BAM Virtual Marketing Congress
OFCORES / Belgian Marketing Association - https://www.marketingcongress.be/
Why did you hold the BAM Virtual Marketing Congress and what were its Objectives?
The BAM Marketing Congress is the Belgian Marketing Association’s flagship event. This unique 39th edition brought more than 1300 attendees from the Benelux marketing community together virtually, with inspiring insights from more than 80 local and international speakers across nearly 100 sessions!
The Virtual BAM Marketing Congress was held in place of the usual annual 2-day in-person event for Belgian marketers. The objective was to effectively redesign this 39th edition of the Belgian Association of Marketing’s flagship event in an engaging and functional virtual format, while continuing to deliver significant marketing solutions and top networking opportunities to help attendees professionally Move Forward, as prescribed by the theme.
Key goals specifically included preserving and continuing the positive attendance growth evolution of the past 6 years, raising sponsorship revenues, spotlighting BAM as the premiere Belgian marketing trade association and delivering the most significant marketing event in the Benelux region.
To do this, we developed a computer-generated, tailored 3D networking village exhibition for attendees to interact with sponsors. We also streamed around 100 sessions and launched them in a limited live release format over the course of an entire week (building anticipation and demand), with up to 12 possible content tracks for attendees to follow.
The tracks comprised blockbuster keynotes, upcoming 2021 trend themes and the Belgian Marketing Awards pitch categories.
Participants enlarged their networks, boosted their skills for the year ahead and learned best practices from experts to implement in their organisations –all virtually!
Tell the Story Behind Your Event's Success
With 39 editions, the BAM Marketing Congress has a traditional audience pool, who were difficult to convince that an event with a strong focus on connecting people and having live sponsor product demonstrations could effectively translate in the online context. But through a consistent and captivating communications campaign, highly functional and interactive event platform, meaningful content, big name speakers and flexible engagement format, we were able to bring together the full base of more than 1300 participants and deliver value in their marketing careers.
Additionally and less tangibly, we wanted the attendees to feel that the virtual Congress meaningfully added to or changed something in their professional lives, such that following the live event, participants could have moments of reflection and be moved to action by the interactions they had with the event. The virtual nature of the event allowed us to accomplish this by offering increased content options relevant for all types of participants through over 100 sessions and 80 speakers. Such sessions could be followed live and/or revisited for 3 months following event. Further, participants maintained access to the networking features on the event platform for 3 months, so connections could be facilitated with utmost convenience.
What were the Key Success Metrics?
This first virtual edition of the event was a success from all standpoints. We exceeded our sponsorship sales goals as well as turned an overall profit while retaining the dedicated audience base for an established event in its 39th edition. The event had more than 1300 attendees, and they engaged consistently in the live chat on the platform, posted with the event hashtag on social media, and scheduled over 200 1:1 meetings on the event platform. Additionally, attendees watched a total of 2175.5 hours of event footage, translating into 7881 sessions viewed.
The attendees also provided valuable and positive feedback via a post-event survey, with respondents indicating the following: 81% perceived the virtual event as very good or perfect, 75% rated the virtual edition as very good or perfect, 63% found the content quality to be very good or perfect, nearly 100% liked that the content remained available on-demand for 3 months, and 53% found the ticket price to be very good or perfect. Additionally, 67% learned about the Congress through social media or e-mail, with the next highest category being word of mouth from colleagues.
The Story Behind your Comms Strategy
We launched a large-scale communication campaign over 7 months to build demand for event registration, and we approached the event promotion like that of a Netflix season release with continued streaming and binge watching opportunities.
With an e-mail campaign, we contacted the full database of the client, its members and past event attendees, in order to promote the virtual format, pricing categories and benefits of attending. Ticket prices were reduced for client members, and we offered lower ticket prices for registering early ranging from €99-€199 depending on the date of registration. This incentivized attendees not only to register, but to register sooner rather than later. The virtual event’s lower price, convenient online format and flexible on-demand streaming options reduced barriers to attendance and increased ticket sales.
We also ran a simultaneous social media campaign for the event across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, posting multiple times per week and incorporating branded video content. This campaign consistently teased event details, as well as interacted with speakers, companies and sponsors.
We reached our sponsorship sales goals through offering sponsorship packages that included pop-up and sidebar ads on the platform, a virtual exhibition booth, social media promotions, session Q&As and more.
What Technology Platforms were used?
We used SwapCard for the virtual event platform for the following reasons:
•Seamless integration with the registration software, Aventri, as well as the livestream comprised of Zoom conferences and pre-recorded videos on Vimeo
•A user-friendly, intuitive layout
•Ability to integrate the virtual exhibition on this event platform, so all event-related information was centrally located
•Formatted for use as an app or a website, for increased accessibility on any device
•Effective networking facilitation, providing attendees with AI-generated connection recommendations, a filter to search for other participants by job function or employer, and 1:1 meeting scheduling or chat capabilities
•Live polling, Q&A and chat audience functions
•Platform visibility options for sponsors
•Key attendee use and engagement data generation
The virtual exhibition was created in-house through our subsidiary VR company, DiscoVR-360, building a computer-generated, branded, immersive and interactive exhibition world with sponsor booths.
The greatest technical challenge arose with turning around high-quality videos in a short timeframe. With over 100 session recordings, many of which were recorded just a few days ahead of the live event, the editing and technical overlays for the videos had to be executed incredibly fast while maintaining top-notch production quality across the entire event.
Lessons Learnt for the Future...
We had to transform the sales strategy to correspond to the new virtual event format. Where there usual 2-day in-person Congress ticket price was about €800 and included an expansive venue, meals, beverages, swag bags, awards gala and more, a virtual event is a smaller financial drain on physical aspects. Instead we attracted attendees by reducing the ticket fee and implementing new digital benefits to increase convenience, flexibility, sponsor visibility and production quality. The first 300 registrants also received beer deliveries!
Additionally, we faced the challenge of limited audience attention spans in an online environment with increased distraction potential. To overcome this we invested heavily in high-quality video production in a studio environment with a captivating set, in addition to spreading the release of sessions live over a full week. Attendees thus engaged with the event live for fewer than 2 hours per day, and they were provided convenient on-demand access to all sessions for 3 months following the event.
Another lesson learned includes the value of drawing more attention to the virtual exhibition earlier in the event process, so attendees can interact with sponsors ahead of the live event and ensure there’s more time to explore the VR space.
AEO Excellence Awards 2020
Association of Event Organisers (AEO)