Seven Tips for Hosting a Successful Live or Virtual Customer Event
The saying goes that you need a year to plan a wedding. With all those details to consider—location, invitations, caterer—it takes a lot of preparation and planning to get everything just right.
If you’ve ever put together an event for your customers, you know that the same attention to detail and planning is just as critical. While planning might not take a full year and you won’t have to listen to numerous demo tapes just to find the perfect band, you do need to take time to think through all the different aspects of your event to make it a success.
These days, you can host two types of events: a physical event in a location people can attend or a virtual event online. There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to hold a live or virtual event (or both).
Here are seven tips to help you plan your next event and make sure it’s a huge success for you and your customers…
1. Identify Your Goals and Objectives
What do you want your event to accomplish? Is the event meant to be educational (showcasing information about your company and its products to your customers) or interactive (in which your customers can have one-on-one time with company executives), or both? You need to establish up front what exactly you want to achieve with your event, regardless of whether it’s physical or virtual.
2. Pick the Proper Time
You’ll need to select the right date for your event: if it’s timed with a product or service launch, for instance, make sure that the launch and your event don’t coincide with peak periods or seasonal events–such as holidays or bad winter weather–which could hinder attendance. You should also review competitive events in your industry to make sure that they won’t take place at the same time.
3. Choose Your Location Wisely
Location is key—if it’s a physical event, pick a location that is central for all involved, ensuring that travel is not onerous on the majority of your attendees. In big cities, make sure that parking is easy. You don’t want attendees to show up, only to get frustrated and leave because they can’t find a parking spot. Picking the right location can take a considerable amount of time, as you have to weigh the importance of those factors, while also considering access, facilities, and safety.
In terms of a virtual event, where and how you host it is also key. Do you want to run a WebEx meeting, a webcast, run a Ustream video broadcast, or perhaps host a global TelePresence meeting. Will attendees be able to access replays?
4. Determine the Content
What will attendees experience? Keynote speakers? Product demonstrations? Breakout sessions? You need to establish what the course of events will be–this is particularly important for virtual events, as they allow multiple points of entry for an attendee.
And make sure attendees get something out of the event, aside from a sales pitch. What sort of useful information can you tie into your presentation so attendees are learning something new or being entertained?
A virtual event can often be planned around a physical event, enabling those who are unable to make a trip to a distant location to attend online, and still see keynote speakers by watching a simultaneous webcast. Virtual events can also engage attendees in different ways, employing chats, quizzes, and feeds from sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
5. Don’t Forget Your Budget
The best-laid plans won’t matter if you don’t have the funds to support them. Make sure you establish how much each aspect of your event will cost, and secure those funds up-front. Don’t plan for something if you’re not sure if you can pay for it.
In many cases, Cisco will help you create an event and even help with marketing. (Keep reading for more information.)
6. Get Social
Now that you have the details of your event planned out, use social media to spread the word. Twitter (visit our Twitter blog post for tips), Facebook (check our Facebook post for more info), your company blog, and You Tube (to name just a few) are all invaluable promotion tools.
For example, use your blog to write a post explaining the event, what you’ll be doing, introducing speakers, and any other pertinent information for attendees. If you’re so inclined, you can also create a video to promote the event and embed that on your blog. (Visit our video how-to blog series to learn more about shooting videos.)
Then, send out a tweet with the blog URL and, if you have one, promote the blog your newsletter. You can also put a link in Facebook, too. Ask your friends and colleagues to help spread the word. The promotion possibilities are endless and these are just a couple of ideas.
7. Let Cisco Help
Cisco has a variety of tools and resources to help ensure your live or virtual event is a success. Partner Marketing Central is a platform for partners with tools to help you create campaigns and host both live and virtual events. PMC also offers promotion tools, registration tools, and even offers a variety of templates.
For live events, the NOW van–short for Network on Wheels–allows you to demonstrate Cisco technologies to customers and it’s all on wheels, so there’s no need to go to an office. Check out this video to see what’s inside and get tips from the NOW Van team for throwing your own event.
Those are just a few tips on putting together a successful event, and chances are you might have a few, too. Have you put on an event that wowed your attendees? Have questions about throwing your own event? Be sure to share questions and your tips for a successful event in the comments.