We spoke with Liz Irving of Clarion Events. In March, through conversations with their customers, the team at Clarion Events realised that there was a gap in the market left by competitors cancelling events. They stepped up and filled this gap by putting on a virtual experience that included a two-week content series. They drove 55% new customers to the online virtual experience – it was a huge success. Liz sat down to talk with us about learnings gathered from this experience and some thoughts looking to the future.

Here are five of the topics we covered with Liz:

 

1. The Role of Virtual once Face-to-Face Events Return

 

“I think that the power of face-to-face is never going to change. I don’t think virtual can answer all of that. But what I think virtual can do is extend the life of what we’re doing by providing more value as we go into an event by furthering communications to prepare customers and even connecting those who can’t be with us face-to-face. It also allows us to extend our reach after a face-to-face event. There are so many conversations that happen at eventsbut are they followed up on post-show? How could virtual play a role in helping us get there?

 I don’t think I have all the answers on how it looks today, but I do have the focus with our team to say, ‘Let’s think about what that could be.’ Understanding what the attendee wants at the time and understanding that journey for the customer is really going to be key for how we move it forward.”

 

2. Virtual Events for Less Tech-Savvy Markets

 

“Some of our markets are not as well versed in tech. I think the key for us to making the virtual experience work in those markets is always start with the customer need. If you know what the customer wants, you can playback and tailor the experienceit makes them want to engage. I think the other piece of that ismake it as easy as possible. You can drive engagement without having making things difficult. And if you do make it difficult, you’re not going to get what you want.

So we really take a lot of time to make it easy to get into the platforms and make the experience tailored and valuable to them. We also do hand-holding. We explain the platform, and we take them on the journey with us. I think that’s a key piece to how you take tech and make it personalised but also make it easy for customers.”

 

3. Valuable Data Provided by Virtual

 

“The amount of data that we’re now collecting in new ways through virtual can make us even more hyper-focused in what we’re doing and allow us to discover new ways to understand patterns and trends and connectivity in a whole new way. I also think it will just make us smarter and better at doing live face to face events. I think it opens up thinking about marketing differently, thinking about tailored and segmented audiences differently, and can help us just be smarter with how we connect customers in new ways.”

 

4. Opportunities to Provide Value by Listening and Responded to Customer Needs

 

“About 2 years ago, we started having customer conversations about what made events special for them and what their pain points were. A lot of our customers said finding new vendors was very hard for them and took precious time away from their businesses. So we put together a match program with all of our markets. We’re launching match on 22 shows.

We do it through understanding the buyers needs and services they’re looking for and where their business is headed. Then we match them up with the right exhibitors through a series of face-to-face meetings onsite. It provides a much more tailored and personalised experience that makes it much more relevant for them at the shows.

It’s been a great success for us, and it’s been an amazing ROI driver both for the exhibitors and the attendees. Exhibitors know who they’re meeting with, they’re prepared and can move the sales process along much faster. For attendees, their experience with our brand becomes much more meaningful. And we’re seeing them come back each year to do more with us.”

 

5. The Role of Chat and Moderation in Virtual Events

 

“In talking about moderation, we’ve asked how do virtual experiences become more of a programmed opportunity? I think having a moderator as a persona or a personality for the experience in the chat feature really can go further for us. It also helps us keep tabs on the conversations that are happening and we can more quickly pivot to relevant topics that matter most to the customers and take the content and make it more dynamic.

I think it was a lot for us to read through the chat content as we were seeing it, but it was insightful. We were able to use what we saw in the chat the first weekend to tailor the content for the next weekend that we did. We also were able to take topics that we saw in chat during the sessions and use those as the focus in our round tables after the sessions.

It’s really about how you harness chat and get that data in an easy to use format to take to the next level.”

 

To listen to the full conversation, you can access it here.