Why a Virtual Series May Be a Better Option for Publishers Than a Virtual Event in 2021

Companies can avoid large overhead costs by thinking smaller

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Virtual series could prove to be a better option for publishers trying to enter the virtual event game. Getty Images
Headshot of Rob Keenan

Live events in 2021 are already in jeopardy—two of the industry’s biggest events, CES and SXSW have gone partially or completely virtual in 2021.

For publishers, now’s the time to consider how to execute a virtual event for 2021. But, where to start? There’s the full-tilt virtual event model with live show floors, virtual booths and more. However, there are other options available. Today’s media brands, especially small- to medium-sized brands are struggling with how to make the leap to a virtual model for events.

There’s no doubt that larger events will look toward full-scale virtual events using platforms like Intrado and 6Connex, which offer the chance to build out all those bells and whistles. While these are right for some brands, the time and resources needed to get these off the ground could make the cost to entry for some media brands could simply be too high.

There are other options: Through the use of webinar technology, a good event registration approach, a good content plan and a good packaging approach from a marketing standpoint, media brands have the opportunity to build a virtual event series that can open some whitespace and generate revenue in the new virtualized event world.

Inside a virtual series

Unlike a virtual event, which is trying to migrate the legacy trade show model, virtual event series are a good entry for brands running conferences and webinars, where content sits at the center of the world. Basically, a virtual series takes a topic in an industry and slices it up into three to five sub-segments of that topic. Then, using a good event registration approach, media brands can provide an environment for attendees to register for a single event or multiple events in a series using a single registration process.

The two key elements of the series are editorial planning and packaging. On the editorial front, it is critical for the editorial team to think about the virtual series different than just another webinar. When running a webinar, publishers typically pick one distinct topic and dive into it. In the case of the virtual series, the editorial team needs to look at the topics shaping their industry. Then, the team will need to carve that up into sub-elements that can be explored in detail. So, when the day is done, the series will take the sub-elements and use those to paint an in-depth picture of the topic.

A good example here is Covid-19. When the crisis first hit, there were tons of editorial pieces put together on the impact the pandemic would have on their market. But where many failed was in taking this topic and breaking it down into a series of smaller elements that could be packaged to give the audience a more comprehensive view of the topic.

Cross-event registration matters

Once the publisher has the topic and subtopics in place, the real key is to implement a registration approach that allows users to sign up for one event or multiple events at the same time. This can be done in one of two ways. On one hand, most webinar platforms offer APIs that allow publishers to build a registration form that provides cross-event registration. On the other, there are platforms on market, such as event management tools that sit as a layer above the webinar platform to handle cross-event registration.

From an audience standpoint, either approach works and provides consumers with the ability to register for how little or how much content they want. At the same time, publishers win because they can provide advertisers with leads based on how engaged audience members were in the series, which is a big win for the media brand and the sponsor.

@robkeenan11 rkeenan@keenandigitalconsult.com Rob Keenan is the President of Keenan Media, LLC, a consultancy firm providing digital, content, marketing, and audience support to the media sector. Rob has worked in the B-to-B media sector for more than 20 years, most recently as the CMO for Rodman Media and vp of online for Edgell Communications.