With the volume of virtual events continuing to rise or go hybrid, attendees and brands want something beyond another Zoom call. On this week’s Social Media News Live, we’ll discuss the best ways to connect, network, and create memorable experiences!
[00:00:00] Grace Duffy: Welcome to Social Media News Live.
[00:00:02] I am Grace Duffy, and you’re not. And I have just see of off to the side. He is waving say hi, Jeff.
[00:00:11] Jeff Sieh: Sieh. Yeah. Yeah. It’s still going on. It’s they’re outside the room.
[00:00:17] Grace Duffy: This is a show that keeps you up to date on what’s happening in the world of social media.
[00:00:22] And today we have on our guest, our friend, Mike Allton, who is the head of strategic partnerships at over at a AgoraPulse. We’re going to talk about LA virtual events from an attendee and from the brand perspective, because as we know, virtual events are on the rise they continue to be. But I think everyone is looking for something more than just the webinars, zoom fatigue.
[00:00:47] So we’ve invited my care to share his expertise and insights on raising the bar and virtual events and also the best way to approach them as a way to connect to network and to create memorable experiences. Mike, how are you doing?
[00:01:04] Mike Allton: I have to say, I think this was planned because I’ve been begging Jeff to be on the show ever since the, before the first episode.
[00:01:11] And obviously he chose the one episode where he knew he’d be at some random hotel and he’s whatever, this is going to be, a blow off episode anyways. So let’s bring it up. Let’s bring Mike in.
[00:01:22] Jeff Sieh: Cause he doesn’t need it so I can talk when they like stop. So I have to be really quick on the mute button, by the way, if you go to see what my setup was today it was pretty cool.
[00:01:33] Mike Allton: I’m using this new thing for Spotify because this show is always is brought to us by our friends over at Ecamm, which should is at socialmedianewslive.com/ecamm. And the cool thing is I’m using Speedify to connect all my thank you, Mike. Thank you very much. It connects all my connections with this that works with Ecamm it’s called Speedify
[00:01:54] and I can actually go on the road. I’m using my iPhone camera into Ecamm and I don’t have to carry a big, huge camera around there. Also, they just released a new beta about a virtual mic. So you can use these different, you don’t have to use loopback and all this stuff, and he cam you can just go right in so many cool things.
[00:02:15] And I actually was emailing this morning going, how do I do this? Why isn’t this working? Their support is amazing. So make sure you guys go check out. Social media is live.com forward slash Ecamm. They’re amazing. Check my check out my Instagram. You’ll see my setup and how easy it is to go live from wherever you’re at.
[00:02:30] Even if there is no jackhammer or not outside your window on the 12th floor it allows you to go live whenever and the mute button is very handy.
[00:02:42] I was talking to Kevin Glenn, and I think they’re going to create a virtual studio where you can go live from a remote location and you don’t have to deal with sound outside.
[00:02:50] The key is
[00:02:51] Jeff Sieh: to get a throwaway guest that you can just bring in. So you don’t have to say, I heard
[00:02:57] Mike Allton: what you’re saying. Here we go. Here we go.
[00:03:01] Jeff Sieh: All right. So let out, okay. Let me get this while I can still talk. Okay. Grace, can I introduce Mike because he is, he is my oldest internet friend.
[00:03:10] And if you don’t know who Mike Allton is, he is the head of strategic partnership at Agorapulse. And like I, like Grace said, we invited him to come in today and talk to us all about virtual events, because he has really blossomed in this area in the last, what, two or three years, Mike, where you’ve really started doing this.
[00:03:27] And he is the award-winning blogger speaker and author at the Social Media hat and Blogging Brute, which is a great name. I wonder who came up. But he’s also co-founder of the 360 marketing squad with some of our great friends over there with Stephanie Lui and Herman Amanda Robinson.
[00:03:45] And he is a co-author of the book, the Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing. And so excited that you’re here with us today, Mike, to talk about virtual events, like I said, he’s one of my oldest internet friends. I think we, gosh, it’s gotta be like seven years and he was one of the original Manly Pinterest tips guys.
[00:04:03] So there you go, Mike, thanks so much. Thank you.
[00:04:07] Grace Duffy: Thanks for doing that
[00:04:08] Jeff Sieh: intro. Yeah. Cause I gotta get in when I can, cause I just don’t know what’s going to happen.
[00:04:16] Grace Duffy: Mike, thank you for joining us on the show today. I think the last time you and I really chatted was when Restream partnered with AgoraPulse a very cool virtual event of the AgoraPulse Agency Summit. So I think that was like June 20, 21. I remember I was on the road when we were planning and talking about all that. And I have to say your materials or resources from a brand sponsor perspective were spot on everything from social media copy to images, the virtual booth set up the way that you had it all lined up was just amazing.
[00:04:48] So when we say that he has nailed this virtual event space, I am talking from experience, I’ve experienced it both as an attendee and as a brand partner sponsor and as a partner. So that was just really terrific. So I want to know how long did it take you to organize that summit from initial idea to execution?
How Long To Organize a Summit?
[00:05:10] Grace Duffy: Because it was from my perspective flawless. You don’t have to tell me if it wasn’t on your end or not, but I was really blown away by your execution on that.
[00:05:20] Mike Allton: I appreciate that. I appreciate that you share the percentage. That it was flawless because as an event organizer, we know there’s no such thing as a flawless event, right?
[00:05:29] There’s always things that go wrong, but the hope is that our attendees and our brand partners notice as little of that sort of blip as possible. So that particular event probably took about a quarter to plan and pull off. But I’d been doing those kinds of events for years. Like Jeff suggested, I started doing virtual events in 2018 and was doing them every quarter for a while.
[00:05:56] Like in 2020, we did one every single quarter. We focused on different social platforms that particular year. And so with Agency Summit, I had the benefit of having done something very similar many times up until then. I already knew for instance, How to organize my schedule for the day I’ve got this master Google sheet that I use I’ve started.
[00:06:21] I adopted as I have it from early on where I put all my speakers, all my sessions, all my sponsors, everything that I’m going to need to know. And as I’m building out the summits or the events, everything that happens, everything that needs to be figured out, everything goes into that sheet.
[00:06:36] So I have a central place where everything can be found. I can share that I can export it. I use that to build, like you said, social shares, I’ll export a CSV of all the session titles with their links, to the speakers and everything. So the experience helps right? Having that multiple virtual events under your belt and end up being your first time.
