Repackaging Your Online Events

Have you noticed lately the proliferation of online events in the B2B marketing world… particularly online seminars (a.k.a. “webinars”)?

The fact is, this manner of marketing has virtually exploded, and that means the marketer is faced with a harsh reality: Online events are losing their novelty and achieving mass adoption. The good news is that the acceptance rate is high; the bad news is that the competition is fierce.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to differentiate your online event by reaching precisely the right target audience with your event promotion; aggressively following up with registrants to keep the no-show rate low; and making the event a compelling “can’t miss” experience.

Maybe you need to “package” your event differently, too. And here are some available options:

The Online Trade Show
The online trade show can enhance a live trade show, but it is also now being used to replace live shows. One example of online trade show usage is with a show that is already running as a live event. The show sponsor wants to extend its value to nonattendees, so the sponsor creates a show-specific web site and features some of the recorded content from the live show on the site. If desired, an online trade show could be used as a “hook” for a live trade show, or it could completely replace a live trade show.

The Online Seminar
This is probably the most popular format and the one with the most variations. Online seminars come in the following flavors:

    Scheduled live seminars. A “live” event is held at an appointed time, during which a speaker is heard via a teleconference phone call or audio delivered over the web, while slides are “pushed” over the web. The speaker answers questions asked by participants via telephone or takes questions electronically and answers them via phone, chat, or audio over the web. Audio portions can be recorded digitally and synchronized with the slide show for archiving purposes.

    Scheduled prerecorded seminars. The prerecorded format offers more flexibility in that it can be held more times than the live session, and it doesn’t require the presence of the speaker. It is less flexible in that it does not allow for live interaction. Some presentations mix prerecorded sections with a live question-and-answer period to gain the benefits of both formats.

    On-demand seminars. This type of event offers the most flexibility because it is available to the attendee at any time. Audiovisual content is available on demand. For example, a video of a speaker can be played at any time. It can be appended to an existing web site or run as a special invitation-only seminar or presentation. The on-demand seminar does not include a scheduled session or provide the ability for attendees to ask questions “live” online, except through email. Generally, the content of the on-demand seminar is organized into sections that can be easily navigated, so attendees can move through the seminar at their own pace.

The Online “Webcast”
This event is really a television or radio program broadcast over the Internet. It features a panel discussion or several speakers who offer short presentations, followed by a question-and-answer session, conducted via teleconference.

The Online Conference
The online conference can be anything: a marketing event, user group conference, analyst meeting, press conference, and so on. The Internet is now routinely used for sales meetings and press conferences, and some companies even hold annual meetings online. Online conferences might include multiple seminar-type sessions, as well as chat rooms and other interactive features.

“Crossing Over” With Online Events
A developing trend is the increasing connection between offline and online events. B2B trade shows, for example, are moving toward not just promoting live events on the Internet, but sometimes running live webcasts from the event or posting videos of the event on the web soon after its conclusion. Live seminar programs are also being captured on video and archived for web use.

For example, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) held two live seminars, one on e-commerce and one on email marketing, in several cities during the spring and fall of 2000. Once these seminars were no longer offered live, the DMA sent an email to members promoting the seminars again, this time as online seminars. The DMA adapted the live seminars, added chat rooms so classmates could converse and bulletin boards to connect with the instructors, and offered them as on-demand web events at a 20 percent discount for both.

Whatever you do with your online events, remember… differentiate!

Related reading