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virtual events

4 Virtual Sales Kickoff (SKO) Planning Questions To Ensure a Fulfilling Experience [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

An annual sales kickoff (SKO) is possibly the most critical meeting your sales organization holds all year. Companies often spare no expense to host an extravagant offsite event that rallies the sales team, fine-tunes their sales strategies for the coming year, and empowers them to crush their goals. 

This year’s sales kickoff will look different for many organizations, though, with many face-to-face meetings being canceled in favor of safer, distanced gatherings. However, don’t let the absence of an in-person connection discourage you. 

A virtual SKO can still achieve the goals of your previously in-person annual sales meeting, with the potential to further benefit your team given the advantages of a digital meeting. That is, of course, if you know the do’s and don’ts of planning a virtual SKO.

Let’s explore how to effectively host an online SKO that delights your salespeople and positions your sales team for success through the year. 

What is a Virtual Sales Kickoff?

A sales kickoff is an annual event where companies unveil their sales goals and build excitement within their sales team. A sales kickoff is designed to unify your sales organization and empower everyone in a customer-facing position to support your brand and drive sales.

A virtual SKO will feature many of the same discussions, activities, and elements as your in-person SKO. However, you cannot create an effective virtual SKO by filming your usual sales kickoff elements and posting the videos on a shared platform for your salespeople to view. Instead, you must think of this as a virtual-first experience, keeping in mind virtual event engagement best practices.

In-person sales kickoffs can be as short as a few hours or span an entire week at some of the world’s largest organizations. Within a digital environment, however, you need to offer a diverse array of activities, at differing lengths, to fight off potential video call fatigue and keep your attendees engaged. 

Who Should be Invited to a Virtual Sales Kickoff?

Smart organizations understand that every team member, regardless of role or department, can help or hinder the company’s ability to sell to its ideal customers. The best customer-focused solutions arise when cross-departmental teams combine their knowledge, align their efforts, and chart a path for success.

Your virtual SKO should not be limited to your sales organization’s members. Instead, include an array of employees who regularly partner with and support your sales team to foster a well-rounded discussion and benefit multiple teams’ needs.

Ensure that you invite all of the following attendees to your SKO:

  • Sales managers/leaders: Your salespeople will be most familiar with the sales leaders on your team, and these leaders usually have the most prominent role in planning and hosting the SKO. Strategically build on their individual relationships and influence to strengthen camaraderie during the event. 
  • C-Suite executives: It’s one thing to have sales leadership discuss what salespeople need to know. However, it is much more impactful to have your C-suite leadership discuss their goals for the year during the kickoff. Their presence also reinforces the importance of the meeting and can serve as a key culture-building opportunity.
  • Product managers: The people who lead your product development should join the SKO. They can discuss the product roadmap, explain how these new features or updates are designed to help customers, and answer questions from the sales team. The SKO also provides a valuable opportunity for the product team to get feedback from sales and customers that can help prioritize product improvements.
  • Customer success managers: Anyone with a direct customer-facing position can provide a wealth of knowledge about the challenges a company’s customers face post-sale. Invite a few customer success managers or the head of Customer Success to join the event and discuss how the company can better support its customers through their entire lifecycle.
  • Marketing leadership: Multiple marketing team members are essential for sales enablement. Product marketing can help make sure that sales teams have the collateral and product benefits information to succeed in the sales process, while also keeping up to speed on sales initiatives. The content marketing team in particular can help solve many customer challenges and help sales overcome prospect objections. Partner with the marketing team to understand their goals for the sales kickoff and craft an agenda that will help break silos and uplevel strategic priorities for the sales team that can also benefit marketing. 
  • External thought leaders/guest speakers: Everyone on this list so far has been inside your organization. However, many SKOs feature thought leaders such as authors or motivational speakers and industry experts or analysts who can lend a brand-neutral perspective and share their expertise or drive team motivation in ways that your sales leaders simply cannot. 
  • Partner team leaders: If your company has brand partnerships, strategic alliances with other organizations, or is deeply enmeshed in partner or reseller ecosystems, invite representatives who are close to these partnerships — or even the partner liaison themselves— to explain how they can assist the sales team in meeting their goals.
  • Customers: Your SKO content will talk a lot about your customers, so why not let them have a seat at the table? Pick a few high-profile, deeply satisfied customers who can join panel discussions or provide case study examples of why they love using your product or service, ways that the sales organization has helped them succeed, and what they look for when making purchasing decisions. 

4 Questions to Guide Your Virtual SKO Planning

Now that you have a clear understanding of what a virtual SKO is and who should be involved, you can start planning the kickoff.

There are four key questions you should ask to effectively plan an online SKO:

What is our goal for the SKO?

Like any company event or activation, you need to determine what success looks like. Set three to four clear goals to help guide your planning. As we’ve discussed, sales kickoffs are vital for communicating the coming year’s sales goals, strengthening your team’s ability to sell, and building camaraderie. Have your SKO planning committee align on their top priorities for the event to then guide the rest of the planning. 

For example, if employee professional development is the primary goal for the event, then you can focus on providing educational sessions and identifying the skills that are vital for sales success. Or, you may prioritize employee retention and craft an agenda that focuses on individual employee needs and addressing their concerns. 

How will we measure the success of our SKO?

After your SKO is done, how will you know if you’ve met your goals? These measurement opportunities can extend well after your SKO is finished, such as measuring the number of material downloads one month, three months, and six months after the event. It is also important to understand what tracking systems you need to implement to effectively measure your success.

What tools do we need to achieve these goals?

Once you have your ideal list of goals, you can assess what tools and resources you will need for the SKO. This includes deciding your must-have features for a virtual SKO platform, such as the ability to live-stream sessions or offer pre-recorded content, as well as features like attendee profiles or nonverbal reactions during sessions. 

What is our SKO budget?

Now that you have a general idea of what you want to accomplish with your SKO, what you’ll need to pull it off, and how you’ll measure your success, it’s time to think through finances. Assess what budget you can work with to then refine some of your goals if needed.

