April 15, 2020 Tiffany Beddow
Amidst the current global crisis, field and event marketers have been left scrambling to figure out how to handle upcoming events and programs planned for the year. Asking themselves questions like, Do I just cancel the entire event? Do I postpone my event? How do I salvage my event?
Hunter Smythe, Director of Corporate Events at Benefitfocus, faced this exact scenario earlier this year. She and her team decided the show must go on and took on the challenge of pivoting the company’s annual in-person customer and partner conference, One Place, into a virtual event experience. They manage to do so in less than two weeks. Here’s how they did it.
How to Move Forward After Last-Minute Event Cancelation?
Benefitfocus looked for a few qualities in a digital experience solution. Any platform the company adopted needed to be easy to use, provide content on demand for various audiences and had to be flexible enough to make Benefitfocus’s brand shine throughout the experience. Ultimately, Benefitfocus turned to ON24 to create a stellar virtual experience.
Benefitfocus started its move by mapping out what its virtual experience would look like. The team then decided to trim down the usual two-day event into a half-day online event and split that half-day event into a keynote speech and 14 breakout sessions. Each session and speech was pre-recorded and scheduled to run “live” using the ON24 platform’s simulive features.
Continue on to learn the keys to the Benefitfocus team’s success and tips for bringing your own event virtual.
Benefitfocus’s Keys to Success
An Agile Team:
Benefitfocus assembled an agile team to quickly get to work and get the event up and running in eight business days. The team managed all this while navigating last-minute speaker preps and recordings, making decisions on what the experience would look and feel like and figuring out how to best use new technology. Here’s how they made it work:
Putting The Customer Experience First:
For Benefitfocus, it was important to make the online event as similar to the intended in-person experience as possible, ensuring that attendees still engaged with sessions and took away key learnings. To make this a reality, Benefitfocus focused on prioritizing the audience experience by making sessions easy to access and conversational and providing clarity on how the day would unfold.
- Providing attendees ability to register once, gain access to all content: Using ON24 Engagement Hub to house all sessions in one location, Benefitfocus set up a seamless registration experience. Meaning, once the customer registered once for One Place, they then had access to all content in the event hub, never having to input their information again to watch another session.
- Clear Agenda with Scheduled Breaks: Leading with an hour-long morning keynote, the team built in a 15-minute break right after, similar to what they would have done in-person, leaving people time to check email and take calls before the breakout sessions started.
- Survey Feedback Baked into Every Session: Traditionally at Benefitfocus’s in-person events, there is one survey for the entire event that is sent out after the event has concluded. With ON24, they could gather real-time audience feedback based on each session, helping Benefitfocus understand what sessions were the most popular and who might be interested in more details on Benefitfocus solutions. Compared to in-person, Benefitfocus received far more feedback than ever before.
- Tracks and Sessions Built for Different Audiences: Similarly to how Benefitfocus would have handled breakouts in person, using ON24 Engagement Hub, they set up different tracks intended for their different audience personas to run concurrently after the keynote, making the most of each attendee’s time.
On-Demand Strategy and Mindset from Start
Since this was the first time Benefitfocus would have a digital component to One Place, the team started thinking more about its general digital strategy and how it will use this event as a resource year-round. As the team built out its virtual event with ON24, they took advantage of key aspects of the ON24 platform to prime the event experience for on-demand engagement.
- One-Stop Event Landing Page with ON24 Engagement Hub: With ON24 Engagement Hub, Benefitfocus could organize and aggregate all content and sessions related to the event and set it up not only in a seamless way for the live event but also once the event concluded, the Engagement Hub was already optimized for on-demand usage, so Benefitfocus customers can return to the event hub all year round for resources.
- Bookmarking Key Moments with Chapterization: Once the sessions concluded, the Benefitfocus team went back and chapterized each breakout session to make it easy for on-demand attendees to engage with the most impactful moments.
By taking a digital event strategy, One Place 2020 achieved 200% growth in attendance over the sign-up for the in-person version of this year’s event and engagement is continuing well after the event from on-demand viewership, as customers continue to revisit the One Place event hub for resources.
And, the ON24 platform provided their team with another benefit that just isn’t possible with physical events: real-time data. The insights that ON24 delivered immediately gave Benefitfocus an understanding of their customer’s digital body language.
Now, the team knows a majority of attendees gave the virtual event experience a high rating, understand how many minutes they spent consuming content and can even drill down into which sessions resulted in the most people raising their virtual hand to learn more.