[00:06:57] Cause it fits your first time putting on an event. You’re going to give yourself quite a bit more time.
[00:07:03] Jeff Sieh: So can you talk to us a little bit about I know, especially with everything that’s happened with COVID and everyone’s moved to this virtual hybrid events. There’s can you talk about what platform, like what you use like software wise and maybe also what’s worked best for you and also what should you look for in a software when you’re trying to create a virtual event?
What Platform To Use When Creating A Virtual Event?
[00:07:32] Mike Allton: That’s a great question because there are a lot of options, right? Particularly today this is what we call a mark tech stack or marketing tech stack. We’re familiar with having so many choices for even the most niche kinds of activities that we might want to do. And with this proliferation of virtual events for the past couple of years, the virtual event options when it comes to software have really exploded.
[00:08:00] There’s more options and then there’s better options. So I’ll tell you, I started in 2018, that was the very first what I would call a virtual event that I put on. And it was really just a series of webinars. We used a platform at the time calledLive Storm, and it was just 16 individually scheduled webinars spread out over three weeks.
[00:08:19] And it was terrible. It wasn’t really Live Storms fault that it was terrible. It was my fault as the planner, you had to register 16 times, if you want to do attend all 16 sessions of that particular virtual event. Now, since then, I think Live Storm has added additional summit type capability at the time.
[00:08:38] They were really just a pure webinar, but I moved on to Hey Summit. They were on probably AppSumo as a deal. And so we used Hey Summit for a number of events and Hey Summit gave us the benefit of giving attendees, a single place to register. And sign in and then consume all the different sessions that we had planned at that particular.
[00:09:00] I outgrew, Hey Summit, mostly because I wanted to create events that were much more engaging and much more interesting to attendees, rather than like you said, Grace having just a series of webinars and in zoom type presentations. So we tried Run The World and then eventually we moved on to AirMeet and that’s what we used for Agency Summit.
[00:09:19] And that’s one of my favorite, most preferred event platforms today. There are some similar comparable options, like Hopin and Cvent as well. But what I love about these platforms is they create a more immersive experience rather than just having a presenter, speak to the audience. Maybe there’s comments, maybe there’s a little bit of engagement with the audience.
[00:09:41] What we’re creating with platforms like Airmeet is the opportunity to actually connect one-on-one or many to many amongst the attendees. It’s something that I often call a magical moment where you create. A little bit of space, a little bit of an opportunity for a couple of your attendees to meet each other and then for something to happen.
[00:10:00] And as the event organizer, that’s not up to us, what happens, we’re just creating that space. So what I’m talking about is like table talks, I’m talking about, being able to have personal one-on-one conversations, like direct messages, basically within the event platform. And of course creating this overall experience.
[00:10:19] That’s branded, that’s inclusive, that’s diverse. That has elements of the brand or the vision for the event. Again, more than just. Going into a Google meet or a zoom, where, that’s what you’re doing. You’re just attending a video call of some kind. We wanted it to be more particularly with Agency Summit, which I was actually just sharing earlier this week.
[00:10:48] I don’t know that I’d really told anybody this Agency Summit had it not been for the pandemic. First of all, it wouldn’t occurred. And second of all, it would have been a live in-person event in Paris. It was supposed to be. Social Media Day Paris in spring of 2020, I had on the roadmap for Agorapulse.
[00:11:08] That year, that later that year we were going to hire an event coordinator. I was going to have somebody boots on the ground in Paris who could speak French, who could help me figure out the venue and the caterers and all the other kinds of contractors that we would need to have in Paris because my French is not good.
[00:11:24] And we would have been bringing influencers and speakers into Paris. We would have been putting on a ticketed event creating content, having a hybrid of in-person and virtual, but mostly focused on the in-person experience of a AgoraPulse’s hosting this massive event in Paris. And then everything got shut down.
[00:11:45] So fast forwarding to 2021. We’re like, okay, we wanted to do another virtual event. I’d already done. Events focused on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter, and felt like we needed to do something a little more focused on a particular segment of our target audience agencies. And that’s when I started looking around and I found Airmeets.
[00:12:06] And one of the first things that I was just blown away by army in their demo was that when you come into the Airmeet venue, they call it basically when you log in as an attendee, that entire experience is customizable. And so I was able to work with my design team and the army team just through their normal functionality in create a venue vision.
[00:12:30] That kind of made it feel like you were in Paris and you weren’t on just another zoom call. We had a video embedded in the screen where I wanted it where it was like where we had a TV in the graphic, and we were able to auto play that video. And I was able to have my head of customer success, creased out Komori with our beautiful French accent, welcoming you, nice French music playing in the background.
[00:12:55] She’s telling you, not only in Q1, welcome to Agency Summit, but here’s where you go to do different things. And then we’ll get back to this in a minute. Cause that was really important, but she was able to create that experience. And so that’s why we use.
[00:13:12] Grace Duffy: Fantastic.
[00:13:13] I’m trying to wrap my head around how you were able to take this big event that was in-person event that you were dreaming of. That sounds amazing. I’m just sitting here, like I can taste the French bread right now. Cause you were talking about that oh, this event, Paris. And to take it to this virtual space, like I, there is.
[00:13:40] Yeah. Yeah. We’re talking about networking at these events and I wanted to kick off the show also talking about this attendee experience, but you hit on something. I think really on point here, which is, there’s a huge difference between an in-person event where you are there, right? Like you’re not at home and many of us were at home or still working while we’re attending these virtual events.
[00:14:04] And it’s easy to get distracted because you’re not there. You’re not creating the space in your own mind, I think, as an attendee to be there, if I was, if we were attending in Paris, I’d be in Paris, I’d be at this event, I’d be there, as a sponsor. And we were I think my ma my manager was a speaker at this event as well.
[00:14:22] So we would have definitely been there in person. And experiencing that. And, so when you’re a virtual, there’s not a lot of that opportunity for that. Side those like opportunity for side casual conversation. You’re no, you’re not in that space. And it’s also hard to stand out and create those connections, engage on the chats in the chat section, right?
[00:14:44] The chat segment of these virtual events. And so I want to know what advice you have as far as connecting, networking, and creating that space. You need to create these magical, meaningful moments when you are an attendee at a virtual event and how you can make the most of the experience that we do have available to us, which is hybrid or virtual right now.