Build a Complete Virtual SKO Experience on Social hour

After your team addresses the above planning considerations, you are ready to design your online SKO experience. Fine-tune your kickoff by following these 12 SKO planning tips and best practices.

At a time when employee concerns are potentially at an all-time high, it’s vital for you to provide an excellent sales kickoff. If you rush the planning or hastily pick a platform solely on price, you could fail to engage your sales reps, which hurts your chances of meeting your team’s goals.

Rally your team on Social hour to maximize your chance for success this year. Learn more about why we’re an ideal virtual sales kickoff platform.

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virtual events

10 Activities for a More Festive Virtual Holiday Party [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

The holidays are just around the corner! Is your team planning a workplace holiday celebration?

Although many work holiday parties were curtailed in 2020, teams now have a much better understanding of how to host a fulfilling online team event—and that includes the classic workplace holiday party.

To help your company plan an online holiday party that your team will actually want to attend, let’s explore how you can adapt 10 common holiday party activities for a virtual setting. 

Online Workplace Holiday Party Activity Ideas

Before you get too far in your holiday party planning, be sure to talk to your team and understand what they are looking for in a virtual holiday celebration. Gauge the ideal day, time, and length of the party, as well as what activities everyone is interested in and how they’d like to celebrate the season with each other. 

While there certainly should be some element of mystery or holiday surprise, you should gently gather the key information to guide your virtual holiday party planning. 

Consider adding any of these activities to the lineup to make your virtual holiday party one that your team will love:

Cookie Swap

What says “I appreciate you” more than a homemade or gourmet bakery cookie? Cookie swaps are a holiday-time favorite, and you can easily host a virtual cookie swap during your workplace holiday party. 

Depending on how dispersed your team is, you can approach this a few different ways:

  • The most straightforward option is to encourage your team members to bake or buy their seasonal favorites and drop them off with a local team member. This person will collect everyone’s baked goods and then mail them out or drop them off. However, this idea works best if your team primarily works out of the same city.
  • Alternatively, your team can share holiday cookie recipes for everyone to bake before the party. Then, you can spend a portion of the get-together discussing everyone’s recipes, sharing a story associated with each recipe, and enjoying the baked goods. This option is a perfect one if you have team members with special dietary needs or food allergies.

Cooking or Other DIY Classes

A hands-on cooking lesson or similar crafting or do-it-yourself class—like painting, soap making, or creating air plant terrariums—is a naturally engaging activity for your workplace holiday party. If a member of your team is an outstanding chef with a holiday recipe they’d love to share or a hands-on crafter, ask if they would like to host or co-host the class. Alternatively, you can hire a professional chef or crafter to lead the online activity. If you choose to host this yourself, first determine what DIY activity your team is most interested in and then mail the supplies to them ahead of your party. 

Gingerbread Decorating Kits

Do you want a casual activity for everyone to work on as they celebrate the holidays? Host a gingerbread decorating party or competition! Mail gingerbread decorating kits to your team, and have everyone work on their houses throughout the online holiday party. You can create breakout rooms for people to rotate through as they catch up with their colleagues, show off their gingerbread creations, and get some well-deserved catching-up time.

Holiday Virtual Happy Hour 

Who’s ready for drinks?! Traditional in-person holiday parties often feature fun and festive drinks for everyone to enjoy. Mail your team non-alcoholic supplies (branded Yeti wine tumblers make a nice gift) plus a BevMo, Costco, or similar gift card for them to purchase alcohol or other beverages. Create recipe cards that explain how to make a few seasonal drinks. Bonus points if your team submits their seasonal favorites for everyone to try! If you need ideas, check out this list of 50 holiday cocktails or these 15 holiday mocktail recipes.

Tabletop Game or Card Game

Sometimes the best holiday party games are the most simple. Consider hosting a tabletop game or a card game for everyone to play in breakout groups. There are 12 potential board games to play in this article, while PlayingCards.io is one option for hosting a virtual card game. 

Trivia Game

Trivia is perfect for an online holiday party. Create breakout rooms in your virtual holiday party platform so that each team can collaborate. Designate one spokesperson from each team to share answers, or create Google Forms that teams will submit their answers through. You can host any theme for this trivia. You can keep it holiday-focused with a theme like classic holiday movies, name that holiday tune, or holidays around the world. Or you can explore any theme that will delight your team (and you can ask them during your pre-event planning conversations). 

Scavenger Hunt 

A virtual scavenger hunt can be a high-energy activity for teams, especially if there is a prize to win. Create a list of items that most of your team members should have at home, including some obscure or lesser-found items. Read off the item and ask everyone to go grab that item if they have it. Whoever returns the fastest wins.

Another way you can approach this game is to deliver a series of clues that will take your team across the internet or throughout locations in their homes. Then, give them 10 minutes to work through the list and take a photo or screenshot of what they think each clue is referencing. 

“Ugly Sweater” Contest

It’s not the holidays without a holiday sweater contest. Make your online workplace holiday party a little extra special by encouraging everyone to dress to a theme. Designate a portion of your party for everyone to show off their costumes. You can designate a “winner” based on team votes (just don’t let people vote for themselves).

Virtual Escape Room

Escape rooms skyrocketed in popularity over the past couple of years, especially as a go-to team-building activity. Now, you can host a virtual escape room, too! Check out this article for 24 possible rooms to explore, with details on pricing for each. 

Virtual Holiday Party Gift Exchange

A staple of most workplace holiday celebrations is the gift exchange. No matter how your team usually describes its gift-giving—Secret Santa, White Elephant, homemade gifts only—you can easily host a gift exchange during an online holiday party.

Provide pre-paid shipping labels to your team and set a deadline of no longer than 2 weeks before your party for team members to ship their gifts. During the event, take time for everyone to open their gifts, potentially in small-group breakouts if you have many people attending the party. 

Pick a Virtual Holiday Party Platform That Puts Your Team At The Heart of the Experience

The 10 ideas we explored are just a few thought starters for hosting an engaging virtual holiday party. Consider these activities when discussing your holiday party plans with your team and gauging what they would like to do. 

