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Virtual Events

Virtual Experiences Are Here To Stay - Here's Why

A Q&A with PathFactory’s President and CEO Dev Ganesan on the future of events

Even though many people have dipped their toes back into in-person events and conferences, consider this your friendly reminder that you shouldn’t pull the plug on your virtual event strategy just yet. Even with in-person events back in the mix, industry titans like Oracle are confident that hybrid events are here to stay. This means that companies who hold events will need to consider virtual experiences as part of their long-term event strategy.

Fresh from Forrester’s hybrid B2B Summit, PathFactory’s President and CEO Dev Ganesan has a lot of perspective to share when it comes to how virtual experiences fit into the mix, considering the growing appetite for in-person experiences. Going back to the same old live event tactics can leave your audience with a flat experience and ultimately not build the value needed to keep that pipeline moving forward. Dev’s perspective? Despite the increased interest in attending in-person events, there are still folks who prefer virtual events; in those cases a hybrid event is the best option. With two years of technical innovation, data, and insights under our belts, we’re here to share how marketers can create an immersive experience for their audience before, during and after events. Whether they’re live, virtual or hybrid events: buyers expect more.

“With the amount of data and content intelligence we’re getting from virtual events, we can see that people do find virtual events engaging. On top of that, the data collected during virtual events helps marketing teams plan content and programming for in-person events, too” – Dev Ganesan, PathFactory CEO

In case you missed it, early on in the pandemic PathFactory developed its VEX (Virtual Event Experience) module, which ushered in a new way B2B companies could nurture and collect information about their prospects. Compared to other virtual event platforms available, PathFactory uniquely approached VEX, its infrastructure, and its analytics capabilities with two things in mind:

  1. How can a virtual experience make it easier for prospects to self-nurture and self-educate?
  2. How can a virtual experience help accelerate a buyer through the buying journey?

We sat down with Dev to get his thoughts on the future of events, where he thinks virtual experiences will fit in, and what they can accomplish.

Q: Virtual events were great when the pandemic began, but now many people are comfortable attending events in person. Where do virtual experiences fit in now?

Digital events are going to happen regardless. Technology has come a long way, and we’re now able to have meaningful digital experiences with interactions that create a similar energy as a physical event. Companies can have virtual events, hybrid events, regional events, or one large physical event, but now there is more emphasis than before on these events as part of a greater integrated go-to-market strategy.

Event marketing has now become a larger integration motion and is leaning into the digital play more and more, with some companies going as far as putting event marketers on digital teams. This alignment between digital marketing and events should have happened a long time ago, because only now are companies getting access to an unprecedented amount of event engagement data. This is especially helpful to B2B companies who are trying to understand their prospects’ buyer journeys through the content they consume. The data is going so far as to optimize physical events that are now taking place and the development of content. Now that we have data from these virtual experiences, it’s easier to usher in these changes; that’s why a tool like VEX is valuable to businesses.

Q: How are companies at different maturity stages using virtual events?

It comes down to the size of the campaigns and events the company is running. Some companies were already running virtual events, and then decided to layer in PathFactory as a way to enable their audiences to self-nurture. After a virtual event, the organizers can upload the videos and content to a library, making it easy to search through all the resources—almost like an exclusive resource center! This kind of play benefits both parties because buyers love the ease of access, while companies are capturing new types of data. Without PathFactory, the webinars and content they’re creating would become a ‘dead end’.

Q: What can we learn from the last two years as it relates to virtual events and the opportunity to levage buyer insights and content intelligence?

With the onset of virtual experiences, we have seen a major increase in the content consumption by audiences.  Because of this, we have deeper insights into how people consume this content—whether video or written content—and these insights are invaluable to everyone on a go-to-market team.  With virtual events, we know a lot of the audience is multitasking: found that nearly 44% of people in virtual meetings are doing something else on their computer while in virtual meetings, so we can only imagine this is similar for webinar and virtual event attendees. By lining up several pieces of recommended and relevant content to virtual attendees, we’re tapping into the audience’s predisposition to multitask.

Q: How can go-to-market teams leverage buying signals to create more relevant event experiences?

That’s the beauty of PathFactory: we enable the buyer to only see content that is relevant to them. PathFactory provides data from pre-event to post-event, and this data helps companies optimize their content strategy at every stage of the buying journey. On top of that, as an AI-powered tool, the more often people attend events, the more data that is captured.

If someone reads two articles and attends a webinar for 30 minutes, we’re considering that person a buyer with high intent. The data PathFactory captures helps teams optimize their virtual experiences so they can focus on how to accelerate the rate at which prospects self-nurture, so they can get to that high-intent buyer stage quicker.

Q: How does the access to visitor and engagement analytics help in long term event strategy and production?

Right now, companies are interested in data and insights around how their audience is consuming content. Aspects like topics of interest and formats of the highest-performing content are helpful when thinking about how to plan subsequent events. This data has a big impact on content strategy and is invaluable to everyone from content strategists to CMOs because it helps them concentrate their resources into areas that will see the best ROI and engagement.

There’s also value here for companies who do ABM. If there’s interest among your target accounts in cybersecurity, then of course it makes sense to host a webinar with content specifically about cybersecurity. If you know you’re targeting a specific account or industry, you can host these virtual experiences while keeping them in lockstep with your nurture programs.

Q: There are countless ways to approach virtual experiences. How do I know which one is right for my business?

Just like in-person events, you have to think strategically about what you’re trying to achieve. Are you focused on brand awareness, generating MQLs, or scheduling demos? Every event platform has a different value proposition, and businesses will often implement a platform that does too much (or doesn’t do enough).

PathFactory built VEX exclusively for companies who are looking to add a virtual event touchpoint to their nurture program. Virtual and hybrid experiences are here to stay, so start considering how you can reach your ICP’s, whether they’re at your demo booth at a conference, or on a couch in their living room. For more information on PathFactory’s VEX platform, schedule a demo here.

VEX in action: Cisco 

Technology company Cisco was originally using VEX strictly for webinar hosting. The webinars provided attendees a rich user experience for live or pre-recorded events –large and small– covering keynote and breakout sessions along with other supplementary content. Despite this, they were still missing a one-stop shop for video content that included segmentation and filtering capabilities. Cisco wanted to provide their viewers with easy access to the content they care about.

PathFactory and Cisco worked together to develop a new webinar resource center. The new ecosystem included single view and immediate segmentation of region, country, language of viewers through 6sense, consolidation of webinars in one easy to find place, and easy navigation to drive bingeing. In addition, the data being captured through the webinar programming was improved, resulting in more data around who is viewing the content, as well as enhanced contact details for viewers attending both live and on demand webinars.