How To Create Networking Opportunities at a Virtual Event
[00:15:06] Mike Allton: Yeah, that’s such an important question because as an event organizer, it’s inherent to us, whether it’s a virtual event hybrid event, an in-person event, whatever that event is, it’s inherent on us, understand the human psychology and the behavior tendencies of the people who are attending the. And I’ll get to why in just a moment, but they did this interesting straw poll at a fireside chat.
[00:15:29] I was on with army and they asked all the attendees of that particular talk. What has been your experience, creating networking opportunities for your events and over half of the people who were attending that particular talk, we’re not creating dedicated networking opportunities in their events and of the half that weren’t 30% were doing networking breaks.
[00:15:56] And here’s the problem with the networking break and why psychology so important. We’ve all been to events like social media, marketing world and content marketing world and so on. And if there’s a networking break, what they’re saying is here’s 15 minutes between sessions go outside. Use the restroom, grab some coffee and talk to some of the people that you run into in the hallway, which makes a lot of sense when we all stream out of peg Fitzpatrick’s session and we’re bumping shoulders.
[00:16:23] Cause it was standing room only, right? Those are easy opportunities to look at the person next to you and say, oh, Hey Grace, how are you doing right. That’s easy. If you guys were to give me a networking break right now. And I stand up and walk outside my room, who am I going to run into? Nobody.
[00:16:41] There’s nobody here for me to network with on a networking break. So from a virtual event, organizer perspective, you’ve got to look at things differently. You can’t do the same exact things that we’ve done. In real life, so to speak at the in-person events. So one thing that I often do is start off a virtual event with what’s called speed networking.
[00:17:06] And again, this is one of the fun, new features that the platforms have evolved and released over the past couple of years. But with speed networking, just like speed dating, you get matched up with one other person. And it’s usually random, although as an event organizer, like if we’re using Airmeet, I can mess with it a little bit in terms of who gets selected and paired with whom, but generally speaking, we allow 30 minutes.
[00:17:31] Automatically paired with one other person for five minutes. And as the event organizer, I can give some prompts in terms of questions that you might ask or things you might say, Hey, I’m Mike Allton. I’m from St. Louis. I work for a girl pulse. I can’t wait to hear Jeff session on Pinterest, mostly because he tells the funniest stories.
[00:17:49] And you just gotta hear about him ping from the second floor of his house. That’s the best story. And I hope he shares it. That might be something I share, just to break the ice with somebody else. And we’ve got now four more minutes and this person’s going to introduce themselves and so on.
[00:18:05] And then after five minutes, we get bumped over to the next person and the next person. So after 30 minutes, and again, this is the first session of the days, the only thing going on. If we were having a, an event tomorrow and you logged in that 9:00 AM your time, this is what would be on the schedule.
[00:18:22] Speed networking. After 30 minutes, you’ve met five new. And the thing about virtual events today is if we were having a virtual event and thousand people were showing up, how many of them would, very few, most of them are going to be complete strangers. And so we do the speed networking bird. So that you meet five new people.
[00:18:45] Now, these are going to be your best friends today. You just met them, but you know them now I’ve met Dustin and Ian and Chris and so on. And so now we go into the keynote session and let’s all pretend for a moment that this is the keynote and I’m giving the keynote what I see Sabrina and Ian and Chris and Dustin in the comments, but they also see.
[00:19:09] And maybe some of them were just in that speed networking session a moment ago. So when Ian says something and Dustin knows him, Dustin’s a little bit more inclined to respond to him. And that gets the conversation going a little bit more. That makes it a little more comfortable, particularly for us more introverted folks, to be willing, to post a comment, be willing to post a question, be willing to put ourselves out there a little bit more.
[00:19:34] That’s the human psychology and the behavioral science that needs to go into thinking through what is going to make my event the most successful. This is the first key point. It’s gotta be engaging. And by engaging, we mean the individuals who are attending have to want to be there. They have to be actively participating.
[00:19:52] Cause you actually said this a moment ago, grace, you suggested that at a virtual event, we can also be. Yeah, which is true. I could be blogging right now. I maybe am blogging right now.
[00:20:10] Jeff Sieh: Dustin says, this is why this Mike is a genius. So I would agree with that as well.
[00:20:17] So when you’re talking about this Mike, I’m thinking a lot of this has to be done before the event, because you have to educate these people, get them psyched up, start the networking early. And so you can’t just show up and have a virtual event and just go, okay. Network, because that’s not going to work, especially with these hybrid virtual events.
[00:20:35] So can you talk a little bit about maybe like incentives, what you would do? Is there prizes that you would give in these breakout rooms? How can you get people. Cause everybody’s that’s virtual. I’m just going to sit there and not say anything. Cause you talked about psychology.
[00:20:51] How is, do you add I’ll give you a 10 bucks. If you could network with 10 people. I don’t know. What do you, what are some ideas that you can do to help incentivize this networking at these virtual events?
How Do I Incentivize Networking At Virtual Events?
[00:21:03] Mike Allton: Yeah. That’s fantastic point because you’re right. You have to do a little more education upfront and it’s true for the in-person events too.
[00:21:11] We’re seeing it right now. And social media marketing worlds coming up in a couple of months and there’s a Facebook group and people are talking in the Facebook group, they’re setting the stage for things like going out to lunch. They’re prompting the attendees in advance.
[00:21:27] Hey, be thinking about where you’re going to go eat and who you might go eat with. And so they’re preparing the way you can do the same thing with virtual events. You can have a Facebook group, you can communicate via email, however you want. And you can say things like, Hey, we’re going to start the day with speed networking.
[00:21:41] And this is what that means. You’re going to love it. You’re going to have a great time. You’re gonna meet some people and it’s going to be super easy. You can prompt them and start getting them thinking about, oh, okay. I can do this. Cause again, the introverts are not going to want to do it. They’re going to want to sit there a little bit more passively, but we got to pull them in a little bit more.
[00:22:00] It also helps to have some ringers some people that you know, that you’ve tapped in advance. I saw Chris in the comments earlier as a great example. We had a scheduled time mid day for table talks. These are basically video calls of up to eight people at once. And when you go into the platform, they’re represented by two dimensional tables with chairs around them.
[00:22:23] And the platform will show little small miniature cameras with the person’s face or their avatar. So you can see who’s sitting at an individual table. Now, if you’ve ever gone to any kind of event that has tables and there’s an empty table. On a particular topic. Do you really want to be the first person to sit down at that table?