Throughout your planning, remember the true purpose of an online workplace holiday party: to celebrate your team and provide an optional space to come together.

If you force everyone to attend your holiday party only to maroon them in a sub-par online meeting platform, their holiday spirits will instantly dampen. You need to pick an online event platform that gives your team the flexibility they need to hop in and out of rooms, network in small-group settings, and occasionally join as a full team for any announcements from your leadership (are bonuses on the horizon?).

We’ve built Social hour to host engaging online holiday parties for teams of all sizes. Our platform allows you to create fully customizable holiday events with networking spaces, full-group discussion spaces, and intuitive features that your team will love. Book a demo to see how easy it is to host your holiday party with Social hour.

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virtual events

How to Throw a Virtual Holiday Party Your Employees Will Love [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

What will company holiday parties look like in 2021? 

Despite an initial revival of in-person events this year, few tech companies will host in-person holiday celebrations in an effort to protect the health of their teams. Instead, more brands will host virtual holiday parties this year, in which the usual festivities like a gift exchange, holiday games, and company messages are coordinated through an online event platform—and we expect to see some incredibly inventive celebrations.

To help you adapt your company holiday party for an online environment, let’s explore how to host a virtual holiday party that your team will actually want to join. 

How to Plan a Virtual Workplace Holiday Party in Seven Steps

We recommend you start planning your virtual holiday party at least three weeks out from your potential party date. If you have less time than that, though, don’t worry—these seven steps will fast-track your ability to plan an engaging online holiday party for your team.

Step 1: Designate a Lead

Just like any other event planning process for your team, you should designate one person to oversee the holiday party planning process. In most cases, this will be a member of your human resources or executive support teams.

This event planning lead will help manage deadlines, pull in team support as needed, and partner with various departments to gain the necessary approvals and resources (like a budget). 

If you are designated the lead for your holiday party planning—don’t worry, it’s easier than you might think, and you don’t have to do everything yourself. Which leads us to our next step…

Step 2: Form a Holiday Party Planning Committee

Depending on the size of your company, the holiday planning lead should create a committee with at least one or two other team members. Again, these team members will most likely be from human resources or administrative support teams, because they typically have experience with workplace event planning.

However, encourage any member of your team to join the committee if they would like to. The holiday season may be the favorite time of year for some of your colleagues, and they can infuse a natural excitement and sense of delight into your planning.

Step 3: Survey Your Team’s Holiday Party Wishes

Do you want to know the not-so-secret way to ensure you host a great workplace holiday party? Use feedback from your team members to guide your planning.

The worst way to throw a holiday party is to force everyone to attend at an assigned day and time that they had no influence in choosing, especially if it is after normal business hours. 

Create a quick survey for your team through Google Forms or your preferred surveying tool. At a minimum, cover these essential areas:

  • Would you like to attend a company holiday party? Or would you prefer time off, a holiday bonus, or a charitable gift in your name instead?
  • What are your ideal days of the week and times for a holiday party?
  • What days or times can you not attend a holiday party?
  • Are you interested in a voluntary company-wide gift exchange or similar activity?
  • What would you like to do at the virtual holiday party? Select your top 3 preferences:
    • Open conversation with colleagues in a large group setting
    • Open conversation with colleagues in small-groups
    • Structured, longer group activities 
    • Short, high-energy activities that take just a few minutes each
    • Gift exchange
    • Hands-on cooking or crafting class
    • Other (please explain):
  • Is there anything else we should know to make this event great for you? 

In addition to your survey results, have 1:1 conversations with team members to further explore their hopes for the holiday party. All of this information will help you understand how many team members will attend, gather ideas for the best virtual holiday party activities to host, and the technical requirements to accomplish them.

Step 4: Pick a Virtual Holiday Party Platform

The technology you choose to host your virtual holiday party can easily make or break the experience. Keep your attendee wishes top-of-mind as you explore options, and find a solution that enables your attendees to meaningfully connect and mingle. 

You will ask many questions similar to what you’d ask when picking an ideal virtual conference platform, including:

  • What type of customization is available?
  • How many attendees can this platform support?
  • Does the price scale with attendance?
  • Are there custom breakout rooms for attendees to network? Is there a limit to the number of these rooms?
  • Are there built-in networking components?

Step 5 (Optional): Designate a Theme

If desired, you can now pick a theme for your holiday party to influence the activities you host (we’ll dive into that next), what your team will wear, and how you design your invitations.

A theme is a “nice-to-have” element that is completely optional. If this is your first year hosting a virtual holiday party, it may be best to skip the theme and focus solely on meeting the needs of your attendees (unless a theme is a must-have for them). 

If you’re looking for inspiration on what theme to pick for a holiday workplace party, this article has a handful of themes and activities you can explore.

Step 6: Build an Agenda of Activities

This is where the real fun happens! Now that you have everyone’s feedback in-hand, and know what functionality is available to you, your holiday party planning committee can determine your holiday party’s activities.

Save the first 10 minutes of your holiday party for everyone to log-in and get familiarized with the platform. Then, kick off your celebration with a brief welcome from a member of your company leadership or your holiday party planning committee.

Depending on how long your party is and what your team has expressed in your pre-event conversations, you should offer a combination of open networking rooms and structured activities to appeal to the range of your team’s needs.

To help you, we’ve created a list of 10 workplace virtual holiday party games that work great online, with details on how to approach each of them. 

Step 7: Invite team members

You’re almost there! The last step to planning a holiday party is to get the word out to your team.

Ideally, you should send emails to each employee to personally invite them to the holiday party. Include the date, time, and log-in instructions, as well as any details about the series of events and how they should prepare. Send a calendar invitation to all team members once the email invitations are sent. 

Ask everyone to RSVP as soon as they know whether or not they can attend. Follow up with anyone you have not heard back two days after sending your initial email and invitations. 

Throw Your Best Holiday Party Ever on Social hour

By using feedback from your teammates to build your virtual holiday party experience, you are more likely to host an event that your team will genuinely love.

If this is your first time hosting a virtual holiday party, do not stress about making the experience perfect. Instead, focus on opportunities to celebrate your team and enable them to connect with one another in the capacity of their choosing.

