In this episode, Sonali Nair shares the three key features of a virtual tradeshow platform that you want to insist on before committing to any technology application, and the five strategy boards that your business should develop prior to launching any virtual event. Sonali Nair CMP, DES, HMCC, is the Manager - Digital Events & Global Campaigns digital events at OpenText. With over 2,000 hours of online events experience, she shares her personal views on using ON24 and how she helped to organize an online spelling test for children during lockdown.
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Hello and welcome to this episode of speak PR today I'm delighted to have Sonali Nair who's joining us all the way from Toronto. And Sonali is an event professional. She's a certified meeting professional and she's here to talk with us about digital events strategy, Sonali. Welcome.Sonali Nair:
Thank you so much, Jim, for having me here. It's an honor. Hello to all my fellow event, hustlers listening to this podcast. Good morning from Toronto.Jim James:
Thanks for joining us and bring such a warm welcome here to us in the UK, you currently work at open text, which is a large technology company has their digital event strategy, but you've got acres of experience beyond that. Now, what can you share with business owners about how to make the most of their events are the ones that they've created themselves, or ones that they're going to attend.Sonali Nair:
When we think about events, and the strategy or marketing associated with that. It's, there's a lot of things that come in our minds. And as a business professional, if he talks about small and medium businesses, the primary focus or if you say, the primary goal and objective is to engage with their customers to connect with them. And especially because, you know, during the pandemic, where we're not able to meet in person, and, you know, we're not able to have that social interaction, that's where virtual or digital events come into action, you know, to still have that opportunity to create an experience, you know, to to create a story about your brand, and connect with your customers.Jim James:
That sounds actually a lot easier than it is because all of us that are sat through a zoom event know that eventually gets kind of dull. Now, can you recommend a tool or any experiences you've got with a platform that kind of goes beyond and is really dedicated to virtual events, Sonali?Sonali Nair:
Absolutely. Honestly, when we see or talk about digital events, the first tool that comes to my mind, that actually connects with the brand and the overall virtual event experiences on 24, I am a personal user have on 24, I have been using it for four years now. And recently, last month, on 24, December, they changed their entire user interface experience. And that is so much better, because it creates and it helps you deliver an immersive experience for your customers, they can connect with you, you know, with visuals and resources and, and any, any way that you want your information to be delivered, they have an engagement tool for that.Jim James:
Now just take us through the mechanics of that because I work with a client on a virtual event actually out of the states, and really looked like kind of a group of brochures, in folders. And there wasn't any interactivity. There was kind of live streaming of the presentations, but not a lot of chat around that. So could you just take us through maybe the the key functionality of on 24 that you found really most engaging Sonali for your brand.Sonali Nair:
So when we talk about on 24 are the functionalities to engage with your attendees? We need to understand that right now. Everyone is receiving so many digital event requests, right? So there are a couple of things we have to we have to consider way before setting up the functionality is the time of the event is is that going to be 20 minutes or 30 minutes, and then accordingly, pick your engagement tools to highlight just three of the top engagement tools I feel can come really handy with that on 24 can be the CTA option, wherein you can customize visually and identify the call to action for your attendees as soon as they exit out of the event console. So you know you're giving them the opportunity to create their experience after they attend your event. And that's really important because you want to guide your customers to what's next. And CTA is one option. The second key feature, in my perspective, would be the resources related resources that you add within the console. During the presentation, you know, I'm hoping that when when organizations are delivering the virtual events, they're not keeping it, you know, PowerPoint heavy. And when it's not PowerPoint heavy and it's more conversational, you have an opportunity to share additional resources like maybe a PDF document, a link where they can be redirected for additional information, customer stories, adding your links to customer success stories is another great way to redirect attendees to a place where they can read more about, you know, people like themselves who who went through the same journey. And their challenges was solved by using that company's products or services.Jim James:
Right, right. And what about another third feature that you've got?Sonali Nair:
The third one, I would say, q&a, which is redirected to the host or the speaker? Now I know, in typical scenarios, the q&a is mostly, you know, they post a question and then either the speaker, would you No, answer it in the chat box, or they would just, you know, address the questions for Billy. But when we talk about stimuli or on demand virtual events where we don't have the live speaker or host addressing those questions, I think redirecting them to one live person available, is is another great way to keep your attendees engaged when they're watching the on demand or, or similar life, because they know that there's one person on the other side of the computer, who is reading their questions and available to answer them.Jim James:
Okay, that's a really key one, you call it simulate. Thank you. I hadn't heard of that term before. And as you say, you might have someone presenting. But if you have then someone Manning, if you like a live chat, if people are in the audience, they could be asking questions, without having to wait until the end, to kind of raise their hand as they might in a traditional event. So that's three great features. Now, there's an element that I want to ask you about. How do you think an exhibitor if you like, or a speaker, an event can attract the kind of the past by traffic because at a trade show, for example, we when we build a booth, and the bigger the booth, and maybe the better the location, you'd get the traffic to your site that didn't really know where they were going, but just kind of what goes into this show? How does that work in the virtual world? Because people can have access in a very small window, don't they?Sonali Nair:
Absolutely. And that's where your pick of the event technology comes into picture. before picking your event technology, you have to identify your objectives. What is it that you want to accomplish? When we talk about exhibitors, or trade shows, or virtual conferences where we want to have sponsors? What is it that our sponsors are looking for, or the exhibitors are looking for? To give you an example, Cvent, you know, they they launched this amazing watch wall attendee hub, which gives so much of power to their exhibitors, and helps you create an entire journey of the experience. What happens when a when an attendee logs into the console and the virtual environment? What do they see? How can they customize their experience themselves? Is it that they want to interact to chat? Or is it that they want to read more resources or images. So that is something which is really important, an important element of worthwhile events that you first have to identify what you want to achieve out of that experience, and then pick your technology instead of the other way around?Jim James:
That's a really good point. So actually, you're enabling the attendees to customize the trade show as they would like to experience it rather than the sort of static trade show.Sonali Nair:
Absolutely. They have all the power.Jim James:
Wow. Okay. That's amazing. So in terms of competition, how does one brand make itself more appealing than the other brands? In a virtual show? In a traditional offline show, they might have a fancy booth or have people standing at the counter, maybe play music have jugglers, all these different devices? They're not relevant in the virtual world. So how do people do that then, Sonali,Sonali Nair:
I agree that virtually it is. It is quite challenging to keep your attendees seated. You know, it's all About the attendees chair and they experience in it. And that's why it's important that you understand your target audience. What do they expect? What, what has their experience been with your brand? What do they like about your brand, and that's what you need to utilize to create that experience for your virtual event. For example, you know, in in, in an in person event, normally companies would hand out swags, or, you know, raffle ticket and that is something that can be done virtually as well. So that's where you have to identify what what will be that your attendees will connect with. And then you can gamify the entire experience, you can have, like, I'm, I'm a vine lover, and I would be super excited to attend an event where I will have a failure, and, you know, or maybe they might talk about some mixology lessons, you know, so it's, it's important to connect with your attendees and your customers at at the basic level. And that will help you identify the elements. To differentiate your event from your competitors,Jim James:
you talk about having five strategy boards, Sonali is that the time having looked at the technology to discuss the strategy to share with us your concept around these strategy boards, it sounds great guidance for people, you know,Sonali Nair:
think of your event strategy, as as like a business plan for your startup, without a business plan, any startup or for that matter, any company cannot function for for a very simple reason, because they will be confused with no goal to strive or they won't have any clarity on the target audience or, or they go to market. So to To put it another way. It's like having a recipe without without an ingredient list. And when I talk about five strategy boards, the first one, and that's, that's the most important one of your strategy board. So brand DNA, followed by your target audience persona, the messaging that you use to connect with them, what are your tools and strategies and tactics you use to grow to market your brand? And how do you keep your business continue, you know, to to all the threats and you know, uncertainity, that that is at the edge of everything when you know, when it comes to business. And we have experienced that recently with with a global pandemic.Jim James:
And so with these strategy boards, are you suggesting that these are the elements that you consider when you're building your virtual show that you're using these strategy boards to determine the structure, the color, the swag, and so on, related to the strategy boards?Sonali Nair:
Absolutely. These five strategy boats go a long way, because these will help you connect all your aspects and elements of your organizational goal. Why you want to host the event? And who's going to be attending it? And how can you communicate the relevance of your event to these attendees and keep them engaged. So they come back to you and your product.Jim James:
Sonali. I know that you've sort of managed over 2000 hours of successful events, I hope that someone didn't have to attend 2000 hours of events concurrently. I think now just about anybody sounds like locked down to me. Can you give us a kind of one example, a practical example of an event that you've been involved with and the results for that company?Sonali Nair:
For sure. So recently, and I know most of the Canadians might have heard about the spelling bee of Canada. It is a nonprofit organization that hosts spell tans for kids. So one of the events that we recently hosted and in a normal scenario they hosted in person skeletons and spelling bee competitions. But we had to switch that within two months into a virtual environment. And we still wanted to connect with with the parents and the kids community and we use not just one tool but an array of event tools to market and host that spelling bee. We use YouTube Live. So Twitch, and Twitter, we we explode and utilize all of these platforms and we're able to attract more than 40 participants. 10 winners, with over 150 attendees, and those numbers were amazing, because how everything was transformed into digital at the last minute. And, you know, kids were so excited to be there in person that it was really hard for them to understand what's happening to their favorite competition of the year that they have been practicing all year round. And now suddenly, they will have to do it, you know, on camera instead of the stage. But we weren't able to keep the momentum going with the engagement and the claps that we were sharing on zoom. So it really comes down to a point, how you keep your attendees engaged, and make them feel that it's not just a computer screen, that they're sitting in front of you. They still have, you know, support and ears, from the other set of attendees as well.Jim James:
Sonali it's a wonderful, a wonderful example, son, I thank you for sharing with us about virtual events and simulate live events. If you want to find out more about you. How can they do that?Sonali Nair:
You can connect with me on LinkedIn and I'll be happy to help youJim James:
right now put, Sonali. Sonali. Nice details in the show notes. Sonali, thank you so much for joining us today on this episode of speak PR. Thank you so much. So you've been listening to Sonali Nayar, who is based in Toronto has kindly joined us to share about the impact of virtual events and how you can really look at five different strategy boards, and then blend these different technologies to create a fantastic and engaging experience for all the people that are attending. And that seems to be the key messages, you have to think about the experience and the joy that you're going to be creating, rather than just your own outcomes. So thank you for joining us on this episode of speed PR. My name is Jim James. And as always, I wish you the best of health, a profitable and at least a sustainable business during these difficult times. And that wherever you are, you are participating or creating some really engaging and lively events for everyone to enjoy. Thank you so much for listening