There are ten thousand tweets sent every second. A billion Facebook Stories are posted every day. 9 billion content impressions in the LinkedIn feed every week. How are we supposed to create a plan for virtual event marketing that actually stands out from all of that noise?
How do we build buzz and excitement for our virtual event sufficient to drive registrations and accomplish our goals?
Video is the answer. Specifically, a video-first strategy that leverages psychological triggers, beats the algorithms, and fuels our entire virtual event marketing plan.
Ready to learn how? That’s what we’re covering, in today’s episode of The Virtual Event Strategist podcast.
After a fifteen hour air travel day from St. Louis, Missouri to Honolulu, Hawaii, with my wife, a four year old, and an infant, all we wanted to do was pile into the rental car and get to our beachfront AirBnB to start relaxing.
But there was one more major hurdle to overcome.
As we made our way down the exit ramp from the plane, we collected our stroller and loaded up baby and a disproportionate amount of baby supplies, then headed into the belly of the Honolulu airport beast, preparing to do battle. Surrounded by fellow gladiators, we marched wearily to the front lines of the fight and stood, row upon row of infantry waiting to charge, waiting for whatever came out of that black, gaping maw, waiting as a steady stream of black luggage spewed violently out.
Once you’ve built out a plan for your virtual event and assembled the agenda, speakers, virtual event platform, and other details, it’s time to put together a marketing plan and start promoting the event.
In our first episode of this season, we reviewed how important it is to have a virtual event marketing plan and strategy in place, and the most important elements of that strategy. From determination of message, to listing out all channels and assets, taking the time to build out that plan will ensure that your launch campaign is a success.
And as promised, the rest of this season will dive deep into specific aspects of virtual event marketing that you need to know about, starting with video.
I’m going to frame for you why video marketing is so important, and how it is the perfect approach for virtual event marketing. I’m going to outline for you a variety of options and channels for using video and, by the end of this episode, you’re going to walk away with powerful ideas on how you, too, will be able to use video to drive event registrations and results.
Let’s start with what video actually does for us.
Why Use Video For Virtual Event Marketing
One of the core concepts within NLP is the importance of building rapport with other individuals, whether that’s in a one-on-one coaching session, or while presenting in a one-to-many situation. When you build rapport with others, you create an emotional and psychological connection which engages them. As you establish and strengthen the level of rapport between you and your audience, it becomes increasingly likely that their engagement will evolve into higher levels of interest and understanding.
In other words, you move them toward know, like and trust. And that’s essential for achieving desired business outcomes. People buy from people they know and trust.
As an NLP certified practitioner, I know a variety of techniques I can employ to build rapport with you, and one of our favorites is matching and mirroring. Mirroring is based on automatic mimicry.
Automatic mimicry refers to unconscious or automatic imitation of movement. It is a critical part of human social interaction because it is closely tied to the formation of relationships and feeling of empathy. Automatic mimicry occurs when two or more individuals engage in the same behavior within a short window of time such as facial expressions or laughter. If you’ve ever yawned because you saw someone else yawn, you’ve engaged in automatic mimicry!
When we smile, we communicate joy and happiness and that encourages others to not only smile in return, but also reflect the same feelings associated with that movement.
Even more powerful than that is eye contact. In order to achieve eye contact, it requires that both you and your audience are actively looking directly at each other. This is referred to as mutual gaze, and it’s powerful because it’s synchronous, and capable of communicating both emotional and mental states. Without uttering a word, you and another individual can communicate that you are attending to the other.
A skilled presenter will put themselves in a trainer state and harness their emotions and energy to project, through their body movements and eyes in particular, the emotional response they wish from their audience.
Imagine if I were to walk on stage to talk to you right now and if, at first, I walked up with my head down, looking at the floor, and a frown on my face. Think about how such an entrance might make you feel.
Now, imagine if I walked on stage with my head held up, smiling from ear to ear, looking directly at you with eyes bright. How would that make you feel?
