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25 virtual event promotion ideas for 2021

The following are 25 effective virtual events promoting ideas for 2021 and the years to come

pax east 2019 boston convention center
Image: Kevin Raposo / KnowTechie

2020 was a challenging and disruptive year in so many ways, especially in Las Vegas which hosts thousands of conventions per year. The entire economy has been affected, with many businesses having to shut down or significantly alter their practices.

Event planning has been particularly challenging, with just about every scheduled live event, has been forced to repurpose as a virtual concert, convention, meeting, etc. Fortunately, the same basic strategies often apply whether you’re promoting a virtual or live event (e.g. even live events today are mainly promoted using digital marketing techniques). 

The following are 25 effective virtual events promoting ideas for 2021 and the years to come

1. Leverage the Power of Video

Video is getting more popular all the time and it’s one of the best ways to promote your online event. You can post videos on your website, Facebook, YouTube, and other sites. Keep videos short. You can include highlights from past events (if it’s recurring), list the lineup of speakers or entertainers, interview someone who’s giving a workshop, etc. Remember to include a call-to-action so viewers know how to sign up.

2. Build an Email List

Event promoters don’t always take advantage of the power of email marketing. Building a list is especially important if you promote events regularly. Not everyone will sign up right away after a single visit to your website. When you capture their email address, you have a chance to stay in touch with them. If you create a newsletter, with news and tips related to your industry (not only promoting your event), you’ll give subscribers a reason to open your messages. Some will sign up for your event or perhaps share the message with others.

3. Send Postcards

In the digital age, it’s easy to forget that people still receive and open print mail. In fact, sending print mail can be an advantage as it’s practically a novelty at this point. According to the Data & Marketing Association, direct mail has a response rate of 9% for house lists (i.e. a list you created, similar to an email list) and 4.9% for prospect lists (a list of prospects you purchase). This is actually quite a bit higher than typical email response rates. Consider mailing postcards, as these are inexpensive to mail and recipients can see the message without having to open it.

4. 21. Use Eye-Catching Graphics

Visuals are more important than ever and you don’t want to bore your audience with stock photos. Use quality, custom photography when possible. You might feature photos from previous events. Share up-to-the-minute photos of event preparation. Ask participants to contribute their own photos. Infographics are good for explaining your event in a way that’s concise and shareable.

5. Create a Website for the Event

Designing a dedicated website for the event will help for search engine optimization, aka SEO, and allow you to begin pulling up for keywords that can actually drive people to your events. It is important to not just focus on “trophy keywords”, but to be mindful of “long tail keywords”, as well.  

It also gives you a chance to register a short and memorable domain name. This is good for both online and offline marketing. For example, if you’re telling someone about the event or have it printed on a flyer or business card, you want a name that’s simple to remember.

6. Use Stories on Facebook and Instagram

The Stories feature is a way to get more visibility and engagement. You can announce your event, provide updates, as well as calls-to-action for registering. Encourage others who are participating in the event to do the same on their own Facebook and Instagram.

7. Include the Event in Your Content Strategy

You can either directly or indirectly promote the event in all kinds of content, such as blog posts, social media posts, videos, and more. For example, you could write a blog post on a topic that will be covered at the event and conclude with a tie-in to the event. Do the same with all your content.

8. Submit to Event Sites

There are many sites where you can list your event. Depending on your topic and whether it’s live or virtual, you can get listed on both general and industry-specific sites. Some general sites include:

• Facebook

• Eventful

 •Goldstar

• Eventbrite

9. Start a Podcast

Podcasting began taking off a few years ago and is still growing. Edison Research found that 32% of Americans listen to podcasts monthly, up from 26% the year before. There are numerous platforms for creating and publishing podcasts. You have complete control over the subject, length, and style of the broadcast. You might interview someone who’s speaking or presenting at your event. The advantage of interviewing people is that they also have an incentive to publicize the program. You can share podcasts on your website and social media.

10. Feature Content From Presenters

If your event is a recurring one, you can share footage from previous years. Even if you’re changing from a live to a virtual format, there’s no reason you can’t show live footage from previous years to promote your upcoming online event. This could be photos, videos, or audio files. If this is a one-time event or the first one of its kind, you can still locate content that showcases the people involved. If you have a well-known speaker participating, post a video of his or her Ted Talk (or wherever they may be featured). If it’s an author, link to their book. For entertainers, you can usually find a video or perhaps a song on a site such as Spotify.

11. Make Use of Hashtags

Hashtags are important on sites such as Twitter and Instagram. They can help make posts more popular and help you reach a wider audience. Create your own hashtags based on the name of the event and any other relevant keywords. As a rule, it’s best to keep hashtags short and simple. For example, if the event is called Southwest Marketing Summit, you might shorten the hashtag to #SWMarketing. The real point is to find a unique hashtag that can be recognized and shared.

