It’s hard to believe that Influitive Live 2020 was already a month ago! Like many other companies, we had to pivot to a virtual event which brought both opportunities and challenges. While going digital allowed us to engage a global audience of customers and buyers, we wanted to deliver a unique and engaging experience.
In a series of blog articles, we’ll take you behind the scenes of Influitive Live 2020, sharing the successes and lessons learned from hosting a global virtual event. This inaugural post will look at the programming side of things and how we made Influitive Live 2020 one to remember.
Getting the Programming Structure Just Right
There are many ways to structure your event programming and there’s truly no one-size-fits-all approach to it. We considered a few “track” options for the event, ranging from experience level, thought-leadership vs. product-specific sessions, and tying tracks to particular goals and outcomes our attendees may be looking to achieve.
To help us decide we consulted our Voice of the Customer Council, who were presented our preferred option along with an open forum for them to provide their ideas. We also posed some pre-event feedback questions within our customer community, Influitive VIP. We asked pointed questions like, “What three takeaways would you like to see covered at Influitive Live 2020,” and what internal and external speakers they’d like to hear from.
We ultimately decided to structure our program by experience level:
- New to Customer Advocacy and Engagement: Learn how to start a customer advocacy program, discover and nurture customers into advocates, and increase customer engagement.
- Experienced at Customer Advocacy and Engagement: Advanced session topics targeted at those who have been running advocacy programs for more than one year.
- Customer Advocacy and Engagement Executives: Sessions dedicated to Executives overseeing advocacy programs and share in its business value.
Attendees were then awarded points for selecting their sessions ahead of time.
Ultimately, these tracks weren’t as clear as we would have liked. For a multitude of reasons, attendees would flip between all three tracks, demonstrating that experience level is more subjective than objective.
The lesson learned? Creating clearly defined tracks makes it easier for attendees to select sessions that better align with their learning goals and needs, ultimately making more informed decisions. In hindsight, a more goal-oriented or use case track approach would have created more clearly defined journeys for our attendees.
Go Live or Pre-record?
There are certainly pros and cons to both approaches. We took the unique approach of having many of our sessions pre-recorded alongside live speaker Q&A during the scheduled session slot. At an in-person event, you may be one of the lucky few who gets to ask a speaker question, if time is even allotted for that. We received a lot of positive customer feedback on this set-up, as it gave every attendee the opportunity to connect with our speakers in real-time. Pre-recording allowed us to work with customers across the globe and provided ample time for Q&A. This format also allowed us to reward attendees with points and badges for viewing a session and for asking questions during Q&A. That said, we did run a few sessions live, such as our Live Product Deep-Dive sessions, which were essentially product feature demos with live Q&A.
The lesson learned here was to ensure attendees understand explicitly which sessions are happening live and which will be pre-recorded. Attendees can better plan their conference agenda and prioritize which sessions they’d like to attend to ask questions live versus sessions they can review on-demand.
Keep it Brief and Vary the Format Types
Session length is important to consider in a digital setting. We kept all sessions under 30 minutes to ensure content was concise and to keep our attendees engaged throughout. After all, virtual conferences require a lot of screen time, so keeping it light will help reduce information overload and burnout. In each session, we aimed for 20 minutes of speaking time and 10 minutes of Q&A.
We also leveraged a variety of formats such as fireside chat (interview style), presentations, panel discussions alongside customer-led roundtable discussions. We also recruited a mix of customer, service partner and external speakers resulting in a mixture of thought-leadership and peer-to-peer learning content.
Based on internal and attendee feedback, this length of time was well-received. That said, we plan to run future roundtable-type discussions for a full hour as that gives participants ample time to fully dive into a particular topic.
Bringing Engaging Offline Experiences, Online
In-person conferences offer a lot more than just sessions. You’ll often find networking spaces, exhibit halls with vendor booths and so much more. How can you best translate this in a virtual setting?
Pre-event, we created icebreaker spaces for attendees to introduce themselves and share where they were tuning in from. We also allowed attendees to enter private discussion spaces divided into marketing, customer success and customer experience. We also had live caricature drawings the week leading up to and then during the event, which created a nice social share opportunity while providing a nice digital gift for attendees.
During the event, we hosted a number of live events including customer-led roundtable discussions, a virtual happy hour with trivia, and a live closing keynote to announce all contest winners from throughout the event. These unique events were tied together through a gamified experience as attendees could earn points and badges for registering and attending them. Further, they could earn points for starting a discussion in our networking spaces. Lastly, we made the decision to have a virtual emcee throughout the event, which is not uncommon for an in-person event. This added another layer of personalization.
Our advice? Include networking opportunities whenever possible. Attendees crave connection so ensure you’re maximizing those opportunities using video conferencing solutions and/or discussion forums.
In our next article, we’ll take a deeper look at how we leveraged gamification and rewards to deliver a virtual event that was not only rewarding but budget-friendly.