Understanding the impact and potential we have as communicators through body language and directed attention is a powerful tool for both presenters and marketers. Live stream video creators have known all along how incredibly effective their video content is for building audience interest and engagement – whether they knew why or not.
Interestingly, the effectiveness of mutual gaze is one of the subtle benefits of virtual events over in-person events. When I am literally standing on a stage speaking to a packed room of attendees, they can all look at me, but my vision and focus is limited to only a few at a time. As I shift my gaze around the room, I can make eye contact with small groups of attendees each moment. But at no time can I achieve mutual gaze with the entire room at once! Whomever is in my peripheral vision is out of focus and out of mutual gaze. However, if I am presenting on a virtual stage and looking at my camera, every single attendee who looks at me will feel as though we are looking at each other. I can achieve and hold mutual gaze for the entire length of my presentation if I desire.
This, then, is the primary reason why video is such an essential and effective part of virtual event marketing. Through video, you can simulate a face-to-face conversation with each member of your audience, at scale, and begin to build rapport and interest with them for your event.
The secondary reason why video is important has to do with the social networks themselves. While YouTube content must, by necessity, be video, the other networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn offer a choice of video, image or text. While there are always trends and changes, the overwhelming and underlying truth is that video content tends to perform best. You will get more engagement and reach a wider audience when you share video.
What’s fascinating is that it’s due to the first reason we use video. People watch video of other people because it is engaging. We like having emotional and psychological connections to other people.
But that means that given the choice of a video with people and video that, say, uses animation or slides… the video with people should be chosen. It’s ok to mix formats and media, but video content that has no people representing your brand will not resonate as strongly with your audience and, therefore, will not perform as well.
The third and final reason for using video in your virtual event marketing is that it can be repurposed far more dynamically than other content.
When we talk about repurposing in marketing, and it’s a tactic I will mention often throughout this entire series, what I’m referring to is taking an initial piece of content, whether that’s a video interview or a podcast or a blog post, and finding additional ways to change and use that content in marketing.
I am not talking about distribution. Sharing a blog post to Twitter is not repurposing. That’s simply being a smart marketer and making sure your content is pushed to your available channels and audience. If, however, you pull a quote from that blog post and create a quote graphic from it that you share to social media and elsewhere, that is repurposing.
You can turn blog posts into eBooks. You can create audiograms out of podcasts using Headliner. There are dozens of ways that you can repurpose content into new formats and mediums to reach different audiences. However, if you do not start with video, then you either end up needing to shoot video anyways if you want YouTube content, TikToks, Reels, etc. Or you limit yourself and omit those channels entirely. If you have a video file initially, you can leverage Descript to create a blog post and transcript, and now you’re off and running.
To take this concept further, we’ve established that video with a person or people on camera is superior to video without. If you broadcast your video as a live stream to social media, you gain the added benefit of real-time audience engagement and interaction. Again, audiences may not be aware of what’s happening and why they’re interested psychologically, but the social network algorithms all understand the draw of live people on camera, and help to push greater audiences into your live streams. Therefore, you can potentially start with a live video stream and then after that broadcast is finished, take that entire video and repurpose it into smaller clips, a blog post, podcast, quote graphics and more.
This is what we refer to as a Video-First Strategy, and I strongly recommend it.
And trust me… this is coming from a writer!! I’m much happier blogging than being on camera, but even I’ve seen how much more effective video and live video content is.
Video Format Options for Virtual Event Marketing
So how does one go about actually creating and utilizing video content for virtual event marketing? What are the options and channels?
We’ve touched on one important consideration already, whether it’s a live broadcast or not. What’s cool here is that the kind of video you want to create could be live or recorded – that’s up to you. You can record an interview just as easily as broadcast it, and you can also stream highly produced and crafted video content if you prefer.
My recommendation is that if it’s new content, not video that’s been clipped from another video, and longer than four or five minutes, strongly consider a live stream.
