Oracle OpenWorld, Microsoft Ignite, IBM InterConnect, and Dreamforce are all very large marquee conferences that attract thousands of attendees, include hundreds of sessions, and require countless hours of planning and very large budgets. Physical attendee estimates across these conferences range from 25,000 to well over 100,000.
These companies are among the few that can claim such high attendance, along with the ecosystem and the budgets to support it. Many mid- to large-sized enterprise companies, however, have a lot of customers, prospects, and partners who want to connect—and often need to connect—in order to move their individual business interests forward. So what's a marketer to do?
Virtual Summits to the Rescue!
A virtual summit is an online event that goes far beyond a single webinar presentation to create a shared virtual experience for prospects, customers, salespeople, and partners where they can learn, share, buy, and sell.
Kara Widdison of SnapApp recently called virtual summits “the newest tool in a modern demand gen marketer’s arsenal to drive engagement with a skeptical audience jaded by constant bombardment with messaging in today’s saturated digital space.” Companies like Hootsuite and BambooHR are attracting thousands of live attendees who view vast amounts of content while enjoying live presentations and networking. Partners or sponsors are invited to participate, showcasing their solutions in virtual booths full of resources, staffed by salespeople and product experts for quality Q&A.
Unlike the virtual tradeshows of the late 1990s, virtual summits have ability to create real connections and drive real revenue. Virtual summits include several key elements:
Content is always the draw. Whether the live agenda includes a handful of sessions or a follow-the-sun program, the speakers and topics must have significance with the audience. No one wants to give up valuable time to hear a product pitch. Aim to educate attendees and inspire action for optimal success following your event.
Presentations Wrapped in Context
Once the content is on target, virtual summit organizers can focus on the experience. Live sessions can be surrounded by moderated chats, a wall of videos, product launch resources, a trivia treasure hunt, surveys, invitations to in-person events, offers, promotions or just about anything else you can imagine. Virtual events offer a true experience for attendees and staff alike.
Gathering of an Ecosystem
While often not on the scale of Salesforce, most enterprise organizations have partners who add value, such as software providers, systems integrators, value-added resellers, and consultants. A virtual summit is an ideal place to bring this ecosystem together, drawing on the larger community to create a sense of excitement and purpose. Social media around the online event then amplifies the conversation, reaching an broader audience with greater impact.
Virtual summits don’t require a specific time and place for connection. Smart enterprise organizations host a live summit over one or more days and then look ahead to using the virtual environment to invite the community back again and again. Attendees can easily come back to watch sessions they missed or browse resources at their leisure, and the options are almost endless: hosting “lunch & learn” chats or “ask the expert” sessions are two successful ways to extend the connections.
The cost and level of complexity involved in producing a virtual summit are far less than most physical conferences—and certainly far less than the likes of Oracle OpenWorld or Dreamforce. This means more marketers can create marquee events for their own companies, sharing their thought leadership in a true experience that extends beyond the short duration of a live event.
If you want to learn more about virtual summits, keep an eye on our blog. In the coming weeks, we’ll share more about their benefits as well as our favorite tips and tricks for interaction and our best advice to get started. Can’t wait? Connect with a virtual event expert at 6Connex today.