Don’t jump on the virtual events bandwagon says expert

Brewers across the country are having to adapt fast to the changes forced by COVID-19, but as packaged sales fail to offset the losses from venues, they are looking at better ways to adapt, including launching virtual events.

Online events can give people a reason to connect and join in for a beer – keeping in contact with your customers and hopefully helping beer sales.

Brewers have already started launching virtual events like the Isolation Beer Festival from the Tasmanian brewers, and the Isolation Degustation, the upcoming Beer Lounge from Brisbane’s Aether Brewing, as well as webinars, meet the brewer and tasting sessions.

But it’s a major change for brewers who are used to connecting to customers face-to-face, so we spoke to Mariella Mejia, director of digital agency Made with Moxie as well as the team at online event platform Eventbrite to get some tips on how to pull off a successful virtual event strategy.

Standing out from the crowd

Mariella Mejia said that with social distancing in place and the ongoing mandatory closure of venues, online events can be a great way to connect and keep connecting with customers, but brewers should be aware that it’s a crowded market.

“The internet was not short of content pre-COVID and now it’s heaving. My view on it is that everyone has pivoted to the same thing, everyone has jumped straight on the internet.

“People are saying we’re going to do it online and we’re going to do it every day. The difficulty is cut through.”

She explained that brewers should think carefully about their objectives and execution.

“What we’re seeing across the board through looking at data about peoples’ actions is that they are looking for entertainment.”

Mejia explained that the top apps which were downloaded in the last month were TikTok, Whatsapp, Zoom and DingTalk.

“The trends of peoples’ behaviour is towards entertainment and communication that helps them work remotely. Current virtual events involve talking at/to audiences from the internet. Events are more than that… they’re experiences.”

“You should be thinking, how can you entertain your audience? How can you turn this event into an experience? What that means is entirely up to the brewer.”

Another major issue with online events is that without having to worry about venues, timings, accessibility, catering, parking or a multitude of other issues, it can be tempting to set up multiple events a week.

“Normal event and marketing rules still apply. A real life event wouldn’t happen every day, on day five you would only have at most two diehard beer fans turn up,” Mejia explained.

The same as any event, there should be a purpose and it should be engaging as soon as possible to your audience. Estimated figures differed, but audiences want to be engaged in the first 10-60 seconds.

“Creating engaging content for your audience is more critical than length of time. However, it’s vital that you don’t wait too long before honing in on key, intriguing topics,” the team from Eventbrite told Brews News.

“Focus on hooking attendees into your content within the first 60 seconds of your event. Otherwise, you risk them tuning out, getting distracted or switching off the live stream.”

Pick a platform

Eventbrite explained that a major consideration when running a virtual event should be what platform is best for a business.

“The first step we recommend is for event creators to investigate which technology or platforms will help them best reach and engage with their attendees,” they said.

“Many event creators that Eventbrite works with around the world are creating online experiences that encourage participation from their viewers — whether it’s through Q&A, conversations or interactions (for example, an online trivia or how-to webinar).

“If you’re hoping to have viewer participation, platforms such as Zoom or Go-To-Meeting are best suited.

“Other event creators are looking to showcase their venue or environment that they’re streaming from — for instance, a brewery tour or a nightclub set. In this instance, a streaming platform like Facebook Live is a strong option.”

Mejia agreed, saying that brewers shouldn’t feel they need to try out something completely out of their wheelhouse.

“Use a platform where you already have a community and identify your objectives. If you want a chatbox, try YouTube, if you want people to see each other and interact, maybe Zoom might be better, if you want to go live then get on Facebook.”

But always keep in mind the times she said, and that people have short attention spans online.

“Keep it short and funny. Sometimes we want what I’d call dad content, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something slick and polished but people out there trying their best, it’s endearing to others. They’re the kind of lighthearted things that work.

“People are really looking for entertainment right now. They don’t want a three-hour lecture.”

Tips from Eventbrite

  • Prepare a script and practice running your event before you go live. Ensure your script is clear and that the audience can easily follow along. Don’t forget to test your technology as well (including your internet connection!)
  • Make it visually appealing. Either with an interesting backdrop or clear, well-designed slides. Some visual cues you might typically make with your face or hands in-real life won’t translate across online in the same way.
  • Interaction. Incorporate interactive moments where attendees are able to engage and participate. This could be a Q&A or guided discussion.
  • Content is king. Prioritise a subject that you believe your audience will find most interesting
  • Understand your audience. Consider who will be attending your event, how they like to communicate with you, what their interests are, and what you’re trying to give them through your event.
  • Promote it. Ensuring viewers tune in makes all the difference in running a successful event so it’s absolutely vital to promote it well. Some easy ways you can do so include:
    • Sending out an email invite to your attendee database
    • Posting the event to your social media channels
    • Encouraging registrants to refer or invite friends
    • Adding an event registration link to your website or email newsletter
    • Make the details and logistics of your event easy to understand and accessible

Getting the data

Once you’ve decided on your platform and what form your event might take, next is the practical stuff. Figuring out how to manage attendance, ticketing and access is important, and dependent on the platform you’re using.

All of this should all tie into your aims, according to Made with Moxie’s Mejia.

“When people tune in, think about grabbing email addresses and think about at what point will you start to be selling beer. How does it fit into your objectives?

“The beauty of digital and online for all my clients is that it helps them find out, through actions rather than words, what people like,” she said.

“They will of course say this beer is great if you ask them, they wouldn’t say it’s gross. But would they buy it again, and how often? It’s at this time you can really find out.

“It’s also a time to focus on customers’ actions on social media, and see what people like and what they engage with. Where do people go on your site and engage with you? What should you be focusing on more to improve?”

There are also some practical and regulatory details you should think about, she said.

“While you’re there, be mindful of ABAC. Also if you are recording the session, get consent from everyone there.

“The biggest faux pas I’ve seen is a company that shared a recording of a Zoom meeting. It was not a public meeting and people were upset, so it’s that basic courtesy stuff.

“Have your disclaimers in place but also use that data capture to better help your business. Most creators are approaching it from a “here I am, here’s the content, see you later’ but there’s so much more than can be done.”

After the event

According to the team at Eventbrite, a good way to capture feedback is a post-event survey.

“[This] should be considered best practice. It allows you to gather valuable feedback to improve your future events, and also shows attendees you care.

“Creating a registration page where attendees can fill in information on themselves is another easy way to capture data about your audience.”

Made with Moxie’s Mejia said the same thing.

“Ask people for buy-in, get their email, stay in touch or follow up and invite them to other similar things,” she said.

“Despite the fact that the internet has been around for ages, it’s a new way for all of us to be interacting.”

Mejia predicted that even when the lockdown is ended, we may not immediately bounce back on the events side of things, so getting your digital strategy down is important.

“I don’t think “business as usual” will happen any time soon once it’s over, with consumer confidence being low in gatherings and economies.

“That being said, we’re inherently social beings. We want to have conversations, but it’s harder with virtual events when people are scared to say anything, or it’s harder to interact.

“But there will always be that interactive element to the way we learn and talk to each other.

“So I’d just say, don’t jump straight into an event just yet. Find out more about your current customers, and keep in mind that everyone will be doing the same thing.

“But right now, breweries have a place and an opportunity to get innovative, understand their customers and what they can do to entertain and bring them together in a safe, comfortable way.”

Back to News