It’s safe to say that most people’s plans for 2020 have changed significantly. Many of the summer events we were looking forward to, from Glastonbury to Wimbledon, have been postponed or canceled as a result of Covid-19. It’s not just the events industry, sportspeople or musicians that are taking the hit, though, the B2B sector is too. On average, a B2B brands spend 29% of their annual marketing budgets on events, which serve as an invaluable networking opportunity.

Big events on the marketing calendar, such as MWC Barcelona, have been delayed, while others like SXSW have moved online. We’ve hosted our share of media events, both online and in-person, and although our humble B2B PR agency’s events aren’t quite on the scale of MWC or SXSW, we’re pretty proud of what we’ve achieved. Our roundtables for Spencer Ogden were a huge success, contributing to 11 award nominations, and we recently ran a virtual roundtable of experts for Impero, during which we  produced live and on-demand content.

Our team has attended plenty of virtual events over the past few weeks, and we’ve collected some insights about what works – and what doesn’t. Here are some suggestions together for brands that are looking to reach potential leads and influencers with an online event.

Consider the audience

It may sound obvious, but it’s essential to know who you want to attend your event before you start planning. The intended audience will determine the content and format, since you need to provide something that incentivises them to tune in. If you’re planning media events, ask yourself what exclusive information or access to spokespeople you can offer. To attract prospects, consider what you can teach them. If you’re hoping to reach customers, think back to past feedback about what they want from the brand and think about how to provide it.

Once you have determined the audience, the format of the event will naturally start to take shape. The right platform to choose is the one that is most familiar and accessible to your audience, while the ideal schedule needs is considerate of their other plans. We may be working from home, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we can take time out of our day.

Get creative with the format

We’re all experiencing a bit of ‘Zoom fatigue’ with the surfeit of online events recently, so anything that you can do to differentiate your event from the painfully familiar format will be extremely welcome. Consider what your audience wants: Are they expecting to be blown away by showmanship, or would they prefer a simple but powerful discussion?

A roundtable or panel is a classic format, and it’s great for stoking debate and providing insight on an important issue. An ‘ask me anything’ is a more casual format, and by its nature it feels more intimate and personal, so it’s better suited to a smaller audience. A webinar is a great way to explore something in-depth, making it the ideal choice for a well-informed niche audience.

Content that engages

Whereas an in-person event is focused and hard to leave, people are typically at home during a virtual event. That means that they’re surrounded by distractions and they can walk away at any moment. To keep viewers engaged, you need to fulfil your side of the value proposition. In other words, you need to give people what they came for and keep everything else to a minimum.

It’s also important to consider opportunities for interaction, since this is a great way to keep the audience on their toes. There are several ways to integrate participation, from taking questions through chat, live polling, or even forming breakaway discussion groups, and you can choose whichever suits your event best.

Establish rules of engagement

Set out a clear schedule so that the audience knows what to expect and when, and ensure that everybody knows the platform, the address and password for the event well ahead of time. If the event is live, it should also be clear whether the content will be available after the fact or if it’s a one-off.

Finally, before the event takes place you should have a clear idea on how speakers and the audience will engage with one another. Establishing some ground rules helps to prevent people from talking over one another while still ensuring everyone has their say.

If you’re looking for advice on an online event – or other creative ways to keep your brand at front of mind – get in touch with us today.

Written by: Katy Bloomfield, Managing Director