about your customer support team, your sales team? What does it say about your product or the service that you're offering? Here's why they're falling flat. This is why your virtual events and your webinars are falling flat. It's because we have forgotten as marketers, that virtual events still need to be experiences. We aren't creating virtual experiences right now. We're just running virtual events."
03:00
Modern Marketers Are Missing a Key Ability
"Modern marketers have gotten too comfortable sitting behind screens, optimizing click-through rates, and too little time thinking about the people on the other end of the screen. (...) I think most marketers were taught marketing through dashboards, through analytics, through computer screens, sending emails, writing blogs, one way communication platforms. Through that learning we as marketers have lost our ability to connect with humans in general. And that is showing up in a virtual setting like a webinar."
05:00
Event Marketing: The Hard Work Beyond in-Person Experiences
"This is my point. It could be literally the best content in the world. But if you bring the energy of a subway commute, your webinar will fall flat. As marketers we need to pay attention and we need to do the hard work of creating memorable experiences. We don't just owe it to our audience. We owe it to ourselves to restore some semblance of human connection back to marketing. And honestly, there is a sea of change coming."
09:05
Webinars: Crafting Virtual Events That Are Memorable
"Of course, I understand not every webinar can be a conference level of production, right? They are different. They play different roles. Event marketers can spend literally all year planning that one huge conference. So I'm not naively saying that every single webinar needs a $10 million budget with five full-time employees. What I am saying though, is that we can do some things small, some big, and we have a responsibility to do those things in order to create actual experiences."
10:00
Play Music at the Start of Your Webinar
11:05
Be Intentional About the Brand Impression You Create
11:45
Decorate Your Virtual and Physical Space
13:20
Encourage Your Attendees To Be Contributors, Not Just Observers
15:30
Make It Real With Direct Mail
16:50
Mindset Shift: Don't Be Afraid To Show Your Humanity
"Be human. Too often we take the social media mindset to our webinars where we project a perfect version of ourselves onto the internet. But there is so much of that fake reality out there that people just tune it out. When you actually open yourself up to be real, that's when the spark comes back. And when people actually feel connected to you. (...) I do hundreds of webinars every year and my dog barks in at least 50% of them, right? Like introduce your dog, move on. People like that. They want to get to know you. They want to know the person behind the microphone. So share your mistakes and own them."
Transcript:

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 157 of the SaaS breakthrough podcast. I'm your host, Ashley Levesque. And today we're talking about why your virtual events are falling flat. It's no guests today. It's just me. I'm going to share with you a little bit about what I've learned and what I'm seeing in the market. Okay? I'll preface this, not all virtual events fall flat. Some virtual events are great. They're engaging. They're different. They're unique, but a lot of events, and I I'm sure all of my fellow B2B marketers out there can attest, a lot of events specially webinars are just terrible. They make you tired. They're easy to tune out. They're more uninspiring content that you sort of half-heartedly consume. And then you forget about. Nothing lasts from the event. Nothing tangibly comes back to you or your business, no impact was made. And honestly, that's sort of my generous take on the situation.

(02:07):
The hot take is that these boring webinars are killing your brand. If you are running boring webinars, they are killing your brand. They're making people rethink if they want to do business with you. I mean hot take if your marketing department can't put together an engaging webinar, what does that say about your customer support team, your sales team? What does it say about your product or the service that you're offering? Here's why they're falling flat. This is why your virtual events and your webinars are falling flat. It's because we have forgotten as marketers, that virtual events still need to be experiences. We aren't creating virtual experiences right now. We're just running virtual events. This is something that I've been thinking about a lot lately. We've been talking about a lot with our customers and our market. There is something about digital marketing that makes us as marketers forget our humanity a little bit.

(03:11):
Forget our basic marketing 101 skills. Suddenly everybody is just a number, a data point in our funnel that we need to push through to the bottom. We stopped thinking about our customers and our prospects as people that have emotions and whose emotions drive them to make decisions. Sure. We'll run events that are just good enough as to not take our conversion rate, but because it's digital people think it's easier to just run more webinars than it is to do the hard work of creating unique experiences. Modern marketers have gotten too comfortable sitting behind screens, optimizing click-through rates, and too little time thinking about the people on the other end of the screen. We talked about this the other day as a marketing department here at Banzai and our content marketing manager brought up that he learned copywriting through Google ads.

(04:11):
He knew which copy was better by looking at the click-through rate, but that learning process rewarded volume experimenting over thoughtful thinking about the customer. And I don't think his story here is unique. I think most marketers were taught marketing through dashboards, through analytics, through computer screens, sending emails, writing blogs, one way communication platforms. Through that learning we as marketers have lost our ability to connect with humans in general. And that is showing up in a virtual setting like a webinar.

