“I’m not sure how COVID-19 will evolve, but one thing is certain – With 3-4X attendees, at half of the cost, the probability of us also holding next year’s annual conference through a virtual model is high”

This was the line we heard recently from a couple of our companies.

According to a survey held by event success management platform Bizzabo, over 90% of companies plan to incorporate virtual in their event strategy, and to keep doing so in 2021.

Since we recently discussed the need for companies to adopt a New Operational Model, we wanted to dive into what this means specifically for marketing and shifting to virtual.

Redis Labs Case Study: 4X attendees – at ¼ the cost

We spoke with a portfolio company, Redis Labs, which has been holding its annual RedisConf for the developer community in San Francisco for couple of years, but this year they needed to transition from a physical to a virtual event.

The challenge: They had 9 weeks to adjust their annual event to be as engaging and exciting as it used to be in the physical format.
They created “Redis Takeaway” – a 2-day event that included 25 live events, recorded sessions, on-demand content, training sessions and even ping pong games during breaks.

They didn’t “settle” for the ordinary Zoom-like platforms; they hired a production company to build a custom virtual arena (see picture below).

The questions that led them in the planning process were:

  1. How many days?
  2. What kind of content?
  3. What should keynotes look like?
  4. What about sponsors?
  5. What do we charge?
  6. How do we do this? (live elements, platform, etc.)

The results of “Redis Takeaway” were outstanding in every parameter:

  • 8751 registrants 
  • 3858 attendees – 4x from the previous year
  • 45% conversion rate
  • 68% participated in both days
  • 103 countries – Compared with only 5-6 last year (mostly from the US)
  • 25% from the company’s strategic accounts – Which helped sales increase their funnel

In terms of engagement:

At the end of day – Redis Labs attracted 4X the number of attendees at ¼ the cost.

Execution is king. Engagement is queen.

Here are the main takeaways we collected from Redis Labs, Bizzabo and other companies we spoke with:

1) Remember what you like about gaming? Make it that experience. Or better yet – make it FUN

  • Create a virtual world, with a virtual stage, halls and event coffee corner and exhibits. Make people feel like they are really visiting your world. Redis Labs even played with the lightning so when people entered their platform during the evening, they saw the appropriate dim lighting.
  • Let your guests create their own personal avatar, choose branded outfits, and create a virtual identity.
  • Greet each person who walks into your conference like you do in a real event. People always appreciate the personal touch.
  • Open with a DJ or a live show – Music is always a good way to start a conference, live or not.
  • Hold Interactive online happy hours or coffee corners, where people can virtually meet their colleagues.
  • Gifts – who doesn’t love them? And now they can come in a virtual shape – reward people when they go into a new session or promise them extra points for staying for the next one. You can hand out virtual “vouchers” for your company’s products or for other services, and through this enable sponsorship during the event.

2) Engagement is queen – While it might be easier to get people to join your virtual event because they can do it from the comfort of their home with no flight/travel hassle, the BIG questions is how can you get them to STAY tuned as long as possible?

  • Use an in-person app or a slack community so attendees can interact with your brand, or with each other.
  • Allow real-time polling, by using tools such as Kahoot or Mentimeter to engage with your audience during and after sessions.
  • Allow audience video submissions so your attendees can be seen and not just heard, or read via the usual Q&A section.
  • Add social feedback buttons like emojis or stickers people are familiar with to express how they feel about something.
  • Break into small rooms to enable intimate discussions where attendees can also speak.

3) Take risks, be bold – Because everyone is trying to engage their audiences virtually now, you need to stand out by making something different. Shoot for top-notch keynote speakers, or incorporate high-end technology to up the production value.

Some other factors to take into consideration:

1) Incorporate live and pre-recorded content – Pre-recorded content will give your production team time and space to breathe during the conference; it will add differentiated elements to your event that can help your audience avoid fatigue; and you have more control on messaging. On the flip side, you pay a price in the inability of your audience to engage with the speaker. That’s why it’s important to incorporate both models.

2) Time zones – which are never an issue for physical events, become critical to get right.

3) Make sure your virtual event is mobile-friendly, and has minimal tech requirements to expand your audience.

4) Provide your speakers with the right equipment – a webcam, microphone, and also a wired internet connection so they won’t need to rely on their own wifi.

Whatever you do – Don’t underestimate how complicated it is to plan a virtual annual conference.

Good luck