We’ve built Social hour to support holiday parties for teams of any size, with fully customizable spaces that give your employees the flexibility and freedom they deserve at your party. Learn more about what makes Social hour the ideal platform for virtual workplace holiday parties and try it out for free today.

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virtual events

6 Proven Ways To Spark Virtual Event Engagement [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

As marketers have matured with their virtual events strategies, many of the initial challenges they faced have become significantly easier to solve. 

Most event planners know that it’s essential to set clear goals to guide their planning and support those goals with effective virtual trade show agenda elements. The best event planners collaborate with their exhibitors and sponsors to additionally ensure the planned schedule of virtual activities meets their needs. 

But there is still one major challenge that even the most experienced virtual event planners struggle with: attendee engagement

Cracking the code to engage your virtual audience is a significant opportunity for marketers and event planners. This post discusses current best practices for virtual event attendee engagement, drawing from recent successful virtual or hybrid trade shows and industry membership association experiments.

How to Engage Your Virtual Conference and Trade Show Attendees

Every successful virtual event includes a conference hub that facilitates interaction between all attendees and enables them to access key event details. Create a page for your event site and event app that outlines how attendees can engage with each other and speakers throughout your event. 

These opportunities should include live chat and messaging capabilities in your event platform, social media communities tailored to your event community, dedicated rooms for attendees to network 1:1 or in small groups, and interactive exhibition halls where attendees can meet with vendors. 

Expand on these essentials to deliver a truly engaging virtual event experience for your attendees by following these best practices to garner engagement:

1. Promote attendee engagement opportunities throughout—and leading up to—your event. 

As simple as it may sound, an essential step to garner engagement at your event is to prime attendees for these opportunities in all pre-event communications and during the event. 

Spotlight your event engagement details in a series of pre-event attendee emails. In these emails, further explain how attendees can actively participate during the event. In addition, we recommend you share at least one email exclusively dedicated to answering questions about the engagement opportunities available at your event. 

During your event, ask session speakers to encourage attendees to submit questions in the virtual event platform messaging interface (as appropriate). Conference speakers should also guide attendees to their next experience after that session, including the open networking spaces that attendees can join to keep the conversation going. 

2. Offer gift cards. 

Incentivize attendees to register for your event, join sessions, meet with exhibitors, or engage in sessions by offering a gift card. For example, we’ve seen several conferences incentivize registration by offering as little as a $5-$10 gift card to major retailers (frequently Starbucks) or randomly selecting a few attendees to receive $100-$500 gift cards.

However, you do not want to set an expectation that every attendee interaction will reap a reward. Instead, you want to provide an incentive to encourage attendees to engage, with the potential for a surprise. 

If your event technology allows, track how many times individual attendees join sessions or exchange messages within the platform to enter attendees into your raffle. Your team could also randomly give gift cards to attendees who actively talk about your event on social media, which could, in turn, encourage more attendees to post for a chance to win. 

3. Host partner and exhibitor raffles. 

Alongside (or in place of) gift card giveaways, partner with event sponsors and exhibitors to give away swag, product demos, or other items from those event partners. This builds a more authentic and immersive experience for your attendees compared to providing random giveaways.

An example of this was CXEnergy2021 Virtual Conference’s Tech Showcase, where attendees received prizes for joining and engaging during presentations. In addition, after every demonstration and Q&A, vendors held brand raffles, such as a one-year subscription for their software. These giveaways will likely boost lead generation and brand awareness efforts for your event partners, too, which will elevate their event experience.  

4. Coordinate a scavenger hunt or BINGO board.

Encourage attendees to explore every part of your event platform and use each feature to its fullest by hosting a scavenger hunt or BINGO board of actions to complete. Ask attendees to snap photos or take screenshots during sessions, visit specific event pages, or complete activities that you can track.

Reward attendees with gift cards or partner raffle items, or create exclusive prize packages—such as registration for next year’s event—that build additional excitement for the game.

5. Enable attendees to pre-submit questions.

Set the expectation with attendees that they can ask questions both before and during event sessions. Enable attendees to pre-submit questions to help speakers finalize their session content and help Q&A moderators prioritize questions.

At the end of each session, address a selection of the pre-fielded questions, and encourage attendees to submit more questions via the chat app. This way, your moderators can organize new questions while the speakers address the pre-submitted ones. Not enough time to get to all the questions? No problem! Give the speaker the list of all the submitted questions, and encourage them to create their own content to address those elements.

6. Strike up conversations on social media. 

Use an easy-to-remember hashtag to help your social media moderators actively find and engage with attendee Tweets and other social media posts. Ask attendees to share their favorite breakout session takeaways, and be ready to answer their event questions. Amplify their Tweets to encourage them to keep posting throughout the event. 

Post polls and quizzes to directly encourage engagement, and use event videos, GIFs, or visuals to stir up excitement for the experience. 

Choose a Virtual Event Platform That Enables Attendee Engagement

By thoughtfully creating opportunities for attendees to engage with your virtual event content and activities, you transform them from a passive audience to active participants in your event. 

But even the best-planned engagement opportunities can fall flat if your event platform is not up to par. You need a virtual or hybrid event platform that enables built-in messaging capabilities within sessions, as well as a way for attendees to find and connect with each other. 

With Social hour, you can deliver the engaging virtual trade show experience that your attendees deserve. The platform includes audience polling capabilities, robust chat features, and essential metrics that help you keep attendees engaged and uncover ways to improve their experience. Learn more and get started today

Make your next virtual event more engaging, by design.
Categories
virtual trade show

9 Elements of a Successful Virtual Trade Show Agenda [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

How does your trade association plan to make up for lost revenues from the cancellation or postponement of your in-person events?

Online industry trade show events have been vital in keeping communities connected since the onset of COVID-19, providing innovative ways for attendees and exhibitors to engage through virtual event platforms. Capabilities like live demos, exhibition halls with virtual booths, and robust chat functions can effectively replicate many beloved aspects of in-person events.