(04:59):
I want you to think back to the last professional event that you went to think about all the little extras that went into creating that experience. If it was a big conference, the location itself is a huge reminder, right? You queue up outside the convention center, there's music. There are badges, there are brightly colored polo shirts, right? Like, you know, you're at an event, there's a bar. You have networking events, quirky extras to go to. You've got lights. There's so much that goes into hyping you up. It's creating a permanent impression in your brain about the event and experience that you're having. And I bet it worked. I just had a very clear flashback to my trade show days of colored polo shirts and big badges. Hopefully your experience was a good one and I'm not suggesting that fog machines and coordinated outfits make up for a lack of substance. Of course, you still need to meet the right people, scan the right badges, shake the right hands. The keynote speaker still needs to make you think. But the reality is the keynote probably seems more impactful than the content because of the environment that it was in. Take Gary V's keynote from Dreamforce 2018 or whatever, drop it into a zoom meeting. And it's not going to cut the cake because the rest of the experience cements and fortifies the content.

(06:23):
Here's a real life mini case study of what I'm talking about. We've been sharing this in our demo webinars a lot lately in 2007, Joshua Bell who's widely regarded as one of the greatest violinists alive went and played a concert in the subway of New York. The violin he played on was an antique worth over $3 million. He played a whole concert more than a thousand people walked by and less than 10 people stopped. In total he made about $50 and he normally makes almost $50,000 for a single show. Now, just think about that for a minute. The guy who normally makes a year's salary for a single concert made $50 playing the same content, right? He played the same songs. So why do you think that is? Because of the environment right? Because a concert in the subway isn't unexperienced worth paying attention to. As much as I want to pretend differently, I would have walked right by him too. A couple of years later, he went back to play another concert.

(07:34):
This one was publicized. It was on the news. It had a whole press following the whole nine yards. So this time cameras were shuttering. They had lights, fans lined up outside to take pictures because now they knew what was happening. They were prepped right? The second time with the cameras rolling in the lines outside, people could tell it was an experience that they needed to pay attention to. They were primed to engage and listen. Your content is exactly the same. This is my point. It could be literally the best content in the world. But if you bring the energy of a subway commute, your webinar will fall flat. As marketers we need to pay attention and we need to do the hard work of creating memorable experiences. We don't just owe it to our audience. We owe it to ourselves to restore some semblance of human connection back to marketing.

(08:34):
And honestly, there is a sea of change coming. Buyers are paying attention. COVID turned everyone's perspective around because for a whole year or more, we were deprived of those things that made experiences, real experiences. And when those things went missing, all of a sudden we could identify them. We realized what we were missing. We realized what was missing when we try to do birthdays on zoom. When we try to do concerts on zoom, right? Things have changed. People expect more and people know better now.

(09:09):
So let's talk about a couple tips for running webinars or crafting virtual events that are experiences. Some of these are a little bit more in depth and some of them are going to be a little simpler. Of course, I understand not every webinar can be a conference level of production, right? They are different. They play different roles. Event marketers can spend literally all year planning that one huge conference. So I'm not naively saying that every single webinar needs a $10 million budget with five full-time employees. What I am saying though, is that we can do some things small, some big, and we have a responsibility to do those things in order to create actual experiences, instead of just presentationally dispelling our content, right? So here they are starting with number one.

(10:01):
This one is really simple. Number one, play music at the start of your webinar. Boom, super easy. It takes two seconds to get it on. And the shift in energy is palpable. We do this now for every single one of our webinars here at Banzai. Let people know that this is fun. It is an immediate reframing. People are coming into your webinar with the expectation they aren't going to enjoy it. That's just the truth. That's where we are. If you set a new opportunity for them to think something different, you have the chance to change their mind. Let people know this is fun. We're going to have a good time together. We're going to learn. There's a reason to be excited. I'm glad you're here. Please stay with us. What I like about this is it also cuts out some of the awkwardness of how you start your webinar. There's always two or three minutes where people are filtering in and you're kind of just up there presentationlly waiting for people. It takes the pressure off of saying something every second. Trust me, play some music. All right.

(11:07):
Number two, dress the part. Remember those colored polo shirts at the conferences. Break that out for your webinar. Right? I see so many people showing up for their webinars like they show up to their coffee pot in the morning. Now the goal here, I'm not saying that your webinar needs to be like a runway, right? But we gotta let your audience know that this is important, that you care. And it helps to eliminate distractions. So throw on that logoed hat or t-shirt or hoodie or whatever, create the brand impression that you're intending to create. Just be intentional about it.

(11:48):
And number three is closely related to number two, decorate your space. And I'm not just talking about the physical space. I'm not just talking about what we're seeing on camera. I'm talking about the virtual space that you're inviting people into. If your webinar platform does not inspire and invite your attendees to remain engaged. If you're not able to set the scene with your brand colors, with everything else that you need to create an environment that is going to support your content, then you need to get a new webinar platform.

(12:26):
This is why I struggle with zoom. This is where I get zoom fatigue. If I show up for your zoom webinar, I already feel like I'm showing up for a meeting, right? Let me know that I'm not just watching a video by creating a virtual space that feels interactive and real. And then of course your real space too. Do make sure that it facilitates and compliments the virtual space that you're in. It's about eliminating distractions, right? Put on a little pumpkin for Halloween. It goes a long way in making that webinar feel like a timely experience, right? Is it St. Patrick's day that week, throw on some green, make a comment about it. There's nothing wrong with bringing a little bit of joy and humor into your experience. It relates to your brand. It relates to the impression people are going to have about the experience.

