The truth about marketing live online events

By: Richard Michie

To navigate the challenges of the pandemic, the marketing world had to take all live events, training, seminars, workshops and talks online, and fast! The problem was solved quickly, as businesses turned to Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet to fill the gap.

One of the huge benefits of remote events is the lowered barrier to entry for businesses. No longer do you need to hire a space, design a stand, print handouts, or travel across the country/world to spend days at an event, spending a load of cash in the process!

With a license for video conferencing, even a free one, you can create an event in minutes, reaching large audiences, and achieving the same quality output as large companies.

Even the UK government used Zoom in the early days.

Why is this a problem for online event organisers?

For those who pivoted from traditional venue driven events to those held remotely, this low barrier to entry poses another challenge.
The market for online events has skyrocketed, and zoom fatigue is now rife across the professional world.

Where physical events were once a great chance for a change of scenery, and the opportunity to expand your knowledge and meet new people, online events could now be seen as just another Zoom call, which most people are doing day after day!

How can you stand out from the mass of online events?

We market quite a few online events for our clients, and even switched our own Social Media Masterclass to a virtual event in the first week of UK lockdown.

Always keen to up our game and expand our knowledge in all areas of Marketing, we wanted to try and find out what people consider a worthwhile event to register for.

Here’s what we found.

Free events or paid?

Making an event free seems like a sure-fire way to fill your online event with attendees, right? In fact, making something free often means that people don’t value it. It’s easy to book and not turn up. They have no skin in the game.

A paid event will almost certainly lower numbers, but it filters your audience to people who see value in your event, knowledge, insight and network.

Paying for a live online event sets an expectation that you’re an expert in your field, and that your event will have benefits for those attending.

Here’s our poll which clearly shows people don’t value “free”.

Marketing Online events

What attracts people to live online training sessions?

Now we’ve eliminated price, let’s explore the other factors in people’s decision making. The two main key considerations for those looking to attend an event are also closely related to value.

  1. The reputation of the person leading the event, and the guest speakers.
    If you already have a good reputation, you have a better chance of getting your event off the ground. If you’re mostly unknown, then start building right away!
  2. Clear outcomes of the session.
    Connected to the cost of the event, clear outcomes are essential, and paid events that don’t provide value are likely to have an adverse effect on your reputation.

marketing live online events

How long should an online session be?

Looping back to Zoom fatigue, session duration is a key consideration.

People can no longer take a full day training session, like they once did before the lockdown, and the length of time you expect people to stare at a screen can have a bearing on the success of your online event.

The sweet spot appears to be an hour. However, while adding maximum value is the goal here, one and a half hours is optimal.
It’s also key to work in regular breaks, use breakout rooms, and make your event interactive. It’s a rare person who’ll be happy to sit in silence as you talk at them for 90 minutes!

marketing live online events

What’s the secret to marketing an online event?

While our findings are very enlightening and useful to apply, they are just a rule of thumb. Use them as a guide. Surveys reveal what people “say” they think. This doesn’t always equate to what they’ll do it a real-life situation.

The secret to online events is to ensure you provide maximum value for those attending.

Whether your event is 90 minutes, 10 minutes, spread over several days, free or paid, if your attendees leave feeling that they’ve wasted their time, then so have you!

Interested in speaking to The Optimists?

Right from the beginning of our time working with The Marketing Optimist, they’ve taken the time and effort to get to understand Sharp Consultancy as a business and not just a client. We’ve seen a huge increase in the effectiveness of our social media strategy, particularly on Linkedin and we’re delighted with the impact it’s had on the business.

Jamie Caulfield

Regional Director, Sharp Consultancy

It was a pleasure to work with The Marketing Optimist on this project. It felt like a true collaborative effort on the day and they made the interviewee's feel at ease whilst talking about their journey on our RISE programme. The final video was professional and engaging, we have received great feedback around the quality and creativity of the case study. Including the video in our presentation made it come to life, with real humans sharing their stories, so thank you to the Marketing Optimist!

Hannah Prole

Impact Manager, Better Connect Limited

Case Studies


Marketing for Local Government

Moresby Hall Hotel

Hotel Rebranding

Sharp Consultancy

B2B Social Media for recruitment

The Edit LDN

Managing advanced eCommerce SEO

Better Connect

Digital PR and video production for events

Tango Networks

Marketing support for a global telecoms business

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