This is where tools like Ecamm, StreamYard, Restream and Wave.video are extremely helpful. With these live video solutions you can utilize a virtual studio to manage your broadcast, bring in one or more guests, and have pre-recorded video segments available to stream. As a live producer, or with the help of a remote live producer, you will be able to see and manage comments and ensure that the host of the show is able to engage with those viewers directly.
Another option to consider is whether you will create your video in landscape or portrait mode, or at least frame the subject of the video centrally so that it’s possible to crop a vertical segment. This is a key point if you want to leverage TikTok, Reels, YouTube Shorts, or even Pinterest, in your video marketing. It’s certainly possible to position a horizontal video within a vertical frame, but this typically results in a lot of non-video space above and below the video content which is not ideal.
Which means it’s also important to consider your primary and secondary intended channels for the video. If it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube, those channels will require 16:9 landscape video. Instagram requires square video for the feed or, like TikTok, vertical video for Reels. Perhaps the video is primarily for your website, or for ads or emails – whatever the intended initial purpose, let that guide how you proceed.
Video Ideas for Virtual Event Marketing
Once you have decided your approach to video and your intended channels, now you are ready to consider what the content and style of the videos should be. And here you have many, many options.
You should definitely have a promotional video that shares information about who your event is for and how they’ll benefit from attending. This is the kind of video which can be shared to social media as part of a launch campaign, embedded on the event website, and inserted as a segment into other live streams and videos you utilize throughout your campaign. While the typical teaser video may be one that’s highly produced, with music, animations, jump cuts, and a lot of info packed into 30 seconds, you might be wondering how you can pull that off with a limited budget.
Video tools like inVideo and Wave.video have templates you can utilize and customize to fit your brand colors and event style to create a short announcement video easily. But there’s nothing that says you can’t simply film a video yourself! This could be a well-produced in-studio recording, or just video from your iPhone.
Remember how, earlier, we talked about how important mutual gaze is and how video is excellent at building rapport – the kind of rapport you’d like to have when you’re telling people about your event and trying to interest them into clicking a link to learn more and sign up. Well, there’s nothing more authentic than simply recording from your phone. As long as the audio is great and the video is ok, it will serve the same purpose! People will be more interested in what you have to say than whether or not it’s a highly produced and branded stream.
It definitely takes an ounce of courage to go live, particularly without safety nets of a familiar environment and additional gear to make us look professional. Before it’s time for your launch, spend a few days going live privately from your phone from different locations and get used to it. Get a feel for the controls, where to position your arm and phone, how to talk to the camera, and so on. Believe me, if you can condition yourself to be able to go live on the go to, say, Instagram, that will be a valuable skill.
Behind The Scenes
Because another option for video content is behind the scenes! If you’re running and hosting this event, you’re in the best position to hop on a live and start sharing what you’re working on or what you’re excited about. You can tease the event overall or specific details. You can show off specific topics or aspects or sessions, or even talk about some of your struggles and how you’ve pivoted or overcome them. All of which will be interesting to your audience and additional rapport-building opportunities.
Live Stream Interviews
One of my favorite video marketing techniques to promote your virtual summit is to live stream interviews with speakers. These are opportunities to introduce your speakers to your audience, tee up what they’ll be talking about and frame them as a true authority, and start the process of enabling them to build rapport with your audience. These live streams could be to your main brand channels, or perhaps limited to a specific community, like a Facebook Group, that you’re fostering in tandem with your event.
The cool part is, these live streams do not have to be long. You’ll start with a brief introduction as soon as you’re live about who you are, what the event is, and who you’re talking to today. Bring the speaker on, say hi to each other, then have a standard set of a few questions you want to ask them, such as how they got into their field, what their talk is about, and why they’re passionate about that topic. And as they answer, you can listen for follow-up questions or comments, and pay attention to the viewing audience for any questions they may have. All you really need is a small handful of live viewers to have a really fun and engaging conversation that transcends your virtual studio. And the best part is that, once you’re done, within that 30 minute interview you’ll likely have a one-minute clip you can take out where the speaker is describing their topic – the perfect ad for their session and your virtual event.