(13:18):
You can see how these things build and play on each other. Number four, you have to facilitate interaction. So this goes back to the environment. Way too often, people start their webinar and they say, Hey, where are you from? Tell me in the chat. And then they never go back to the chat again for the entire rest of the session. They're not encouraging people to connect with each other. They're not encouraging people to ask questions or to provide feedback or to give comments on what they're learning about. Use the uniqueness of your virtual space to facilitate and to invite your attendees, to be more than just observers. There's an opportunity here for them to be participants. Where again, they can contribute to the experience that you're asking them to be a part of. Instead of them just being observers to a presentation, they can actually be contributors.

(14:15):
And that is a big difference. And in how we can get these virtual events to be something meaningful for your attendees. So the chat in particular, I think is a really cool feature to experiment with in virtual settings. And it's really undervalued. You know, in real life at an event, you either have networking or you have a speaker presenting and it's not super polite to speak when someone else is on stage speaking. But in a virtual context, it's basically the opposite. People should be in the chat while the event is running. Let's use it to our advantage. Ask questions while you're moving things along in your presentation, or if you have a moderator in the chat for you, let them add their own comments and flavor to the event, right? Encourage people to chat with each other. You can't force this one, but if people feel comfortable, if you encourage them to do it, and if your moderator is active in the chat, it makes people want to jump in themselves, help your attendees, support each other in the chat, answer questions, make this about more of a community experience. People aren't there exclusively to learn from you. Let's leverage the experience by letting them learn from each other, from everybody else. That's in this awesome event with you.

(15:33):
All right, number five, make it real. There are a lot of ways to do this, but the first one that comes to mind for me is direct mail. I think direct mail is great for those small intimate events, with your key decision makers. Everyone gets a bottle of wine or something and you have an experience together, right? But you can also do direct mail. After the event with swag, for people who've answered polls or who were engaged in the chat, you can do it by again, decorating your space, a banner in the background to let me know where I am. I just came from a million meetings and now I'm showing up to a webinar.

(16:09):
It makes it feel a lot more real than being at your home office. Again, this is a play for those larger events or those more intimate events, but as the stakes go up so, so does your effort, right? And it can be proportional. Not every event needs a bottle of wine. Talking about, you know, earlier, when I was talking about how we forgotten our ability to connect as humans, a handwritten note might go a long way in driving attendance. If I send you a handwritten note, thanking you for coming to my event, but I didn't send anything with it. Anything meaning like a bottle of wine, would you still care? I bet you would. Actually, that might mean more than the wine. I think I'm going to have to try that anyway. You get the picture, make it real.

(16:54):
All right. So this is the last one, and this is less of a tip than a shift in mindset. Be human. Too often we take the social media mindset to our webinars where we project a perfect version of ourselves onto the internet. But there is so much of that fake reality out there that people just tune it out. When, when you actually open yourself up to be real, that's when the spark comes back. And when people actually feel connected to you. I'll give you an example. We ran a webinar workshop a couple of weeks ago, and our content marketing manager wrote a story about how he screwed something up. He like, he put himself on the line and gave an example about a mistake that he made. And afterwards, multiple people reached out to say that they really appreciated the honesty. It made them feel more confident running webinars because they realize that other people make mistakes too. I mean, I do tons of webinars.

(17:55):
I do hundreds of webinars every year and my dog barks in at least 50% of them, right? Like introduce your dog, move on. People like that. They want to get to know you. They want to know the person behind the microphone. So share your mistakes and own them. So here's a little reality for you. I am reading this podcast script off of a Google doc in my home office. And I have cough drops strewn across my desk because I am of course, under the weather, because why wouldn't I be? So if you imagined me in a radio studio, then I'm sorry to dash your hopes, but now you have a picture of the real me. And I bet that you identify with it a whole lot more than you would with the perfect version of me as a radio host in some studio. So your virtual events fall flat because they're virtual events, not virtual experiences.

(18:54):
The five tips that we have going from small to large. One, play music to take the edge off. Super simple. I love this one. I do this every single webinar that I start. Two, dress the part. Three, decorate your space, virtual space and real space. Four, facilitate interaction and remember to take advantage of the things that make virtual unique. Five, make it real. Like I said, that pumpkin in the background really brings it home. It can remind your attendees that we're sharing an experience together. And finally the last tip, but not really a tip, just basics, just be human. Don't be afraid to let your humanity out. If we, as marketers can forget about exclusively focusing on numbers, click through rates, open rates, registration rates, and these other metrics, and remember the importance of creating experiences that highlight our brand, our humanity and our desire to connect with our attendees, we'll be better off for it. Thanks for joining me here for episode 157 of the SaaS breakthrough podcast. Looking forward to talking to you next time.

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