[00:22:43] It’s like being the first person at a party. That’s not necessarily the position most of us want to be in, but you can decide in advance as the event organizer. I want to have a table about Amazon live shopping and who better to have hosting that table. And Chris don’t know, Chris doesn’t have to teach anything.
[00:23:02] He just has to be there and guide the conversation as a table house. And he did a great job of that. So that’s one easy way to do that. The other thing that you’re going to want to do is making sure that everybody knows as they enter the event, where to go to get to these kinds of activities, you can call it a lounge, but that isn’t necessarily going to mean the same thing to everybody else.
[00:23:26] So that’s where the video and that kind of onboarding so to speak happens best. But the other question you asked Jeff was about rewards and incentives and gamification. So I stole a page almost literally from another event and implemented networking bingo. So I created an event guidebook. I was just a PDF that we emailed in advance to attendees, like the week before we also put it in the Facebook group.
[00:23:52] And the event guide book had, all the speakers, all the sessions, all the sponsors, all that stuff was in there, but it also had a page like a bingo card and every block was something of interest, something that was possible. Some aspect of each possible attendee. I’ve started a podcast. I blog, I run an agency.
[00:24:14] I handle Facebook ads, those kinds of things that you could go up to somebody and show them the currency. Do you want Facebook ads? Do you have a blog? Do you run a live show? Have you ever hosted a live show? On multiple social networks reaching hundreds of people? Yes. As a matter of fact, I have I’m Jeff Sieh.
[00:24:33] So you put the person’s name down on that bingo card and that’s something you could only do when you’re networking. You can only do that if you’re doing the speed networking or the table talks, and you’re actively engaging with other people. And we rewarded that, we said, Hey, be one of the first people to upload your bingo card or your networking being a card and you’ll win a prize.
[00:24:54] And these were significant prices. These weren’t 10 bucks. These were, 50, a hundred dollar Amazon gift cards probably gave away a free year of a AgoraPulse’s, which was worth a couple thousand dollars. We put some cash into that idea because it works. It did get people talking again.
[00:25:11] You’ll always have people that are super reluctant. They’re back here. They just want to passively consume that will be called out and that’s okay. We don’t have to get a hundred percent participation, but every little bit more that we do increases the number of people that actively engage with the event.
[00:25:28] And that helps the entire thing. Just build a memorable experience for.
[00:25:34] Grace Duffy: Absolutely. And that’s one of the things, when we talk about events, it’s always yeah, there’s the speakers and the content, but everyone always comes away with the networking, the people, the connections that they meet.
[00:25:43] And that’s why you traveled to these places or log on, or, participate in your bingo. So I love all of those ideas. I want to switch the focus now to sponsoring virtual events, which of course is a personal interest of mine because I actually joined restream last year as the virtual events manager.
[00:26:04] But I have to tell you, coming from social media marketing world and then doing live video or social media examiner, who of course hosts social media marketing world coming up and doing live video is a great fit. But when it actually came down to vetting the events and there were so many to decide what to sponsor, what to speak at, and even what to attend, it was really.
[00:26:26] Difficult to decide, especially because at that time, many people were not like you, they were, they had, this was still brand new. So although virtual events were not unknown, they were still fairly novel. And a lot of organizers were coming into it, having done in-person events with the experience and the expertise of that experience, that in-person event.
[00:26:50] And we’re still trying to figure out. So honestly, there was a lot of, I have no idea what to expect. I don’t know what to know. I don’t know how many people are going to sign on. I don’t know. As as a brand sponsor, looking at these things, it’s hard to be like they don’t know if they’re going to have a hundred people or a thousand people we’re just going to have to see, that’s a big gamble, but it didn’t take long, of course, for people to start.
[00:27:13] Catching onto this and knowing how to use it and how to utilize it. But I want to know from your perspective, as someone who is organizing this, these events and had talked to many sponsors, you of course worked for brand yourself. So you understand where I’m coming from a brand perspective, what were some of the things that sponsors were as you’re approaching sponsors or they’re approaching you?
[00:27:33] What were some of the questions they asked and what were what did they want to know before committing to an event?
How To Get Sponsors For A Virtual Event
[00:27:40] Mike Allton: Yeah, this is such an important part of the conversation, right? How do we get sponsors involved and engaged? Whether it’s a brand partner where they’re not necessarily paying for that engagement, maybe like in, in our case we’re looking to lean on the brand partners to help expand the reach of the event, or maybe it’s an actual revenue driver for your event and you need the sponsor to come in to help supplement the revenue that’s coming in on to on top of tickets.
[00:28:10] One of the first things they’re going to look for is where’s the value? What am I going to get for my involvement, whether that’s cash or marketing. And this is where again, it took me a while to find the right combination of platform and approach. The earlier platforms that we were using a couple of years ago, the best that I could basically do for a brand partner was give them speaking space.
[00:28:39] Like they were able to conduct a session and they were able to approach the attendees in that way. And that’s not the best solution in most events, because let’s be honest if I’m an attendee and I see that brand is giving a session. I’m probably going to assume it’s going to be a sales pitch. I made that mistake as an attendee.
[00:29:02] Once I went to a lunch and learn session that content marketing world a few years ago, and it was just a sales pitch from the brand. And I actually got up and locked. Cause I was like, this is not a good use of my time with a virtual event attending the consequences could be even worse because they could just close the tab and leave your event entirely.
[00:29:22] If I walk out of a room at the, was it the Hyatt convention center in Cleveland? There’s 20 other rooms for me to walk into and it’s not like I’m going to leave the building. I’m going to go to something else. But again, this is that behavioral. We need to be mindful of the fact that it’s a lot easier for a virtual attendee to choose to do something else.
[00:29:43] So we want to avoid those kinds of pitfalls. So what I’m looking for. And found in some of the more recent platforms that can like Airmeet, hop and run. The world is a sponsor booth. So basically we create an exhibition hall and we create a booth space on the virtual platform and the best platforms.
[00:30:05] It’s more than just a graphic with information about the brand, because that’s just an online brochure. What we created with Airmeet with at Agency Summit, like you guys got to experience was the opportunity for attendees to enter the booth and to engage. With the sponsors who are physically there at the booth, and they can have a live video call.