Despite the potential of virtual trade shows, however, nearly nine in ten industry trade professionals (86%) are still challenged with transitioning an in-person event to a virtual setting—which is understandable, given that many teams just started exploring virtual events within this last year.  

To accelerate your event planning, we recommend you set goals for your upcoming virtual trade show and then craft an agenda to fulfill those needs. Let’s explore how to build an engaging online trade show schedule that creates meaningful opportunities for your attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and other partners. 

9 Online Industry Trade Show Agenda Activities

After reviewing recent and upcoming conferences from the American Society of Association Executives, Michigan Society of Association Executives, Colorado Society of Association Executives, and countless others, these are the must-include agenda items for your next virtual industry association trade show:

  • Board meeting: Your association board should meet during your conference. Most associations host this meeting on the first morning of their conference or shortly after the main conference wraps. 
  • Vendor demos/Exhibition Hall/Solutions Lounge: Your attendees need dedicated spaces to engage with your event exhibitors and partners. Enable exhibitors to showcase their solutions to your attendees in a virtual exhibition hall or vendor demo space. Offer an opportunity for Q&A, live demos, and hands-on learning to ensure exhibitors and sponsors see plenty of virtual foot traffic. 
  • Awards recognition: Host an awards ceremony that celebrates your trade show or industry association community (if relevant). These award ceremonies are an opportunity to spotlight members of your community and recognize them for their strides in your field or their dedication to your group. 
  • Express talks/Speed networking sessions/Short breakouts: Not all conference sessions should keep all conference-goers captive for an hour. Instead, offer breakout sessions of varying lengths for your attendees to dive into niche topics of interest that complement your overarching event theme. These smaller-group breakouts are perfect opportunities for attendees to mix and mingle in a more intimate setting than the conference keynotes. Offer two or three concurrent breakout sessions at a time to increase the diversity of your speaker roster and thoroughly explore the topics your audience cares about.   
  • Roundtable sessions: Gather a diverse roster of speakers to lead smaller group discussions on topics of interest to your attendees. Each speaker should have a unique element they can lend to the conversation—including the title or level of the speaker, their industry, or their specific experience with the topic—to support a well-rounded conversation. 
  • Lunchtime sessions or opportunities: Every minute of your conference should include some way to delight your attendees—and that includes lunch. Coordinate group conversations, 1:1 meetups, or informal lunch-and-learn sessions that attendees can join during lunch. Consider hosting a purely entertainment-focused activity, like a cooking demo, comedian set, or short film screening if your budget allows.  
  • 1:1s by appointment: Carve time from your agenda to coordinate one-on-one meetings with attendees, exhibitors, and other event partners. Attendees should be able to make appointments throughout your conference, not just in small exhibit hall break windows. Some attendees won’t mind missing a session to meet with a vendor (especially if your sessions are available for on-demand consumption). Build the meeting scheduling into your event platform, but be sure to integrate it with attendee calendars.
  • Training and certification opportunities. What official training or support programs will you offer to attendees? Many trade show events or industry membership association meetings are championed for their on-site certification and professional development opportunities. These sessions work just as well virtually, too! Consider saving one day of your conference exclusively for these opportunities (either the first or last day). 
  • After-hours entertainment. After a long day of joining sessions, networking, and striking up social media conversations, your trade show attendees need a way to unwind. So offer activities after the main conference sessions are over. These social activities can be as simple as an attendee happy hour or something elaborate like a wine and paint night or an exclusive musical performance.

Guide Trade Show Attendees from Experience to Experience

When developing your agenda, ensure that all activities have a clear purpose and that you don’t overwhelm your attendees with choices. For example, the Higher Logic team learned from its virtual Super Forum that their attendees felt they had too many options to choose from. Although that’s a “good problem” to have, it’s still a problem.

Event organizers must prepare their attendees for all the virtual event opportunities, including navigating attendees from experience to experience. Simply posting your event schedule and leaving it to your attendees to remember where they need to be and when for which sessions will likely lead to steep attendee drop off as your event continues.

Create a cohesive event experience for attendees by making the event agenda readily available on your conference site and through your conference mobile application. Enable attendees to add sessions to their calendars automatically so they don’t miss out.

During sessions, ask speakers to direct attendees to the next session or alert them of their options for what to do next. These verbal cues can be complemented with on-screen visuals, like a banner that urges attendees to return to the event platform lobby or a pop-up that links to the next session.

Prepare “Coming Next” or “We’ll Be Right Back With [next activity]” graphics to alert in-person and virtual attendees of what’s next, and think through your attendee transitions to ensure that there is no potential for confusion. 

Pick A Trade Show Event Technology Platform That Elevates the Attendee Experience

You have thoroughly documented your trade show goals and crafted a diverse series of events that supports those needs. Great! Your team is almost ready to host a successful virtual event. That is, of course, if your chosen event platform supports the quality of experience that your attendees expect.

The success of your trade show will depend on if attendees can freely network with exhibitors and sponsors, gain answers to their questions, and assess what solutions are best for their needs. But many event platforms are built with sub-par capabilities that lock attendees in a single room with no ability to connect with other conference attendees. 

Deliver the experience that your attendees deserve by using Social hour to support your next industry trade association event. The team at Frameable built the platform to support a wide range of event sessions and engagement opportunities, including pre-recorded or live-streamed keynotes, concurrent breakout sessions, and networking rooms that foster genuine engagement. Learn more about the Social hour platform and get started to create a more engaging virtual event experience today.  

Categories
virtual trade show

16 KPIs To Measure Your Online Trade Show or Association Conference Success [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

As industry membership associations and trade show organizers find ways to address lost revenues from the postponement of in-person events, many are turning to virtual experiences. Some are doing so with success, but others aren’t quite sure of their results.

87% of industry trade organizations that have hosted virtual events said they were successful. However, the definition of success is unclear, as 39% did not set an official goal. Without setting clear goals for virtual or hybrid conferences and gatherings, associations cannot understand whether their approach is providing value for their members and partners. 

To help understand whether your next virtual conference is a success, let’s review the top key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure the attendee and exhibitor experience during an industry trade show or membership association conference.

