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Lessons From Metadata’s DEMAND Conference: How To Successfully Host A Virtual Event

Metadata’s first ever DEMAND conference took place in late October and was a huge success. A fact we can confidently say from firsthand experience. 

It’s no easy feat, but Metadata pulled off a fantastic event. And on their very first attempt, no less.

A month later, and we’re still thinking about it. Clearly, it’s stuck with us. 

This got us thinking, what was it that made DEMAND so successful? 

Throwing a virtual event can be very hit or miss –– between Zoom fatigue and distractions in the home, virtual conferences are hard to get right. 

So what makes for a good virtual event? And how did Metadata achieve this?

Attendee engagement

This is the goal of all events, right? Attendees who are engaged, soaking up the energy of the room and finding content that speaks to them. 

But it’s a lot easier said than done. Especially when it comes to virtual conferences.

The problem is two-fold: Not only is it harder to get people to show up to a virtual event, achieving a live event level of engagement is its own beast. 

The first step is to simply spread the word and get people registered. 

Once they’ve signed up, you need to convince them to actually attend. Something that’s difficult in and of itself.

Why?

Virtual events aren’t like live events where you’ve likely booked a flight or hotel and have other people from your company also in attendance. 

It’s easy not to attend an online conference, especially when most companies release their sessions on-demand at a later point. 

Here are tips for creating urgency and getting people to join:

  • Send reminders and make a big deal about your event on social media

  • If it’s pre-recorded, post sneak peeks of your sessions and speakers

  • Even if you plan to have sessions on-demand after, tease it as a “one day only” event

When promoting their event, Metadata was clear about two things: Their on-demand sessions would be available but a.) you had to wait to access it, and b.) you would miss the opportunity to chat live with the speakers. 

Don’t be afraid to create a little FOMO.

Finally, the day of the event has arrived, and your headcount is looking good. 👌 Whew.

Next task –– keep them engaged for the next eight hours. 

If you attended the conference, you might know that Metadata hit a snag early on that put their engagement in jeopardy.  

Metadata’s conference provider, Goldcast, had a lot of technical difficulties early in the day. Unfortunately, the poor connection and inability to get the conference started caused many people to drop. 

This leads us to one of our first takeaways –– always always always make sure you have a plan B in place. 

Also important is how you pivot to handle these complications. While the technical aspect was out of their control, Metadata was good at being over-communicative (in the best possible way), and in doing so, earned the trust of their attendees. 

Instead of leaving people hanging, they let everyone know upfront what was going on. They used the chat to let people know they were troubleshooting the problem, and they had a backup plan in case Goldcast couldn’t work out their technical difficulties.

Networking

Events are one of the best places to form connections and interact with people from your industry.

When you go to an in-person event, networking is a given. It comes with the territory. 

However, live events and virtual events are entirely different entities and should be treated as such. Networking is still a crucial component and something attendees crave, but you need to re-think what that looks like.

One thing Metadata did well was creating a space for networking to happen. The chat took on a life of its own, with hundreds of people contributing and thousands of messages being sent throughout the day.

While the chat being utilized was a big win, it could get a little chaotic at times, and questions and ideas were sometimes lost in the mix. 

Here are some tips for effective communication in a chat: 

Have a public and private chat

Public and private chats serve two different purposes but are equally useful. A public chat acts as an open forum for attendees to post questions and comments during speaker sessions which is great for getting questions answered and learning new information. 

Private chats are better for people who want to connect one-on-one and promote better connections and conversations. Metadata had breakout rooms for connecting with those in similar roles or chatting about specific topics.

Have the option to extract the chat log 

Throughout the day, there were thousands of messages sent in unison. Attendees may have missed an important question or answer they were looking for. If your objective is to allow people to network, make connections, and gather valuable insights, there needs to be a way to continue the dialogue. 

By extracting the chat log, attendees can go back through, read the messages, and reach out to people who attended the event to connect. 

Have your session speakers in the chat room

Something cool DEMAND did was to have the speakers in the chat to answer questions while their sessions played. By pre-recording all the sessions, Metadata could get ~meta~ and add a new level of engagement to the chat room. 

While a chat room is a necessity, you can have fun with it. Experiment with video and audio options or use polls and surveys within the chat to increase engagement. 

Start generating leads before the event

Another note about networking: If you’re looking to generate leads, you need to be starting before the event. Don’t rely only on the chat alone to make connections. Be proactive.

Take a look at these numbers on when the best time to generate leads at an event is. 👀

the best time to generate leads at an event is before the event. For a one day conference, over 95% of lead generation happens prior to the event.

Useful content and takeaways

Virtual events are all about the content, baby. 

Content is the most important thing for a virtual event, and DEMAND was full of great speakers, great takeaways, and great content.

From their one-day event, Metadata will have years worth of content to repurpose –– just check out their website to see what you missed at DEMAND. They’ll be able to do write ups, a ton of social media posts, and blog posts. 

This is a grand achievement, but it doesn’t come easily. Creating lasting content takes a lot of time and effort. From getting the right speakers and participants involved to developing resources and material attendees can actually use.

DEMAND was a prime example of a company that took its time to get it right and not just throw something together for the sake of having an event. 

Now let’s talk about DEMAND itself. What lessons can marketers take away from the speakers and sessions?

Here are some of the highlights (according to us): 

Demand gen is about more than performance marketing 

It’s about creating and capturing demand –– and that requires creativity. Demand gen marketers must think critically about the tactics they’re using and why they’re using them. You’ve got to prepare to experiment and fail along the way. 

Take Chili Piper, for example. When Director of Demand Gen Kaylee Edmondson launched her podcast Demand Gen Chat, she didn’t know what kind of reception it would receive. It was a big project, and the payoff was unknown. 

But a year and more than 13,000 streams later, it has a dedicated following and has established Chili Piper as a thought leader in the space. As a marketer, you need to know when to take risks and think creatively. 

Story is strategy 

Companies across the board underinvest in story. Your brand can’t just be about the product –– it’s about reputation, not the colors on your website. 

Today, that’s the content you’re producing and the community you’re cultivating. You may even find that focusing on your brand and story impacts the product roadmap for the better. 

Relatability is king 

If you want to grow your following, the absolute best way to do so is by being relatable. You need to know what your audience wants and be able to deliver it. 

Get leadership active on LinkedIn. Empower subject matter experts from your team to start posting. The tactics you use are not as important as the relatability you bring to the table.

Memorable experiences 

Want to make a lasting impression? You may need to take some risks. 

Metadata did just that when they asked Corporate Bro to make an appearance. Admittedly, taking a risk doesn’t always pay off (we can’t be held liable for the ones that don’t), but when it does, it pays off big time. 

In this case, the upside was a lot bigger than the potential downside. If you know Corporate Bro, you know he pretty much says whatever he wants. Luckily, it was just roasty enough and provided some valuable entertainment. 

Whether you’re going for something a little safer or want to take a gamble, try to do something memorable. 

Between the content, speakers, and the event itself, we learned a lot from DEMAND, and we’re already looking forward to next year. 

Want more demand gen content? Check out our resources here.

About the Author

Kelli Diffenderfer is a Content Marketing Manager at Chili Piper. She is passionate about the power of words to tell stories and bring ideas to life. A Michigander at heart, she spends much of her time traveling to the mitten state, spending time outdoors and enjoying sunsets over the water.

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