[00:30:28] They can have a video playing, they can make use of the same table, talk technology inside the booth. So just like we’re going to have a booth, a social media marketing world in six weeks at AgoraPulse, you can walk into the booth with a 10 by 10 space. You can get a demo from one of our sales staff.
[00:30:43] You can talk to me, we can go sit down at a table. We can have a one-on-one conversation if we want to. All of that’s possible on the virtual event space. The key there is to educate the sponsors in advance. And this is the point that you were making graces, that they get it to them.
[00:31:07] But they’re still not quite there, particularly if they’ve never done it before. And I had a lot of partners involved with Agency Summit. I think we ended up with over 50 partners at the end. By the time we actually had launched the event in June, and many of them had never participated in a virtual event in that way.
[00:31:24] So it was incumbent on me to educate them, just like I’m having to educate my speakers and I’m having to educate the attendees on how to do the different things and how to get from a to B I’d educate the sponsors and the more education that I could do in advance, the more planning and prep, the better everyone was going to be.
[00:31:42] I was able to tell them. Here’s our event schedule. And we’ve got specific times where we’re prompting attendees to come into the lounge or to go to the exhibition hall and learn about some of our other fabulous partners. And we’re going to have a global chat where you’ll be able to send announcements and you’ll be able to tell attendees, Hey, we’re going live in the restream booth.
[00:32:05] We’re going to live in the Ecamm booth to talk about whatever it is that we’re doing and showing off today. So we were able to plan that out and tell them this is when you’re going to want people there from your brand, because they don’t have to be there all day, but they should be there during the peak times.
[00:32:22] And then we also give them opportunities to talk to the attendees in a community. This is another point that I make often is that the best events have some kind of community. Outside of the event, whether it’s a Facebook group and it’s just for the event or they’ve got some slack channel or other kinds of community that’s around the brand where they talk about their events like we’re building social media, pulse community for a girl pulse.
[00:32:46] That’s going to be a completely off social media community. And when that’s ready, there’s going to be channels and user groups, that sort of thing for the different events that we’re having. So all the people who attend Agency Summit in this year can join that community there and get to know each other and get to know the brand, get to know the speakers better before, during and after the event.
[00:33:07] So the more of these kinds of things that you can do, the more successful every single one of these tactics will be including the sponsor.
[00:33:14] Grace Duffy: Absolutely. So just to recap, everything that you just said, because I’m absorbing this in real time as well, is that when you want to look for you want to look for a place where the, where you’re able to talk there’s a space of virtual space.
[00:33:30] And by the way, side note, I the air table or air, excuse me, experience was, it was like the metaverse it was like, here’s a screen, here’s a place where you could sit. It was like, I was building my own little like Barbie dream house for restream within your conference. So that was like, that was a really good experience.
[00:33:47] And then you also look for something that has an established community. And then what else should sponsors expect going into a virtual event, like going into these virtual events? Because I know we talk about things in terms of is this really meeting the customers I want, is this meeting my ROI?
[00:34:07] And of course, every. Brand every business has their own separate goals, but what should they be expecting in terms of results when you’re talking about a virtual event, as opposed to something ha in-person where a lot of the ROI I would have to say is like the human connection, and this one is, you’re still getting the human connection, but it’s, like it’s easy to put a link up there and be like no one clicked on the link, right?
[00:34:31] Is that really realistic to expect that from this type of space?
Managing Sponsors Expectations
[00:34:37] Mike Allton:
[00:34:37] Yeah. If you’re a brand and you’re considering being involved with somebody’s event, definitely take a close look at their landing page for the event and who they’re talking to. Maybe they’re explicitly saying maybe it’s implied through the messaging, but you have to get a really good sense.
[00:34:55] You have to be solid in your idea that this particular event is in fact, going to be talking to my target audience, at least a health. Segment, maybe they’re talking to multiple audiences and in yours is just one of several, but that audience has to be there or it’s not a good fit and you should pass.
[00:35:14] There’s lots of opportunities, lots of different investors choose from. So take a look at that first. And then second, you got to go into it with the understanding and the expectation that the attendees are there to learn and network they’re not there to be sold. This is true with pretty much every event, but it’s doubly true, I think with virtual events, because again, we’ve got so many things going on. It’s so easy for me to do something else. I don’t need to log into a virtual event on my computer to be sold to when I have just as easy access to the company’s website or YouTube or something like that.
[00:35:49] Now event attendees will go to in-person events with some other kinds of goals. Attendees will walk through the exhibition hall at an in-person event, sometimes with the idea of having some demos and comparing different tools and options and that sort of thing. That’s less likely to happen in a virtual event, mostly because lack of experience, like I said, just a couple of years ago, you couldn’t have the same kind of ex exhibition hall experience on a virtual stage.
[00:36:16] Like we can today. So this will become a little bit more of the norm going forward, but for now at least attendees, aren’t looking to be sold. You have to ask yourself as the brand what are we going to do? How are we going to activate? Which is the real, that’s the buzzword among event organizers, right?
[00:36:32] How are we going to activate the attendees? How are we going to get them interested in talking to us as a brand? And here’s where it’s really beneficial to have that mindset of what can we teach them? How can we help them? How can we show them that we understand what they’re going through? And we’re here to help them in some way.
[00:36:53] So one of the great things that I’ve seen some brands do is not just have a live demo, but have a live workshop in their booth, right? Maybe the event organizer doesn’t want to give them space on the agenda for a full session. But if we’re using your meat, you can go live in your booth space anytime you want.
[00:37:13] So you can decide 11:00 AM tomorrow morning, we’re going to do a live workshop in our booth about how to set up your live streaming. Wouldn’t that be awesome. Now, if you’re in an event with marketing folks, you’re going to get a bunch of people to show up at your impromptu workshop just happens to be put on by restream.
[00:37:33] So that would be a great fit for restrict. Grace’s writing this down right now. She’s
[00:37:38] Grace Duffy: like
[00:37:41] Mike Allton: I would recommend doing it.
[00:37:46] So maybe it’s a live show. Maybe it’s a workshop. Maybe it’s a resource. Maybe it’s a PDF. It’s a white paper, something like that, but have something planned that you can offer the attendees that will genuinely help them. That’s my tip for sponsors.
[00:38:06] Grace Duffy: I love that advice. Now. Now we’ve been talking now I will take ownership.
[00:38:11] And so we’ve been talking about these virtual events as catching up to in-person events, right? Let’s talk about the ways that virtual events are actually far superior to in-person. It’s what are some of the advantages of a virtual event that you can do with that in person? What are the benefits?