Example Goals for An Industry Association Online Trade Show

An industry association trade show involves two very unique audiences, each with different goals: your attendees and your exhibitors. Here are suggested KPIs for each audience, plus a few general event KPIs that can measure your event’s overall impact.

Attendee Satisfaction Goals for Trade Shows

Your association members or trade show attendees should be the primary focus of your event experience. How can you provide value to your attendees, connect them with the best resources to help them succeed, and foster long-term growth for them within your community?

Naturally, your team should focus on building an exceptional event agenda that directly addresses the needs of your membership. But to measure if your event was a success, we recommend focusing on these markers of the attendee experience:

  • Attendee satisfaction. Conduct a post-event survey to understand your attendee satisfaction and, most importantly, whether they feel the event met their needs as an association member. Use these survey findings to develop an engagement plan to delight your association members after your event is over.
  • Connections made. If your virtual event platform allows it, assess how many messages attendees exchanged with each other during the event.
  • Conference material downloads. How many attendees downloaded assets from your conference platform? Examine download data before, during, and after your event to understand how long attendees engage with the event content. 
  • Educational credits awarded. Assess the success of your event training and certification programs by measuring the total number of educational credits awarded. You can further explore this metric by reviewing the number of attendees who received educational credits and the average educational credits awarded.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS). How many attendees would recommend the event to a colleague? Add a question to your post-event attendee survey to understand your event NPS. 
  • Next-year registrants. Host a flash sale for next year’s event tickets at this year’s price during your event. Monitor how successful this sale is to gauge whether your event experience generates immediate excitement for next year.  
  • Total attendees. How many people attended your event, in-person and online, and how does this compare to your year-over-year figures?

Exhibitor Satisfaction KPIs for Industry Events

Event exhibitors and sponsors are a vital part of industry trade show experiences. If you fail to meet their needs, they may quit supporting your event—which could be a major miss for your attendees.

Stay ahead of any potential exhibitor or sponsor dissatisfaction by tracking these KPIs:

  • Number of sponsors/exhibitors. Is your team growing its network of exhibitors and sponsors? Or has this number declined year-over-year?
  • Number of visitors to each booth. Regardless of whether the number of event sponsors grows, you need to ensure your attendees engage with these sponsors and exhibitors. What is the average number of booth visits? What does this data show about the type of exhibitors you should approach for your next event? 
  • Number of downloads of vendor collateral. Exhibitors and sponsors need to understand the quality of interactions they had with visitors. So check how many times attendees downloaded collateral from vendors, such as information sheets, product guides, or ebooks. 
  • Number of attendee meetings scheduled. How many attendees scheduled meetings with exhibitors?
  • Number of qualified leads. What is the average number of qualified leads that your vendors gained by attending your event? 

General KPIs To Determine Virtual Event Success

Beyond your attendees and exhibitors, your team should measure additional KPIs that showcase your more significant event impact. For example, was the event well-received by the media? Did you spark conversations on social media? Are you continuing to find new, diverse speakers?

At a minimum, we recommend tracking these trade show KPIs to assess your event success:

  • Diversity of speakers or exhibitors. Ideally, your industry trade show community should reach new people and companies each year. As you build your event schedule and series of activities for your conference, assess how many speaker or exhibitor submissions you receive from individuals or companies that have previously expressed an interest in partnering with you on your event.
  • Social shares/chatter. Monitor social media for posts about your event, and track the number of times that attendees used your event hashtag on social media. Ensure you have team members ready to support your event on social media, including answering attendee questions, encouraging user-generated content, and engaging with attendees.
  • Press attendees. Did any members of the media attend your event?
  • Post-event blog posts and press coverage. What content did people create about your event? 

Choose a Virtual Event Platform with Built-In Reporting Capabilities

Each of the above sets of KPIs is simply a starting point to help your team refine its virtual or hybrid event strategy. We recommend you connect with individual event attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors to discuss their feelings about your event and ways to improve their next experience. 

In addition to these one-on-one conversations, you will find that your event platform will either greatly help—or significantly hinder—your ability to uncover the KPIs you need.

We built Social hour to make it easier to track event metrics like total attendees, maximum concurrent attendees per session, how many attendees interacted with each other, and more. Learn why our customers say we’re an ideal platform for virtual industry membership association or trade show events.

Categories
virtual trade show

3 Tips For Hosting a Successful Industry Trade Association Virtual Event [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

Since the onset of COVID-19, the cancellation of many longstanding trade shows and industry events like Mobile World Congress, E3, and SXSW have dominated headlines—leaving many to question what the future of these traditionally in-person events will look like.

Industry trade associations, in particular, have faced unique financial pressure when adapting their events strategy, given that 27% of these organizations’ revenues come from meetings/trade shows, surpassed only by membership dues at 45%. 

To help trade associations and similar event organizers adapt their events strategy, let’s explore the latest data on how trade association members feel about attending in-person events. We’ll also discuss three common challenges that industry organizations face when creating new virtual or hybrid event experiences. 

How Trade Associations Have Adapted Their Event Strategies

Although it’s uncertain when in-person events will regain their momentum, 70% of respondents in a study from Innovatis Group, a leading association management, and engagement company, listed two top factors for when they will be comfortable with in-person events:

  1. A significant drop in COVID cases 
  2. Widespread vaccinations 

Restrictions like social distancing and smaller group sizes will play a smaller role, according to that survey.

Understandably, in light of these sentiments, the same report found 85% of organizations will increase their investment in virtual events over the next year to address the hesitation to join in-person events. Additionally, 72% of associations plan to create new forms of non-dues revenue, including educational opportunities available in a virtual or hybrid setting. 

Three Hybrid or Online Industry Event Challenges and How to Address Them

As more industry trade organizations explore virtual event opportunities to regain lost revenues from their canceled or delayed in-person events—and provide new value for their members—many teams will face a common set of initial planning hurdles.

When planning your next virtual or hybrid industry event, ensure your team fully explores these areas:

Challenge 1: Creating value for members in a virtual setting

First and foremost, your team needs to understand how it will create value for your event attendees. What do they hope to gain from the experience, and how can you deliver sessions, content, and networking opportunities to meet these needs? 

