How to conduct virtual events in the coronavirus era

The COVID-19 pandemic is quelling participation in—and in some cases prompting cancellation of—live gatherings. Technology can help, whether you’re brainstorming or debuting a product.

How to use virtual events amid the coronavirus outbreak

Companies are cancelling conferences and business travel plans due to concerns over coronavirus, now officially named COVID-19.

Facebook cancelled its F8 conference, its biggest event of the year. Marketers and developers eagerly look forward to the annual conference in hopes of obtaining insights into Facebook’s plans.

Other conference cancellations include: SXSW, Facebook’s Global Marketing Summit, Google’s I/O Developer event, and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s largest mobile phone conference. Other conferences have been postponed or will be held online only.

The canceled conference list will probably expand. Some companies are deciding not to send employees to conferences, a move that could prompt organizers to cancel or postpone events. Twitter, Facebook and Vevo, the music-streaming video company, announced they will not send employees to SXSW, the tech, music and film festival this month in Austin, Texas.

In addition, the U.S. State Department’s travel restrictions and the possibility of more travel advisories could deter many from venturing abroad.

With options for in-person meetings disappearing, companies are turning to virtual events, including virtual press conferences, online meetings and virtual product launches.

Virtual conferences. Already increasingly popular, virtual conferences offer an excellent tool for lead generation and customer acquisition, says David Ly Khim, growth marketing manager at HubSpot. Not limited to webinars, virtual conferences can include interactive, live panels and microsites that present various sessions people can “attend,” Khim explains. Use YouTube Live to broadcast live videos and to host videos to take advantage of its video SEO. Embed the videos on landing pages so people don’t have to leave the website to watch them.

Virtual product launches. With fewer trade shows and conferences available, some brands are introducing their stuff online. For instance, automakers such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi decided to livestream product debuts after the Geneva Auto Show was canceled, Bloomberg News reports.

More brands will probably livestream product launches on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, and PR and marketing will rely more on social media to promote the new products.

A virtual Facebook event offers a valuable option in addition to or instead of a live event.  Build on the success of your first event to gain momentum. When you host a future event, look back to your past events and publish a post to invite past attendees to your new event, Danielle McFadden recommends in Social Media Examiner.

Virtual meetings. These offer a convenient alternative to in-person meetings at trade shows, but the lack of visual cues can hinder communication. Videoconferencing technologies like Skype and Google Hangouts can improve long-distance conversations. Despite improving videoconference technology, managing virtual meetings remains challenging. Use people’s names when referring to their earlier comments, and maintain a deliberate pace when running the meetings, so attendees don’t lose track of discussions.

A version of this post first ran on the Glean.info blog.

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