This time six months ago, we were in full-blown events mode.
We were hosting the quarterly LeedsHUG (that’s the HubSpot User Group in case you were wondering), we were planning Six & Flow meet-ups and travelling around Europe for the Conversation with Drift events.
So when COVID-19 knocked all those plans on the head pretty swiftly, you can imagine how gutted we were and how maybe, slightly, just a little bit panicked we got at the thought of not being able to use events in our marketing for a while.
Like many companies out there, events are a key part of our brand building, networking and lead generation activity - and it was all gone.
But, whilst I long for the days of hosting events down in London and building communities in Oslo, there’s much worse going on in the world right now.
So we picked ourselves up and found new ways to host ‘events’ whilst the country deals with lockdown.
Moving to digital events
The first thing to note is that the ‘physical event’ is just one small part in a large process.
When we took a step back, we realised that many of the processes and best practices we already had in place for events were still very much applicable in a virtual setting.
Booking speakers, building event pages, sign up processes, and promotion over social media, email and other outreach was exactly the same.
Also, as we previously hosted events all across the globe, we would rarely meet our speakers prior to the event so briefing them on Zoom or over email was pretty much business as usual.
Even not having a speaker attend an event and having them appear over a Zoom link is something we’ve done plenty of times, so even that wasn’t foreign to us.
So far, so good.
Why are you doing online events?
Like with any event, a key question to ask is what are your goals?
People love a good fad and it was pretty clear from the initial month of lockdown that online events were becoming “the new thing to do”, as everyone rushed to get as many people as possible dialled in to sit through powerpoint presentations.
For us, one answer that kept cropping up, no matter what event we were planning, was to build a community.
Community is as important now, if not more so, than it ever was and still remains an important goal for us.
So we asked ourselves, can we build a community virtually? And, can we still provide value and offer help and support to people effectively, rather than just holding online events just to prove that we could?
Providing value from online events
We decided to start with a series of webinars with a range of our tech partners to offer genuine advice and insights into how different platforms could help businesses at this time.
Our biggest thing was that we’d tried webinars before and found them to be a bit outdated.
We weren’t totally convinced we’d be able to drive the same level of engagement amongst a digital audience as we could at our regular events where you can incentivise people with book giveaways or free swag.
But, we’ve been pleasantly surprised not only at the level of sign-ups we’ve been getting (our HubSpot events had close to 300 signups within the first few hours) but the level of engagement we’ve had and some of our digital events have had better Q&A sessions than we’ve had at our physical events.
I think while we’ve probably got a bit fatigued from the endless online meetings and calls in the last few months and we’re all looking forward to the date when we can all get together in person again, the world has adjusted to the idea of digital events and the appetite and popularity for online events has definitely increased.
Even if we can’t hand out free books or gift some great swag, we can at least keep providing value.
Our next online event is going to be on Wednesday, May 20 from 2pm BST when our MD Richard Wood and Head of Strategy, Adam will be talking about achieving some “quick wins” and seeing some fast results in the short-term while keeping an eye on your long term goals.
You can sign up for the event below or if you want to catch up on our previous events click here to go through to our events page.