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HOW TO: Plan, launch and monetise virtual events

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Richard Michie is CEO at Marketing Optimist and we caught up with him to find out how hoteliers can cash in on the shift towards doing business virtually and still run profitable events, despite the downturn.

With physical events now cancelled for the foreseeable, what would be the main benefit of going ahead with these events online?

Lots of our clients, us included, were running physical events when the lockdown took hold. We soon found that people are very understanding so switching to a virtual event made a lot of sense. People love interaction so are quite happy to switch from physical to virtual if they feel they can gain just as much value. One of the main benefits of switching quickly is that you keep that customers attention and at the same time ensure that you keep your brand in the public eye.

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What’s the main challenges when switching to a virtual event?

Large events take a lot of time to perfect, and the clients who we helped to switch to virtual ones were very worried about how they would run them. So a big issue is the “theatre” of a large event has to be condensed into a small screen and fit with the technology you are utilizing. Ensuring your know your way around the tech is vital and having a few practice runs is really key. Audiences are forgiving at the moment around bad sound and video dropping but that won’t last forever, so getting slick at that is one of the main challenges.

What are some events that would work for hotels online?

Online events are confined to talking heads and PowerPoint shows simply because people are still working out what the limits of the technology are. Expect to see massive advances in this which make online events more like watching a TV award show. For hotels the best online events will be those that use the physicality of the building and add theater to the event. If anyone can do talking heads from their bedroom, hotels need to think bigger and add value.

How would they go about running a virtual event? What would a marketing strategy look like?

One huge benefit hotels have is that they are known for arranging events, they have a staff of event professionals who can ensure a great experience. These skills are highly desired and need to be maintained and deployed in organizing virtual events too.

The beauty of an online event is that there is no barrier to entry, everyone can set one up one a basic level in a few minutes. The key is to make your events add value, give your audience something they can’t get anywhere else. You need to ensure your event solves a problem your audience has. Hone in one that and ensure you’re creating it for a niche passionate audience. After that it’s very similar to a traditional campaign, get your message out early and consistently to your niche.

Is there revenue to be made from hosting online events? If so, how?

Yes, there is clearly an opportunity for that. The only way it to add value, business as usual will not cut it. It may be possible to use virtual events as an addon to traditional ones, for example hotels could facilitate relatives on another continent to virtually attend a wedding or there may be an opportunity to allow virtual attendees so book for special speaker slots at a conference.

When things return to ‘normal’, are virtual events still a viable option for hotels?

I’m not sure we’ll ever return to “normal”. The Coronavirus outbreak has shocked the world and people are very, very cautious. To help people to return to normality hotels will need to adapt their model for events. Allowing for smaller numbers with distances between them, using a mixture of virtual and physical events and spaces. Ensuring technology if used to it best effect when working out what the event can be will be crucial going forward.

What does the future look like for virtual events now it’s seen a huge boom?

Virtual events are here to stay the outbreak has moved everyone forward several years in just a few weeks. People are now settling into what they’ll be. The winners in the long run will be organisations who can make their online events stand out from the crowd.

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Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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