Two similar approaches are to live stream keynote reveals, and to host VIP Q&A sessions.
The Keynote Reveal simply means that when you launch your event, you keep one or two of the top names and sessions hidden. Or perhaps they aren’t even known to you yet! Either way is fine… the end result is that at some point you are able to do a live interview where initially your guest is off camera and a secret, and then you bring them on and introduce them to your audience. Obviously this is most effective when the guest is a macro influencer or celebrity in your field, such as a well-known author. Once revealed, the rest of the interview would proceed just like any other speaker interview.
With a VIP Q&A session, this is more of a moderated chat and is typically restricted to a community or perhaps even upgraded ticket holders. You might have some prepared questions for the speaker but the point of the session is to allow your audience to ‘pick their brain’ for half an hour and get tremendous, personal value out of the segment.
One final idea for video that you can employ to promote your virtual event is to utilize past sessions, if you have them. If you’ve run this event or versions of it in the past, and have recorded sessions from other speakers that may be different topics but represent the kind of information your audience can expect to receive in your upcoming event, share those. Specifically, I recommend finding a clip of no more than five to seven minutes where that previous event speaker was delivering some particularly valuable nuggets of information. Edit and brand the snippet and make sure it has the logo and CTA for your upcoming event, then share that to all of your social channels. This could also be a segment during a live video, perhaps even a show where you and a guest, or perhaps the original speaker, introduce the segment, air the recorded snippet, then reconvene on camera to talk about it and the upcoming event.
All of these ideas and video formats can be leveraged for virtual event marketing in a variety of ways. I’ve just shared a few ideas with you and I know as you’ve been listening, you’ve been thinking about these ideas and ones of your own! That’s terrific. Include these techniques and whatever ideas you have in your virtual event marketing plan that you started working on after listening to the first episode in this season and series. And don’t wait to get started on your videos!
Wait… like when I was standing in Honolulu, waiting for my family’s luggage. As the pieces poured out of the conveyor belt, finally, first one family then another lunged forward to jerk their heavy baggage off the clanking metal train then struggle to check that yes, it was in fact theirs, thanks to a dangling confirming piece of flimsy paper.
But despite the fact that virtually every roller and suitcase that slid down that moving belt was black and identical, we weren’t worried. We weren’t concerned in the slightest that our luggage would blend in with all that sameness. And sure enough, after a few moments there was a flash of orange that my daughter was the first to glimpse and exclaim, there, daddy! Two large orange suitcases that glared like the summer sun on the blue horizon strolled round the bend and came to my waiting hands. I smiled knowingly at my fellow passengers as I removed them with narry a glance at the tags.
There was no denying that these were our pieces of luggage, that they’d stand out in any crowd.
They weren’t shaped differently, constructed with any particularly special material. They weren’t even a name brand. But we’d chosen a strategy when purchasing that set of luggage that we knew, or rather, my wife knew, would easily set them apart.
Consider what that might be for your video marketing. How can you do something different with your strategy, something all of the other virtual events in your space aren’t already doing?
That’s the difference that will make the difference.
SaaS brands who are looking to leverage a virtual event this year to explode their sales pipeline know that if they really want to explore a successful difference, they need the help of a virtual event strategist. If you’re ready to ensure your event is a Sold Out Summit, let’s talk.
In our next episode, we’re going to spend our time together talking about social media marketing. We’ve certainly touched on that today with how to leverage live video broadcasts to social media, and so on. But there’s a lot more to social media when it comes to virtual event marketing, including hashtags, listening, promotional frameworks, driving conversations, building community, and more! This is a must-listen episode for every brand, so be sure to hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss it.
Talk to you soon.
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