[00:38:27] And also maybe what are some of the pitfalls? Because I don’t think that my opinion that you can compare the two, they’re just two completely different things. But in the last year, the last two years you’ve been in, it’s almost been like, we want to hurry up and replace these. You have this dream of this like event in Paris, and now we’re doing this, but I don’t think that your event, I think it’s just different than your, the event you would have had in Paris.
[00:38:49] It’s not better or less than it’s just different. So what are some of the advantages of virtual that you can’t have with in-person?
Advantages of Virtual Events
[00:39:00] Mike Allton: There’s always been the advantage of being able to reach people who never would have been able to track. To your physical event. And that just happens to be more true now than ever, but it was always true before, right? If you have an event in Cleveland, Ohio, you can’t expect a lot of people internationally to be able to travel there.
[00:39:22] There’s a great expense. There’s a much greater time commitment. Plus there’s all the logistics of having to get visas and that sort of thing, if you’re coming from outside the country and if you’re having an event outside of the United States, but you’re trying to reach people in the United States. Now you’ve got even more psychological issues where, there’s just a lot of people here don’t want to try to travel outside the country.
[00:39:42] That’s probably true elsewhere as well. So the virtual solution that’s, that all gets pushed to the side. Anybody in the world can come into my event. Timing is a little bit of an issue, but if you schedule it carefully and you make the replays available, Timing becomes less of an issue.
[00:40:03] And the replace has a second benefit. If you have an in-person event, you can film it and you can put that film on line, or you can try to live stream it, but there’s usually delay and lag and processing and that sort of thing. Whereas if it’s virtual, everything’s broadcast instantly and it’s available instantly on demand.
[00:40:24] And that’s a feature that you can promote to all of your attendees. It’s Hey, you can, we can have multiple sessions going on at the same time. Or if you don’t want to attend this session, you can take that time to go watch some of the other on demand content or the sessions from this morning or yesterday, or however you want to organize your event.
[00:40:41] So that makes that kind of a technical aspect quite a bit easier. The challenge like we’ve mentioned a couple of times is it’s easy for people to choose to leave. Your event. So you had to make it a little bit more engaging, but then also is an opportunity for us to reach people who are a little more introverted.
[00:41:00] There are people who attend in-person events, who do not want to talk to the other people at the in-person event, they show up, they’ve got their laptop, they sit in the back and they’ve watched the speaker and then they close their laptop and they leave because they’re very introverted. Those kinds of people tend to be a little more comfortable typing a comment on the screen.
[00:41:25] They tend to be a little bit more comfortable opening up behind the screen. So there’s those kinds of aspects that you can overcome from a virtual perspective. The final thing that I’ll say is that. There’s opportunities on the virtual stage to do things a little differently, a little more fun and interesting like group selfies.
[00:41:44] You can do cocktail parties, you can do table talks, rather seamlessly. You can do breakout rooms. Like we could be having a session right now on Airmeets. And we could say, okay, I’ve done my 10 minutes spiel on this particular topic. Now we’re going to break into groups and I can click a button. And everybody watching right now is going to be funneled into breakout rooms.
[00:42:05] They don’t have to be necessarily seated at the same table or anything like that. That can all happen seamlessly. And then I can bring you all back into the main stage. We can all have a conversation that way. So those kinds of things you can do quite a bit easier. You can let people take the mic and go on camera and ask questions.
[00:42:24] Similar to how you might walk up and ask a question in a live situation, but it’s still a little bit different. So we’re trying to do a lot of the same things because people are used to those. If they’ve been to in-person events, they’re familiar with how that works. So you’re right. Things are different, but we also try to have the metaphors in place so that there’s at least a little bit easier of understanding.
[00:42:49] Grace Duffy: Yeah, that was my big, that was my big question. When it came to virtual events was that, those little side conversations, you have the per you bump into each other over the snack table, or you make some funny comment or you’re because you’re experiencing things. And so I liked that the idea of those breakout rooms and those smaller spaces, because I personally, I’m very extroverted, but I still like smaller spaces.
[00:43:08] Like I don’t like competing with a room of a thousand people from all over the world, all commenting or whatever. And so I like that idea of creating that space to have those little one-on-one side conversations and to talkie talk to each other. Offstage right off to the side.
[00:43:26] Jeff Sieh: Hey, let me ask you a question because I have a pause right now.
[00:43:30] They’re not jackhammering outside my window. So Mike, so I’ve been able to go to a couple events like Lou Mongello’s Momentum and Janet Murray in the UK. And they’re had requirements for speakers to not just fly in and fly out, but stay there at the event and really interact with the people.
[00:43:51] And I’m thinking that could be a way also if you’re doing a virtual event, have these requirements that you will have access to the speaker, they’re going to be there in those breakout rooms. Is that something that you see is going to happen more and more? Is that people want that I guess, connection.
[00:44:05] And they will go to those events. So I can sit down in a small room and ask Mike questions about blogging, that he’s been doing for awhile. Is that something that maybe for those people who do not like to sit, you know, and like maybe talk face to face that might be appealing to those people who like to sit in the back and just type out questions.
[00:44:26] Mike Allton: Absolutely. In fact, that again is one of the elements of in-person events that we have tried, and we are in the process of figuring out, okay, how do we replicate that in a virtual stage? For instance, one of the first times I went to social media marketing world. One of the people I had been connected to on Twitter, but had never met in person and wanted to with Amy Schmidtour, who’s now Amy Landino.
[00:44:51] So I met Amy at Social Media Marketing World 2016. And I met her because I went to her session and I waited until the end. And I stood in line. There was a queue upfront after she spoke and I got to meet her and she recognized me and we took a selfie and everything. It was wonderful. So that kind of thing doesn’t really happen automatically in a virtual event, you have to plan it.
[00:45:14] And I’m going to say that word a lot. So you have to plan that. Having the understanding between speakers when you’re asking them to speak, Hey, I would like you to do a session. I would also like you, if you’re willing to host a table talk afterwards, that makes a lot of sense. And it works really well.
[00:45:34] It doesn’t necessarily have to be required. That’s up to you as the event organizer. Maybe that speaker doesn’t have time. Maybe they’re paid. We’ll talk about that in a minute. I’m sure. But if that is an option, it’s a great one. The other great option. That allows speakers will take advantage of is with a platform like Airmeet.
