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New Directions for Virtual Events

WVU Marketing Horizons New Directions for Virtual Events featuring David Meerman Scott

Early in the pandemic, David Meerman Scott saw marketers struggle to take their in-person events virtual, and concluded that we were approaching the problem from the wrong mindset altogether. He published a 6-minute video explaining the right way to reimagine events for the virtual world. On our podcast, David not only provides a 7-point set of action steps to liven up your virtual and hybrid events, but he also shares what it will take to create the successful events of the future.



Cyndi Greenglass: How have marketers been doing with virtual events and hybrid events?

David Meerman Scott: I’d say a C minus. What people did in the beginning of the pandemic in March, April 2020 is they said, “our event was cancelled in person so let's do it virtually.” They did it just the way they were planning to do it in person, but just stuffed it into a virtual platform, and that doesn’t work. I look back 25 years ago when things moved from the offline world to the online world and the same thing happened. In the early days of the web revolution, advertisers completely missed it –they focused on putting banner ads on websites instead of Google Adwords and social media advertisements. The same thing is happening with virtual events. If you take what you already know about the offline world and try to apply it, it does not work, you have to look at what's possible and change accordingly.

Ruth Stevens: How do you advise clients to get more value out of virtual events?

David Meerman Scott: Make sure to use all the element you can to change things up. I did a virtual event this morning, and the first thing out of my mouth before I said “good morning” was put into chat what you're a fan of. Within 10 seconds of the event starting, there was an interactive element. Within the first 10 minutes, I had the first polling question. Not all virtual platforms have the ability to do polling, but I think most of them do these days. It's a different way of getting interaction, but it's a way that we can learn what everybody else is thinking anonymously. After that, we did a breakout group. Then, I did something that is very unusual and that I almost never see it in a virtual event. I had a surprise guest. I use music and video in my virtual presentations. But every like seven minutes, there was something that broke it up.

Ruth Stevens: Do you have any tips for ideas for the future of virtual events?

David Meerman Scott: What I've done since the very beginning of the pandemic with my slides because I do use slides and my presentation is very, very different from what everybody else does.

Most virtual event platforms have an ability to do what's called share screen. You can share your slides or you can show a video or you can do something like that. It is a horrible thing to do, don't do it. Why? Because when you share your screen, you, the presenter, become a postage stamp in the corner. People get bored to tears seeing a PowerPoint presentation that just goes on with you in the corner. The way that I solved that problem is that I present with a monitor over my shoulder that has the slides on them. I have four cameras, and I switch between four camera angles. The first camera angle is a close up shot where I’m looking directly at the camera. I use that for when I want to make an important point or for Q&A .Then I've got the shot where you can see more of my body it's like from my waist up and then to my right is a large, probably 40 inch or 50 inch TV screen with my slides. My third camera angle is a super wide fisheye camera that's mounted in the corner of the studio, and I use that maybe only once or twice or I just show what my studio looks like. The fourth is 100% the slide. I only use that one typically, when I'm showing a video.

Cyndi Greenglass: How do you measure success? What metrics do you use?

David Meerman Scott: If the goal of the virtual event is to generate sales leads, we need to think about maybe not doing the normal approach to sales leads—you know the normal approach to sales leads is some kind of coercion technique where they say get our free White Paper or click here it's totally free, but it's not totally free because you have to give your personal information you get it. That is a very different approach to generating sales leads than putting on a terrific virtual event where you don't ask anyone to become a sales lead, but instead they subscribe to your email newsletter or they follow you on social media and eventually they learn more about you and want to do business with you. Another metric I love, is how many people leave during your virtual event.

Cyndi Greenglass: Are virtual events going to go away?

David Meerman Scott: I don't think virtual events are going to go away. I also see a hybrid model going forward.

Key Takeaways/Three Little Piggies

  • We need to rethink the metaphor that we're using to enter a new virtual environment and be successful
  • Variety is key. Introduce all kinds of variety into your virtual event and don't be afraid to experiment.
  • We should consider different metrics for success.

Marketing Communications Today presents Horizons, it’s forward-thinking, looking ahead, through the front windshield and beyond, into the marketing future. Join Cyndi and Ruth bi-weekly for new ideas, technologies, tools and strategies that are emerging to help marketers navigate over the marketing horizon.

Meet our guest

David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott spotted the real-time marketing revolution in its infancy and wrote five books about it including The New Rules of Marketing and PR, now in a 7th edition, with more than 400,000 copies sold in English and available in 29 languages from Albanian to Vietnamese.

Now David says the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of superficial online communications. Tech-weary and bot-wary people are hungry for true human connection. Organizations have learned to win by developing what David calls a “Fanocracy” - (the subject of his Wall Street Journal bestseller) - tapping into the mindset that relationships with customers are more important than the products they sell to them.

He is a massive live music fan, having been to 804 live shows since he was 15 years old, is passionate about the Apollo lunar program, and he loves to surf but isn't very good at it.


Meet the hosts

Cyndi Greenglass

Cyndi W. Greenglass is a founding partner and president at Livingston Strategies, a data-informed, strategic consulting firm that helps clients develop, execute, and measure their customer communications with a close focus on results. Cyndi has razor-sharp strategic skills matched by impeccable on-the-ground savvy and tactical abilities. She is an Adjunct Instructor in the Data Marketing Communications online master's degree program from WVU.

Greenglass has twice been named into the Top 100 Influential BTB Marketers by Crain’s BtoB Magazine and was the 2012 CADM Chicago Direct Marketer of the Year. She is a member of the Board of Advisors for BRAND United and has taught, trained and presented at over 50 conferences throughout the world.

Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, for business-to-business clients. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York.

Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the ERA business accelerator in New York City.


Interested in growing your career with a master's degree in Data, Digital or Integrated Marketing Communications? Request more information today!

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