Making Virtual Events Pay

2020 has forced media and events entrepreneurs into a dramatic increase in digital experimentation. No channel has been more talked about than ‘virtual events’. 

Many great successes – and reputation-busting mistakes – have been funded through budgets already committed to or earmarked for in-person events.  

When planning 2021 budgets, clients may well reflect on the ‘big experiment’ that was 2020 and focus ever tighter on ROI for 2021. That’s a trend that was in play long before 2020, supported by the advances in and proliferation of marketing technology. 

So what have we learned from this great experiment?

We know it’s a fool’s errand to try and replicate everything an in-person event does online. Every channel has its nuances, things it does really well and things it does less well, and that’s why there’s a need for multiple channels.

But a more valuable learning is that virtual events, when positioned as part of a broader multichannel solution rather than as a discrete product, are consistently delivering better results for audiences, clients and media owners. 

Dan Loosemore, CMO of DatacenterDynamics, is delivering significant results having adopted a multi-channel approach. Dan and I will be hosting an interactive Think Tank session, Making Virtual Events Pay, on 26th November for attendees of the PPA Independent Publishers Conference 2020

You can register here

Multichannel in 2020, of course, means flexing the many digital channels at our disposal (and it’s fun to see the creative art of Direct Mail (yes, through the post!) making a comeback as part of the mix.

It’s well documented that joining up a campaign across multiple channels, when done well and with the audience in mind, works better. But for many media and events entrepreneurs and indeed clients, it has proven very difficult to fulfil the opportunity. This can be because of skill sets, belief, client needs, or simply an over-reliance on a certain channel for revenue/results; when you have a trade show growing at 10%-15%+ each year and as a client when you are able to deliver some decent ROI from a face to face event, why bother to try something different?

Digital transformation has been at the core of our work this year, helping business owners answer that question and develop an entirely new business model. The result has proven, this isn’t a quick fix whilst the world waits for live events to return – it’s an attractive long term shift. You can check out our workshop on winning digital market share here.

Media owners that are running effective and profitable multichannel operations, know which channel to use at which point, they favour a set playbook or combination of channels and are very clear on where virtual events are best used as part of that bigger solution. They build their solutions around combined strengths of the channels at their disposal, focussing on audience and customer outcomes. There are several points in common:

  1. They truly understand the needs, pain points and buying behaviours of their audience
  2. They construct moments in time to help address those needs and pain points 
  3. They educate sponsors on what part that moment in time will play in influencing the audience and how best to communicate with them 
  4. They join up their data and provide attribution reports after every moment in time to show how this is helping them achieve their goals and impact their marketing/sales pipeline
  5. They use virtual events as a spike to deliver increased results, increase scale and depth of audience data, identify buyer intent and increase the efficacy of their always-on solutions

Virtual events are nothing new for them as part of that mix. The humble webinar, when run as part of a larger campaign, can deliver significant impact. 

The world of digital is evolving very fast, but one thing is becoming clear: if virtual events are treated as a standalone channel like many did with in-person events, entrepreneurs risk leaving significant long term value on the table. 

We’d love to hear from you on how you’re navigating the multichannel approach, and would be happy to share some further learnings we’ve picked up throughout 2020. You can reach me on

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