[00:45:52] Again, I don’t mean to keep plugging them, but just happens to be the one I used. You can create tables yourselves, right? So if we were having a vent right now and I was speaking and I was seeing a lot of questions that we didn’t have time to get to, I could say, Hey, my session is about to end, but meet me over in the lounge.
[00:46:09] I’m going to create a quick table and we can jump over there and continue the conversation to wonderful option. A lot of speakers do that again in person, they’ll have their session. And then they’ll say, the next Amy’s Porterfield’s coming up next. It’s her time. So I’ve got to get off the stage, meet me outside in the hallway, that’s how you can do the same exact thing on a virtual setting. But the last difference that I’ll mention is that we’ve been doing this for a while. Now at a AgoraPulse with our events is we’ll talk to our speakers and we’ll say, Hey, in addition to your talk, can we have 15 minutes of your time? The month before and do a quick live Q and A in our community, because we can go live into Facebook or you can go alive into a LinkedIn, wherever you want to go live.
[00:46:55] And you can give that speaker 15 minutes to talk about who they are, what they do and what is they’re talking to me about. And they can field some questions and start to generate some buzz about your event and give that opportunity for the attendees to meet them, get to know them, ask them questions all in advance.
[00:47:13] I want
[00:47:13] Jeff Sieh: to bring up from, I just gotta break sorry. Grace stuff going to show up when I can. So Sabrina goes, yes. Yeah, that’s me. I want, I will talk to people, but I find that nobody, really wants to talk to that live events. So she concentrates on the speaker, the boosts, and she loved the fields of live events and the freebie.
[00:47:31] So let’s talk a little bit about that. What, we talked about like some prizes and stuff. Can you do freebies? Could you like. Raffle off a weekend with Mike Alden. I don’t know what would it take? Yeah, so those freebies, like how could cause some of it is swag.
[00:47:53] Like you go around like at a live event, like social media marketing world, or you’re trying to get t-shirts, you’re trying to get like free, software, can you make that feeling happen for you? The attendees at a virtual.
Swag at Virtual Events
[00:48:06] Mike Allton: Yeah. In fact, there’s two different ways that we’ve done it in the past.
[00:48:08] The first is just a blanket giveaway that started them with hastening because they made it really easy and you can have a giveaway to attendees just for registering. And so at the end, the event platform automatically randomly selects one attendee or however many prices you want to give away. And those surprises could be anything you imagined.
[00:48:28] It could be swag. It could be subscriptions. It could be gift cards, unrelated prizes, like an iPad or something like that. Whatever you want to give away, you just enter that in as the event organizer. And let the platform do that for you. You could also have prices attached to specific sessions or specific booths.
[00:48:51] All that’s doable, all that’s automated use to decide in advance what you want to do, and then communicate it, right? That’s like something you would put on the event landing page, Hey, we’re going to be giving away an iPad to our attendees. So make sure you register that kind of language. The other thing we did was gamified a little bit more and monitor tweets and hashtag use and app mentions and Twitter engagement.
[00:49:14] We use metric fuel to monitor that and we paid attention and we actually published leaderboards into the community at regular interview intervals. Hey, making is tweeting up a storm, but Chris is right behind her. Catch up. And again, we would give away prizes for those kinds of activities and really help incentivize, but those were also opportunities to give away swag for a real purpose and not just randomly throwing t-shirts or something like that to people.
[00:49:46] Jeff Sieh: Okay. Let’s talk about the bottom line for some agencies who are watching and some people may be interested in doing this themselves. Are they worth it virtual events because it’s like the, stepchild of real events. So is it really, is it worth me investing time, money, all the thing of pulling speakers together, having backup plans, worrying about, the streaming and all that stuff.
[00:50:12] Does it really add to the bottom line of a company, say like AgoraPulse, something like that, just doing a virtual event because there, it, it seems like everybody went to virtual events because they had. But now things are opening up and there’s this hybrid stuff. Does it really add to the bottom line?
Do Virtual Events Have a Good ROI?
[00:50:40] Mike Allton: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been doing these events for a while. Like I mentioned, and the average virtual event that I put on has about 3000 attendees. And if we look at some of the in-person events in the social media space, like there’s a bunch of social media day events that happen across the country in June.
[00:50:58] Most of those get 1/10th of that attendance. So right off the bat, my virtual events are. Dramatically increasing the number of people that are coming in and being exposed to the brand. And these are leads for our company and are targeted leads, right? If I put on social media, Pulse LinkedIn edition, that was an event that I did a couple of years ago, focused on LinkedIn headlines with Melonie Dodaro and Goldie Chan, everybody that attended that event.
[00:51:29] wanted to learn how to leverage LinkedIn, they wanted to learn how to manage LinkedIn on behalf of their company or their agency clients. So these were a hundred percent leads and we got 4,000 people to attend that conference in countless numbers of those people went on to become subscribers that are still paying AgoraPulse money today.
[00:51:49] So the revenue generating opportunity out of a virtual event is phenomenal. But the other thing that we’ve done over time is repurposed the content Out of these events, we’ve turned sessions. The speakers gave at the virtual event into ongoing aspects of our social media manager school. We’ve turned them into videos for the YouTube channel.
[00:52:13] We’ve turned them into podcast material. We’ve turned them into training sessions. We’ve turned them into additional webinars and other kinds of lead generation opportunities. So there’s a lot that can be done with the event beyond just the event itself and the more of these that you do. And you can get some help if you’ve never done a virtual event before and make sure you avoid some of the early pitfalls that I went through, but the more of these that you do, the easier they become.
[00:52:40] Like I said, when I decided to do Agency Summit, I was able to turn it around within a quarter. It was like, we decided late Q1 of 20, 21. Hey, agencies are going to be our target audience. For the rest of the year, let’s not do, social Paul’s summit, YouTube edition. Let’s do an event specifically for agencies.
[00:53:03] And within a couple of months I have 50 speakers, 50 partners, almost 3000 attendees, and it was all entirely new platform. So I made myself work a little bit harder with that particular event. Cause I decided to learn airmen. But it worked great because I’ve been doing it for a while.
[00:53:20] I, I leaned on the past history that I already had in terms of the Google sheet and the promotional plan. I already knew the strategy. You already knew a lot of the tactics that I was going to employ. So if you’re coming into this cold, give yourself a little more time, like I said, at the outset, but it’s a hundred percent worth it, particularly if you can execute it well.
