Tim’s Tips #2: Maximizing your investment in virtual events

Congratulations! We’ve made it to the halfway mark of 2020, yet in many ways we’re still reeling from the blows the event industry has taken. Earlier in the year we were all reacting as quickly as we could to pivot away from audience-attended events, and toward online events or virtual experiences.


Now we’re poised to enter what I call Phase 2: Proactively analyzing the tools we have, and using each of them to our best advantage. Merely getting things done online as quickly and easily as possible isn’t going to cut it anymore: Now it’s time to dig into the metrics and discover the best ways not only to replace live events – but also to make improvements.

Over 86% of event marketers say that attendee satisfaction is their number one gauge of event success. According to every metric or formula you use, event success translates directly into Return On Investment. And yet, if you’re using free, readily-available platforms that limit your audience’s sense of engagement, involvement, and delight, you’re diminishing their satisfaction and hindering your success.

Tip #1: Use the right tools.


All event platforms are NOT created equal. Video conferencing systems are cheap, easy and widely accessible to everyone, and they’ve become a ubiquitous choice for online communication. These platforms are great tools for MESSAGING – being able to tell your story to smaller groups of people who can discuss things together in real time – but MESSAGING is not an EVENT.


Events immerse the audience in a palpable sense of EXPERIENCE – they satisfy the audience’s craving for real connection, a shared experience that’s immediate and meaningful.  The audience attends an event to be inspired, to feed their curiosity, and to get instant feedback; thus the value that comes from an event is measured by how well your audience responds emotionally. By comparison, participating in a videoconference doesn’t offer the kind of immersive, emotional experience that watching a major motion picture provides.

(EMI & Mosaic)

If, as has been reported, 74% of event attendees say they have a more positive opinion about an organization after a successful event, you need to make sure your audience finds the experience they seek. (EMI & Mosaic)

Tip #2: Measure your success – and invest accordingly.


You’ve always used tools to measure your investments and your return on those investments – how much to spend on Food & Beverage, Musical Guests, Keynote Speakers, etc. Even though your platform has changed the same tools still apply – so keep using them!


Before COVID, most companies allocated at least 21% of their marketing budget to in-person events. (Statista) From that, 46% of marketers show a 3 to 1 return on their investment – and 75% of companies with event budgets between $50-$100 million expect an ROI of more than 5:1. (EMI & Mosaic)


While everyone has to justify investments in challenging economic times, it’s a mistake to believe that you can achieve the same ROI without the right “I” at the outset. Achieve the return by making sure the audience FEELS the same way they did when they attended an event in person, by finding new and exciting ways to provide an experience.


How? One answer: PRODUCTION QUALITY. This provides a truly seamless and involving on-line user experience with creative and dynamic content, imaginative engagement, and real entertainment value.


Professional production values reflect the quality of your brand. A vibrant and involving platform with a world-class look-and-feel demonstrates stability and inspires confidence. Dynamic and creative content differentiates your brand and elevates it above the rest. And exciting, interactive features grab and hold your audience’s attention and energy.


But you can’t expect to realize results without proper planning and budget allocations. Luckily, there’s great news: The more you invest NOW in communicating with your audience, the farther ahead you’ll be when times change for the better.

Tip #3: Do the math.


Smart financial decisions are critical now more than ever, and no one wants to be seen as needlessly throwing money around when so many organizations are facing reductions in revenue, staff and expenditures. Now is the time to prepare properly for an uncertain future.


Keep in mind that ANY money spent on an event that fails to get the right return are sunk costs. Conversely, with the right planning – and the right partners to help – your event experience can exceed your expectations, and increase your ROI. So how do you evaluate live and virtual event investments?


Take a look at this example: Here are two budgets for the same event, one planned for a live, location-specific, attended external sales event; and another for the same event – AT THE SAME SCOPE – adapted to an online virtual broadcast experience. This event is a hypothetical three-day conference for a corporate audience of 2,500 attendees with General Sessions, Breakouts, and a Showcase.


The ESTIMATES below reflect a hypothetical 3-day corporate conference for 2,500 with GS, BO and Showcase:

The exact same event formatted as a broadcast – featuring all the same content and creative, speakers (both internal and external keynote speakers), and approximately the same duration – offers CONSIDERABLE cost savings by bypassing attendee expenses like Travel, Facilities, Food & Beverage, etc. And this scales proportionally, no matter the scope of your event.


When your investment in PRODUCTION QUALITY remains the same, you maintain the return on your investment. You achieve the same audience satisfaction by leveraging all of the technical tools at your disposal. If you had turned your event into a Zoom call, your ROI likely would be lost – not to mention your time and maybe even the opportunity itself.

Tip #4: Leverage real advantages.


But wait, there’s more! In many ways, virtual event experiences can be EVEN MORE exciting and effective for both your brand and your attendees. Here’s how:


    • Audiences are video-conferenced out, and craving new experiences. While they may have been complacent in the past, now they actively seek participation.
    • Your event can garner wider and greater attendance than ever before – extending your reach beyond previous borders – because attendees are freed from the restrictions of physical travel.
    • Purely LIVE online events can inspire greater curiosity, a sense of immediacy and connection, and benefit from a very real “fear of missing out” effect. 
    • The limitations of time can be bent to your advantage: Consider that your event could be available on demand for months, meaning even more attendees can engage on their own schedules.
    • You can be in two places at once: Attendees can take advantage of ALL of the tracks of a multi-tiered event if they wish, and never have to miss one breakout for another scheduled at the same time. More self-guided choices on the part of attendees increase their satisfaction even more.


So engage your audience, keep their attention, and get the highest possible return on your investment.  Staging Solutions is here to partner with you, maximize the potential of your investment, leverage our creative resources to achieve real production value, and ensure enthusiastic audience engagement. In any economy, that investment is money well spent.


Isn’t it refreshing to hear that our new ways of working might actually become a DISTINCT ADVANTAGE?  We think so.