We recommend you survey your members ahead of your virtual or hybrid event to learn what they hope to gain from the experience. Seek to understand how comfortable your members are at the prospect of in-person gatherings, what challenges they face, and what resources they need to succeed. 

As you learn what your attendees expect from your event, your team can better tailor its goals to assess whether your event was successful.

Challenge 2: Transitioning an in-person event to a virtual event

Even if you have a clear understanding of what your association members hope to gain from your event, all teams are challenged with transitioning an in-person event to a virtual setting. 

Overcome this hurdle by designing your event to be entirely virtual, and then add a complementary in-person experience (if your pre-event survey suggests your community would like an in-person component) around it. 

Planning online-first will help your team map the various connections (or disconnections) within your event experience. Ensure there is a seamless journey for your attendees, from when they first hear about your event, register, join your event, and later access its replays—all while keeping networking and cross-platform engagement opportunities front and center for everyone. 

Challenge 3: Creating value for event exhibitors and sponsors in a virtual or hybrid setting

Keeping your event exhibitors and sponsors happy is vital to ensure long-term event success. If exhibitors or sponsors fail to see the value in partnering for your event, they will likely stop supporting your activities, limiting the potential value for your attendees. 

Spotlight your exhibitors and sponsors throughout your event experience to maximize their ability to engage with your attendees. Use social media to highlight sponsored sessions, coordinate raffles and giveaways to generate excitement, and incentivize your attendees to visit the virtual exhibition hall or exhibitor showcase during your event.

As with your attendees, it’s critical to survey your event sponsors and exhibitors to understand what they hope to gain from the experience and ways you can best partner with them for the event. 

Deliver the engaging experience your virtual attendees deserve.

Why Your Virtual Event Platform Matters

By addressing each of those three common challenges, your team can more effectively design an event that can replicate the value of your in-person experiences—potentially surpassing your pre-pandemic success.

But there is one final challenge that can make or break your virtual industry trade show experience: poorly designed event technology.

Many event platforms were built immediately following the pandemic, attempting to cash in on the rush to virtual platforms. Or, they are legacy tools designed purely for conference calls that event planners hastily adapted for large-scale events. The result? Overpriced tools that fail to meet your attendee needs—confusing user interfaces, garbled audio, and an inability for people to actually engage. 

We’ve built Social hour with the features that your event attendees need, all in an incredibly easy-to-customize interface. Learn more about why Social hour is the ideal platform for hybrid or virtual industry trade association events

Categories
virtual events

Why Attendee Surveys Are Vital For Virtual or Hybrid Event Success [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

Virtual and hybrid event experiences have come a long way since the start of the pandemic, and we are about to hit a new stride in the evolution of online events.

Event planners can access more advanced event technology than ever before, enabling more engaging virtual and hybrid events. These new platforms create the necessary space for everyone to mix, mingle, and reap the greatest reward from the event experience. And many platforms also provide data that can help event planners continuously update their strategy event after event. 

But your in-platform event data can only tell you so much about what did or did not work with your last virtual or hybrid experience. To effectively improve your event strategy with each iteration, you need to actively gather feedback on the full range of attendee experiences before, during, and after your event.

Luckily, the secret to gaining this insight is pretty straightforward: ask your attendees directly. Let me help you get started.

How to Gauge The Virtual Event Attendee Experience

Post-event metrics like attendees per session, the average number of sessions per attendee, and the average number of conference connections are crucial to review. However, these metrics only provide a glimpse at how to improve your next event.

Put your attendees front-and-center during your event planning by actively surveying and connecting with attendees one-on-one throughout your event lifecycle:

  • Before your event, gauge how long your virtual or hybrid event experience should last, preferred topics, and ideal ways to engage throughout the experience
  • During your event, use quick one- or two-question surveys that capture your attendee feelings at key points during the conference or immediately after sessions
  • After your event, measure the satisfaction of each event component and session, and see how many attendees would return to an event from your team

Sample Event Attendee Survey Questions

You can learn more about how to use virtual event attendee surveys to improve your online or hybrid event experience—including sample event survey questions for before, during, and after your event—in my recent article on MarketingProfs

Tell me, what are your favorite virtual event attendee survey questions? Tweet me @AARiggs.

Categories
virtual events

All Successful Virtual And Hybrid Events Have These Five Things in Common

Over the past 20 months, as the COVID-19 pandemic upended many of our in-person events and celebration plans, we all found new ways to keep celebrating all of life’s special moments virtually. 

We cheered on graduates as they walked the virtual stage, raised our glasses to our favorite newlyweds as they said their “I Do’s,” and even took our careers to the next level at virtual conferences, hybrid industry events, and online trade shows.

At Social hour, as we partnered with people across the globe on a range of events, at a time when human connection was more necessary than ever. We gained a deep understanding of what attendees expect at a hybrid or virtual event. It may surprise you, but we’ve found it all boils down to just five elements that are essential for your event success, regardless of what type of gathering you’re hosting. 

Five Must-Have Elements for Any Type of Virtual or Hybrid Event

Event planners can transition almost any traditional event component online. In some cases, the online environment may even enhance the experience for everyone involved. 

However, many event planners are still stuck on the idea of replicating their in-person event exactly as it was—just now in an online setting. This results in one-time talks streamed from the keynote stage, leaving attendees lost in a sea of webcam streams without a way to connect meaningfully with those around them.

When planning your next event, I challenge you to focus on enabling attendee engagement throughout the entire experience as your most important element. Engagement is the single most crucial factor that determines your event’s success. 

So how can event planners guarantee engagement at their next virtual or hybrid event? We’ve found these four elements are essential to your success, and they all help drive attendee engagement, too:

  • Limit the number of participants in each session or room
  • Ensure an equitable talk-to-listen ratio to help avoid listening fatigue
  • Give attendees opportunities to take breaks
  • Track metrics and analytics that help you assess engagement disconnects at your event

Enabling Virtual or Hybrid Event Engagement

In my recent article on Trade Show News Network, you can learn more about how each of the five elements we introduced above can affect engagement at your next event. I also share my advice on how to ensure a cohesive hybrid event experience (hint: you want to focus on virtual first).