[00:53:40] Grace Duffy: Yeah. And you relied on a variety of tools. I know for the Agency Summit, because like I still stumble upon the Google drive or Google Files that you shared with be with has all the speakers, all the different things that I like. I happened upon it every once in a while, when I’m going to look for something, when I’m looking for like our presentation from that event.
[00:54:01] And I’m just like, oh, I remember that. I remember how it was just really well done. So I liked that you used a combination of tools. I wanted to bring up Carolyn’s comment here, because we were talking about swag and Jeff’s weekend away with you. Can’t and so she’s bringing it up. She says, we have gotten, she said we have gotten a water bottle from a virtual conference a couple of months after the red was over.
[00:54:25] That’s interesting. It was a fun surprise and reminded us to go back and rewatch the playbacks we forgot to. So I liked that, that it was something months later that reminded them to go back and rewatch those rewatch that those playbacks. So that’s a good tip.
Communication Before and After An Event
[00:54:43] Mike Allton: That’s a huge point that the Caroline’s touching on, which is the fact that the communication from your brand to your attendees can’t stop at the end of the event, that really should just be the midpoint. The communication starts pre event when you’re bringing them in, you’re communicating via ads or social media or earned media, and you’re getting them to your landing page and you’re telling them about your event, they’re signing up. Okay, great. That all happens pre event.
[00:55:10] Then the day of the event, there’s a flurry of activity. But our hope as an event organizer is that everybody that attends our events has some kind of magical moment. Like I said earlier, where they meet somebody or they learn something or they create that connection. That’s going to be incredibly valuable, important to them down the road, so important that they will forever associate that thing with your event.
[00:55:36] And by extension your brand, I’m here working for a AgoraPulse. I met Emeric Ernoult at Social Media Marketing World 2016 and he hired me two years later. I will forever remember that it was Peg Fitzpatrick who introduced me to Emeric at Social Media Marketing World 2016. I can’t not know that fact and I can’t not associate that positive career trajectory with that particular event.
[00:56:05] So my hope is that people who attend Agency Summit have those kinds of experiences, but then it’s still beholden on me to continue that conversation, whether it’s via email, whether it’s through social posts, whether it’s through engaging with user generated content. Again, hopefully in the social media space, in particular, people are tweeting about your events and they’re using your event.
[00:56:28] Hashtag maybe they’re not necessarily at mentioning you, but hopefully they’re using your event hashtag because you’ve communicated it right in your event guide book and your pre event communications and your global chat and everything. So they’re taking pictures and they’re sharing the social media, engage with that.
[00:56:42] Reshare those, revisit it, like Carolyn said with some sending us in swag, sending them an email a couple of weeks later, say, Hey, we just published our post event followup and here’s your access. Don’t forget. You still have some time to catch all the replays, take that step and keep making sure that you’re helping your attendees and your audience experience and continue the experience with your vet and your brand.
[00:57:07] Grace Duffy: Oh, Mike, I absolutely love that story. I too met Jeff at Social Media Marketing World. I think it was the same year, 2016. And now here we are together. I can never un-know that? Sorry, Jeff. So we’re up against the hour now. I can’t un-see that now I can’t unknow that I cannot untangle myself from this beard, it has been a pleasure, Mike, it has been a pleasure to have you on the show.
[00:57:30] We are up to the hour and I could sit here and talk to you for more hours. So I so much more.
[00:57:37] Jeff Sieh: You did such a great job, Grace. I’m sorry that I have been quiet most of the time. Most of you guys will probably like that. It probably oh, we should have a jackhammer outside of Jeff’s camera every time.
[00:57:47] So Grace talks more, but thank you, Grace for doing this. This is why Grace is amazing. I want to make sure. And Sabrina says this conversation with Mike Allton is so good. Thank you so much, Sabrina. She, he is. That’s why we keep him around because he is just chock full of great information.
[00:58:04] Nice guy. Make sure you Mike, before we, we leave and before something else happens, will you please tell us where the best place it is for people to find about you and everything that you do?
[00:58:17] Mike Allton: Yeah. Like I said, I run our strategic partnerships at AgoraPulse. That just means I’m in charge of the influencers and the brands that we work with, which is why I put on.
[00:58:25] And I’m responsible for our events in person virtual. But if you want to know more about me personally, follow me on Twitter, Mike underscore Allton, that’s A L L T O N, or go to the Social Media hat.com. That’s where I’ve been blogging for a decade. I’ve been sharing a lot more recently about my virtual event experience because a lot of brands have been coming to me, like Grace said and said, Hey, we saw you did this event.
[00:58:44] We’d like to know more about how you did it. So I’ve been sharing more about how I do virtual events and how I approach them, the psychology, which I like to geek out about stuff you like to geek out about psychology and NLP. And those kinds of things go to thesocialmediahat.com.
[00:58:59] Grace Duffy: Yeah, he’s got a great catalog of blog posts all the way.
[00:59:02] I think like November up until now, I’ve been, that’s what I was reading to prepare for our interview. So it is chock full of value is truck full of stats, go to the Social Media hat and find out more about virtual events. Mike, it has been a pleasure to have you here before we
[00:59:18] Jeff Sieh: go, Grace. We got to find out where to find it all about Grace Duffy, because you did such an awesome job today,
[00:59:23] Grace Duffy: where I am the video content manager over at restream.
[00:59:27] So if you want to know everything there is to know about live streaming from anywhere in the world, including in a hotel room where a jackhammer is outside of it, I am more than happy to help you. So that’s where you can find me. And I’ll be back again next week with Jeff
[00:59:40] Jeff Sieh: yes. And don’t forget about our amazing sponsors.
[00:59:43] Ecamm where you can find out more about them at socialmedianewslive.com/ecamm, because one of the great things about Ecamm is they have a mute button which is. Just so nice to have today. I’ve been using it over and over.
[00:59:57] Grace Duffy: I use that quite a bit as well. So with that, we’ll see.
[01:00:01] I’m not able to mute anyone else.
[01:00:02] Jeff Sieh: Yes. So with that, we’ll see you guys next time. Thank you for putting up with everything going on today. Mike, thank you so much. Make sure you guys go follow him and he’s got podcasts. He’s got blood posts. He’s got everything. thesocialmediahat.com He’s amazing. And with that thank you guys for putting up with us today.