Thought leadership programs present an incredible opportunity for brands to earn their community’s trust, strengthen relationships, and ultimately drive sales. However, the rise in thought leadership content has made it harder to break through to buyers, and brands must decide which thought leadership activities are most worth the results.
Virtual events and webinars offer a unique and incredibly cost-effective way to reach new audiences, fueled by advanced event technology that makes presentations and engagement effortless—but you can’t expect to drive meaningful results simply by logging into the online event platform and passively consuming content.
Let’s explore why virtual events and webinars are a smart thought leadership avenue and how to achieve your goals as either an attendee or speaker.
Thought Leadership Benefits of B2B Virtual Events and Webinars
Virtual events and webinars connect your thought leaders with a larger potential audience than most in-person events can provide. Further, the online environment can significantly boost the attendee and speaker diversity, helping you reach people you previously were unable to.
The following are a few reasons that virtual events or webinars are great thought leadership opportunities as both a speaker and an attendee:
- Break through the digital noise. Executives are creating more thought leadership content than ever before, and 55% of buyers say that they will move on from a piece of thought leadership if it does not pique their interest within the first minute (according to the B2B Thought Leadership Impact Report). Virtual event audiences provide a stronger opportunity to capture your audience’s attention and engage them on your topic.
- Social media engagement. Virtual events and webinars are a perfect opportunity to engage online with other attendees, boosting your follower count and connecting you with engaged industry professionals in your niche.
- Content creation. Events provide multiple content creation opportunities. For example, you can promote your session or highlight the sessions you are most excited about through blog posts, customized video messages for social media, an email newsletter, and more. You can (and should!) recap your experience and learnings on social media or through a blog post during the event. After the event, you can summarize your session details or provide a recording, share an event debrief blog post or podcast episode, or expand on topics from the conference in your ongoing content.
Caroline “Cazi” James, a principal at technology public relations agency Aircover Communications, reinforces that virtual events can significantly boost your reach, and potentially benefit your public relations programs. “Organizers will use marketing or PR resources and industry channels to promote their events,” she said. “This can help build brand awareness, and position participating executives as thought leaders. Likewise, the thought leader can participate in event promotions and share them with their networks and communities, building credibility and standing. If the virtual event or webinar has some newsworthy aspects – such as a big announcement or product launch – the media may show some interest in reporting on it. This opens up even more avenues for the thought leader to have their voice heard.”
7 Tips To Drive Virtual Event and Webinar Value
To actually unlock the benefits of B2B virtual events and webinars, you need to engage with the event community and actively build connections. It doesn’t matter if you attend or speak at the event—you can only build thought leadership if you join conversations, trade tips, and provide genuine value to your connections (not just try to sell to them).
Drive the most value from your virtual event attendance or speaking slot by following these tips.
Complete Your Virtual Event Profile
Most virtual event platforms include attendee and speaker profiles. Complete your profile as early as possible, linking to your website and active social media channels. A thorough profile will help other attendees connect with you outside the event space and know how to best approach you with questions.
Engage and Connect with Attendees on Social Media
Social media is a vital tool throughout the event experience. Join any relevant event social media communities and confirm the event hashtag and social accounts that you can tag. Before the event, try to schedule meetups with other attendees, discuss sessions you’re excited about, or encourage people to join your session. At the event, tweet real-time takeaways from your sessions, tagging or @ mentioning the speaker, and engage with other attendee posts. After the event, share your learnings and feedback and connect with anyone you met at the event.
Use In-Platform Messaging Features
In every session you attend, try to engage with the speaker and audience through the in-platform messaging feature. Do not message simply to message. Ask insightful questions, express support, share examples, and meaningfully engage with the session material and your fellow session attendees. As a speaker, share additional tips with your attendees, answer their questions, and reinforce that you are an expert on your topic and excited to chat with your peers.
Attend Networking Sessions and Events
The best virtual event experiences have dedicated spaces and scheduled event times for attendees to mix and mingle. Seek out these opportunities and purposefully cycle through rooms or lobbies to meet new people and briefly share details. The purpose is to establish a light connection that you solidify in post-event follow-up.
Share Session Replays
If you speak at the event, ask the organizers if you can share your session recording and embed it within the content on your website. In addition, create derivative content to expand on your session material and answer questions that came up during the event.
Create Session Recaps
Regardless of if you spoke at the event, write blog posts, film videos, or record podcast episodes that break down your key event learnings and your favorite sessions. Share this content on social media and tag any speakers or attendees as relevant.
Coordinate Ongoing Collaboration Opportunities.
After the event is over, find ways to partner with other event speakers and attendees for new content opportunities. Possibilities are endless here. You can contribute content for each other’s brand sites, host a live-streamed conversation on social media, or even partner on a research project that will uncover new insights for your industry.
When Should You Host Your Own Virtual Event or Webinar?
As you start engaging with more virtual events, you may be tempted to host your own online event. This can be a great opportunity for brands, but there are some challenges you’ll face. If you’re still new to the virtual event scene, we recommend you instead attend virtual events and webinars to understand what can elevate these experiences and where most fall short.
To successfully host a virtual event or webinar, you will need dedicated resources, including a budget and team time to build the agenda, invite attendees, and coordinate the entire experience. Simply put, hosting a virtual event or webinar can be a lot of work.
We recommend you partner with your organization’s partners, advocates, and customers to start your virtual event or webinar journey. Enlist a partner with complementary goals to help plan and execute your event. Organizations like CMSwire, which our Founder Erika Heald frequently collaborates with, can also streamline the process by managing a lot of the upfront work of a webinar or virtual experience.
Looking for some more considerations? Mike Allton, a virtual event strategist and head of strategic partnerships at Agorapulse, has hosted dozens of virtual events and webinars. He and the #ContentChat community shared their advice for designing engaging virtual or hybrid events in a recent conversation.
Thought Leadership Thrives on Consistency
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a reputation as a thought leader in your industry. You build your thought leadership profile over time. This makes it important to continue to provide value in your industry and stay active in your social media and content publishing channels. As you’re getting started, you should focus just on one or two channels so you can drive meaningful results, instead of trying to be in too many places at once.
If you’re interested in enhancing your thought leadership platform, our team has partnered with many B2B brand thought leaders over the past decade to build their profiles through content creation, social media, events, awards, etc. If you’re interested in learning more about how to evolve your profile through strategic content marketing opportunities—send us a message. We’d love to discuss your needs and see how we can help you reach your goals.