What questions do you have about virtual event engagement? Tweet me @AARiggs.

Categories
remote work

5 Ways to Support Your Employees with A Flexible Hybrid Work Plan

Is your team ready to transition to the hybrid future of work? If you haven’t documented and shared your hybrid work plan yet, it’s not.

The latest employee and employer survey data shows that most teams will introduce a hybrid working model once COVID restrictions are lifted, with a smaller percentage of companies planning for a primarily in-person workforce.

Despite the enthusiasm of many U.S. companies to return to the office this fall, growing concerns around the COVID-19 Delta variant (and any future variants) may postpone many team’s plans, as is the case for Apple.

Although it’s not clear when most teams will be able to resume office-based work safely, now is the ideal time to explore your team’s concerns about the future of work and partner with them to develop your hybrid work plan. We share five ways to get started.

5 Steps to Draft a Hybrid Work Plan for Your Flexible Workforce

Charting your team’s return to the office may feel like an impossible task, given the ever-evolving set of challenges and considerations your teams face. But if you solicit executive and employee insights to guide your planning, your team will be more forgiving of any missteps or hurdles along the way. 

These five steps will get your team started in building its hybrid work culture, including how to address your team’s needs throughout this process.  

1. Survey Your Team

Kickstart your hybrid work planning by surveying your team members to understand their expectations for the future of work. Use a mix of qualitative and quantitative questions in your survey, and supplement these findings with one-on-one conversations to drill further into specifics.

Preface all surveys and conversations with an explanation of how your team will use the information. Reinforce that you welcome all ideas as you will need your team’s honest feedback to best structure your team’s future work policy. 

You need as complete a picture as possible of your employees’ current challenges with remote work. Your surveys and conversations should explore all of the following areas for your team members:

  • Preferences for how many days a week they work in-office, if any
  • What type of work or activities do they feel is best conducted in the office 
  • Personal circumstances that may affect their ability to work during certain business hours
  • Whether they need more or different tools or resources to complete their work
  • If the team’s current success metrics align to support a healthy and productive work culture

2. Adapt Your Physical Space for Virtual and Distanced In-Person Collaboration

A recent PwC report found that only 13% of executives are prepared to permanently let go of their company’s physical workspace. But that doesn’t mean the office should stay exactly as it was.

Use your team survey feedback to assess what activities will be most common in your physical office. For example, do team members want an open layout for easy mixing and mingling? An array of small, private meeting rooms for someone to take a quick call? Socially distanced personal workspaces?

Once you have a sense of how many team members may be in your office at any given time, create new solo work and collaboration spaces that can accommodate the average number of employees. Consider implementing a desk hoteling strategy to optimize your layout further. It’s also essential to optimize your physical office space for hybrid work, not just for those who return to the office. And don’t forget to give shared spaces the technology they need to integrate into your virtual team spaces.

3. Reset Your Workplace KPIs to Reflect New Hybrid Work Norms

The shift to remote-based work forced teams to assess how to support a healthy and productive working culture. For most teams, this meant a thorough look at the team’s workflow and collaboration tools, common communications practices, and other traditionally unquestioned aspects of the team’s work.

Now, teams should review whether their markers of success align with what actually drives business value. According to a Citrix survey, 86% of employees said they would prefer to work for a company that prioritizes outcomes over output, meaning they want to be measured by the impact they can deliver to the entire business, not just their direct work output.

In your employee surveys and conversations, ask your team if they feel the key performance indicators (KPIs) they are measured against accurately reflect the value of their work, and assess if a different KPI is more appropriate. Review your list of new proposed KPIs, and ensure that your team can accurately track each KPI, or if you’ll need to adopt a new practice or tool to do so. 

4. Support Your Hybrid Work Plan with Digital Communications Guidelines

Communications guidelines are a vital aspect of a healthy hybrid working culture that most teams often overlook. Many teams adopted new virtual collaboration tools during the pandemic, but it’s essential to take this one step further and document what team members should use each tool to accomplish.

Some team members may overuse their virtual communications channels, possibly because they are used to getting quick face-to-face feedback in an office environment. Create guidelines that discuss which channels should be used for workplace communications, do’s and don’ts for using these channels, and general guidelines that explain how your team can preserve a healthy working culture online. 

You can start building your workplace communication policy guidelines based on these samples from Cutting Edge and JotForm.

5. Over-Communicate About Your Hybrid Work Policy

It is understandable for leadership teams to wait until their hybrid work planning is underway or the hybrid work policy is close to final before communicating these plans with the team. However, this may not be the right approach for today’s environment.

A McKinsey survey found that nearly half of workers feel that a lack of clear vision about the future of work from their employer is causing them concern or anxiety. To address this, create a regular communications cadence to keep your team updated on your team’s planning, and regularly invite questions or create open space to discuss these plans.

Start with your employee surveys. After the initial fielding and analysis, share high-level findings in a team email, and host an optional meeting to further drill into the feedback. Update your team at least once a month on any progress your team has made and upcoming opportunities to learn more. Finally, host an optional meeting each month for employees to ask questions about the future of work and for the leadership team to gauge the early sentiment towards their plans.

If appropriate, your team can create a hybrid work planning committee composed of cross-department team members of various levels. This committee will partner with your executive and HR team to assist in various planning discussions and represent each department or team. 

Remember, it’s better to keep your team in the loop on your plans and invite their feedback earlier on. Otherwise, you may unveil a hybrid work policy that fails to meet your team’s needs and amplifies their feelings of stress or anxiety.

Help Your Hybrid Culture Thrive With Intuitive Collaboration Tools

Once your initial hybrid work policy is created, and you inform the team of your plans, continue reviewing and adjusting your policy as new concerns emerge. 

To further support your hybrid work future, learn how Frameable’s suite of team collaboration and social connection tools can help increase your team’s productivity and provide data that can help you get ahead of potential workplace culture issues.