12. Advertise in Print Publications

Classifieds are often a good deal in local newspapers and regional magazines. In many cases, you can get your ad in both the print and online versions. For virtual events, look into advertising in industry or trade journals.

13. Create a Webinar

A webinar can serve as an introduction to your event or even a mini version of an online event. You can invite speakers who are featured participants to give an introduction to their topics. A free webinar with a call-to-action at the end can help to publicize the event. A live webinar can be taped and made into a video, which can then be shared on your website, YouTube, and elsewhere.

14. Send Out Press Releases

Sending press releases can help you get attention in local as well as national media. You can send press releases to local publications, TV and radio stations, as well as specialized media in your industry. Remember to include your website URL in the press release as well as other contact information, and add to the “News and Media” area of your website. One benefit of this strategy is that it can help drive traffic to your website and help you rank better.  

15. Connect With Influencers

Reaching out to respected figures in your industry can help you get more publicity for your event. You might offer them an incentive to spread the word by offering them access to your event. You could also offer discounts to their followers.

16. Create Promotional Swag

Branded promotional products such as t-shirts, mugs, carrying bags, chargers, and other items can be given away to create more buzz for your event. Whereas you can give products away in person at live events, you can still ship them out to virtual attendees. You might create social media contests where you give away these items as prizes or simply give everyone a gift.

17. Start or Join a Group

Social media groups on Facebook and LinkedIn let you connect with like-minded people who may be interested in your event. You can join existing groups or start your own. Discussion forums are another possibility. It’s important not to spam forums or groups with promotional messages. The only exception is that if you create a group specifically devoted to the event. If the group has a more general topic, however, make sure you offer valuable content. As long as your event is mentioned in your bio or profile, you’ll be indirectly promoting it every time you post in the group.

18. Do Targeted Promoting

While you want to promote your event as a whole, you can also create more targeted promotions for specific features or speakers. Some people register for an event because they’re interested in a certain panel or speaker. Be sure to write blog posts and create other content that targets segments of the event. For example, create social media posts featuring photos of speakers along with quotes.

19. Invite Speakers to Create Event-Related Content

Ask speakers and other presenters to submit a guest post. Suggest that they share it with their followers on social media, by email, and wherever they are active. For speakers who have video channels, ask them to create a short video.

20. Social Media Ads

Facebook Ads allow you to create highly targeted ad campaigns. Retargeting campaigns, which show the ad to people who have already visited your website, can provide a solid return. Depending on your audience, you may also consider other platforms such as Instagram or LinkedIn. You could create sponsored posts about the event, for example.

21. Flyers and Posters

Flyers and posters are a traditional offline marketing tactic that can still work today. One contemporary variation on this is to hire someone on a site such as Fiverr.com to distribute flyers in another location. If it’s a virtual event, you might target several cities. This is another technique that works best if you have a short, memorable domain name.

22. Make Best Use of LinkedIn

If your event has any connection to business or marketing, make sure you promote it on LinkedIn.

• Place a link to the event website (or page on your website). LinkedIn lets you list 3 websites in your profile.

• Make frequent status updates where you mention various event features and presenters.

• Share the event in groups. If you’re not active in groups, join some.

• List the event in your About section (bio). Remember, social media bios can be updated as often as you wish.

23. Create Live Stream Videos

Live streams on Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms are a good way to engage with your audience. You can stream from any location, including your home if everything is being conducted online. You can schedule regular live streams or do them spontaneously whenever you have a chance.

24. Use Text Message Marketing

SMS or text message marketing bridges the gap between online and offline marketing. People take their phones everywhere and are more likely to read text messages right away than emails. In a text, you can convey simple information as well as provide links to your event page. You can ask for people’s mobile numbers on your website’s lead capture form. You may want to make this field voluntary, however, as not everyone will want to provide their number.

25. Create Tiered Pricing

Live events often offer tiered pricing. For example, if it’s a 3-day event, attendees can buy a ticket for 1, 2, or all 3 days. You can offer tickets that cover certain portions of the event. You might create a special online after-party where guests stick around to answer questions. This strategy lets you target people who may not want to attend the entire event as well as those who are ready to splurge for extras.

Get Creative With Your 2021 Events

Even if live events are limited for the foreseeable future, you can pivot and make the most of online events. In some ways, you can get even more leverage out of virtual events as they let you reach a wider and more diverse audience. Keep the above tips in mind and come up with ways to create engaging online events that help you build your audience and grow your business.

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