While the vaccines to fight the pandemic are beginning to make their way into distribution worldwide, it is clear that it will be several more months before they are widespread enough to enable life to return to some semblance of what it looked like before coronavirus.
...[for now] the business world will continue to operate mostly in a virtual landscape.
That means that the business world will continue to operate mostly in a virtual landscape. That does not, however, mean that business development needs to lie dormant. Opportunity still exists, even in these very different and challenging times, to build, strengthen, and develop relationships with decision makers who can bring your firm business.
Yes, everyone’s still got a little bit of Zoom fatigue – and that applies to Slack, email, Teams, and more. But with enough preparation and forethought, you can create and execute a virtual event that your potential clients and referral sources actually will enjoy attending.
With that in mind, here are our top tips for harnessing the power of webinars and other virtual events to develop business in 2021.
Determine the Goal
- Create a specific goal around what it is you want to accomplish by hosting the event. A specific goal will inform the decisions you and your team make during the event planning process, which creates greater clarity and efficiency.
Develop a Compelling Topic
- Identify the top industry- specific issues anticipated to dominate the next three to six months.
- Choose a topic that matters deeply to your audience’s bottom line.
- Use feedback from prior events to shape the content and style for this webinar.
- Be sure to request feedback after the event that asks about topics your guests would like to see in the future.
- Review questions and trending topics in LinkedIn industry groups where your prospects are having conversations. This will give you insight into top of mind questions and topics.
Create a Great Panel
- Choose your panelists carefully. Each speaker will be occupying valuable mental space; ensure that they are comfortable presenting and are thoroughly knowledgeable about the topics.
- Ensure your panel members reflect a diversity of perspective by experience, gender, race, position, etc.
- Coordinate planning calls to prepare.
- Check audio, visual capabilities.
- Agree upon the tone you want to set by coordinating what the panelists will wear. (Business, business casual, casual, holiday, themed, etc.)
Create Brand Consistency
- Use consistent brand elements in each touchpoint with your external audience.
- Create a branded virtual background to be used by members of your organization.
- Leverage opportunities on the virtual platform to include brand elements.
Identify the Appropriate Audience
- Prepare a targeted invitation list using guest and invitation list from past similar event. (If your firm does not currently maintain list segmentation, there is no better time to start than now.)
- Ask members of the firm each to identify relevant contacts to invite. Consider existing clients, industry leaders, and referral sources.
- Review firm admin systems, such as a billing system, to identify new matters opened recently and include key contacts from those matters.
- Determine if the event should be open to members of the media. Then, invite key media contacts who cover this topic.
Encourage Personal Outreach
- Automation is great, but personal outreach such as an email or phone call will help increase attendance. Even if a contact is unable to attend, extending a personal invitation offers the opportunity to connect and the gesture lets your contacts know you are thinking about topics that impact their business.
Create Opportunities to Engage
- Identify whether a physical item, such as a branded notepad and pen or event-themed giveaway, will be mailed to the registrants in advance of the program.
- Determine the social media platforms your target audience(s) most utilize and create a hashtag specific to the event. Share the hashtag in pre-, during, and post-event communications and utilize social media scheduling to share relevant content about the topic.
- Create opportunities for virtual networking before and/or after the main program.
- Use breakout groups and real-time polling to encourage participants to connect and engage.
- Facilitate introductions and schedule participants for one-on-one meetings with people they may not know.
Maximize the Momentum
- Conduct personal outreach to key contacts to thank them for attending by sending an email, handwritten note, or calling.
- Extend invitations to virtual coffee over video.
- Share relevant content such as podcast episodes, articles, or videos pertinent to the topic.
- Make and ask for introductions to other lawyers within your firm or external business professionals.
- Connect with new contacts on LinkedIn and other social media platforms that are relevant to your practice.
Automate Certain Follow-up to Realize Long-term Benefits
- Create an email list based on the event participants. Create a campaign of 3-4 emails around related or follow-up topics. Automate these by using the “drip campaign” functions of platforms like MailChimp and Hubspot.
- Make sure your emails give the recipients ways to re-engage by including specific calls to action. Create a landing page specifically for attenders of the event with content or resources that are exclusive to this group.