Tips for Hosting Virtual Events

Due to recent developments related to COVID-19, many companies that typically host in-person events are shifting to virtual events. For some, this is an entirely new experience that requires different preparations, skillsets, and marketing tactics.

Though it’s been a while since I worked in the virtual event space at The Economist, I put together some tips on how to run virtual events for those who are new or need a refresher.

Do you have any virtual event tips to share? Please add them in the comments!

Tips for Engaging Attendees

Leading up to Virtual Event

It is generally more challenging to get attendees excited about an event when it is 100% virtual. Without travel plans or in-person networking events to look forward to, attendees may feel less enthusiastic about attending.

As virtual event organizers, it’s our job to keep delegates excited. It’s important to provide relevant information leading up to the event to keep them engaged – via email, SMS, social media, and/or direct mail. Schedule a consistent calendar of communications every week to maintain momentum and excitement leading up to the event. A few ideas:

  • Send recorded webcam messages from speakers or presenters, reminding attendees that the event is coming up & sharing a preview of what they will be presenting.
  • Schedule a drip email campaign releasing the event schedule over the course of a few weeks or months, announcing new speakers one at a time.
  • Ask speakers to participate in promoting the event. Put together promotion packets with resources and tips for them to promote the event on their own social channels and to their colleagues.

Attendees might also be uncertain about what to expect from a virtual event. Clear communication about when, why, and how to attend are especially important. Information should include:

  • Logistics of the event, including how to log in, when and where events are happening, and who to contact for support.
  • Remind attendees about the value of attending – the value proposition may be somewhat different than an in-person event.

During Virtual Event

Attendees have more distractions at a virtual event than they would normally at an in-person event – from checking emails and social media, to watching movies and TV, there are lots of activities competing for their attention at home. It’s important to plan engagement tactics to keep attendees’ attention and incentivize them to participate during the event. Some ideas:

  • Keep individual sessions short (about 30 minutes) and don’t plan to have continuous programming for more than a few hours.
  • Organize chat groups for attendees to engage in between speaker sessions. Provide discussion questions to encourage engagement.
  • Set up video networking sessions and bring 5-10 people together for introductions and discussion. The groups could be random or organized by interest, job title, etc. Or, set up 1:1 “speed-dating” style networking sessions.
  • Announce a sweepstakes for everyone who attends a certain number of sessions or specific presentations, including them in a prize draw.
  • Plan special announcements for a specific time that the attendees will only be able to hear about if they attend, for example: awards, prize draws, industry announcements, exclusive offers, etc.
  • Reward attendees with valuable information they can only get if they attend, such as whitepapers, research, PDF guides or cheat sheets, session transcripts, or other valuable information that is only available for those who show up.

Tips for Engaging Speakers/Presenters

Leading up to Virtual Event

Keep in mind your event may be the first time some of your speakers are presenting at a virtual event. Therefore, they will need special guidance and support to prepare, including:

  • What to wear and where to host the session
  • What technical equipment and software is required
  • How to log in, start/end the session, record the session, etc.

Schedule 1:1 prep sessions with a producer and each speaker, to talk them through what to expect (especially for live sessions) and answer any questions. If the speaker is presenting live from home, be sure to test their webcam and mic.

During Virtual Event

  • Plan to have support specialists available for speakers to address any issues that come up (again, especially for live sessions).
  • Provide clear communication about how and where speakers can get support and information. For example, set up a “speakers’ hub” chat room or support hotline.

Tips for  Programming and Production


Technical Support & Back-up Planning

  • Plan to have technical support specialists available for both speakers and delegates to respond in real-time.
  • Communicate clearly about where people can go to get support.
  • Prepare “worst-case scenario” back up plans. What if the webcam isn’t working during a live session? What if the virtual event website goes down? These challenges are unlikely but can be dealt with more easily if you have prepared for them.


Choose the Right Speakers

  • Not every speaker is well-suited for virtual events. It takes extra charisma and energy to engage people online, so consider this when selecting your speakers.
  • You may benefit from selecting speakers who have a digital brand or are active on social media. They can leverage their own following to encourage attendance leading up to the event.
  • Put together promotion packets with tips and resources to help speakers spread the word about their presentations. It could include: social media copy, graphics, copy blurbs for newsletters and websites

Dynamic Programming and Tools to Promote Engagement

  • It’s important to have a mix of formats during the event to maintain engagement, rather than one long webinar or block of video sessions. For example, the program might include a one-hour block of presentations followed by an open chat/networking session, followed by a live Q&A.
  • Consider various tools to help attendees stay engaged during each session, including live Q&A, polls, surveys, white-boarding, infographics, social integration, gamification, etc.

Scheduling for Time Zones

  • Consider where your attendees will be joining from. It’s important to schedule relevant sessions at a convenient time, and make a recorded version available for those who cannot attend in real time.
  • People who are attending events online may have shorter attention spans due to all of the distractions they have at home. It’s important to schedule frequent breaks, optional sessions, and opportunities for attendees to come and go according to their schedules.
  • Consider extending the duration of the event. If the event would be one day in-person, consider extending it to two days of virtual programming, enabling more people to attend.

Lastly, remember you don’t have to do this alone! There are plenty of companies and experts who specialize in virtual events. Here’s a list of virtual event companies and services. If you have others to include, please drop them in the comments:

Virtual Event Companies & Service Providers

And check out these free virtual event tools from HubSpot.

Analyze this: Tips for setting up analytics on your website

This post first appeared on Ueno’s blog here.

Making things pretty is not enough. The things we make also have to work well for their intended purpose — telling a story, selling a product, sharing content. One of the ways we use to tell if what we build achieves its purpose is through analytics. Information is power!

Gathering useful information from a website is more than slapping on some code. Before adding any code snippets, you must first identify what you want to track, and why. Then work with your developers to implement the analytics code, check that all is firing as expected, and BOOM! You’re ready to go. Simple, right? Sort of.

We recently did an analytics audit of the Ueno website to establish objectives and make sure we’re getting the information necessary to make the best decisions. Website changes take time and money, so we needed to prioritize, and data would allow us to do just that. We chose Google Analytics (GA) because it’s a powerful tool, generally easy to use, and one of the most commonly used platforms across industries.

Our first step was to define our objectives. What’s the purpose of Ueno’s website? This is what we came up with:

  1. Attract new business
  2. Attract new talent
  3. Showcase our work

Once we established those objectives, we brainstormed a list questions that would help us measure them.

  • How many people are visiting the site? How many of those are completing the new business inquiry form?
  • How much content are people consuming? How many pages to they visit and how far do they scroll?
  • Where are visitors coming from? Which channels are most likely to result in a new business inquiry or job application?

When we had a broad sense of the information we needed, and it was time to set up the GA account. Here are three key components to the setup:

1. Conversion Goals

Based on the primary objectives, we defined two Conversion Goals to measure how often users complete specific actions.

A conversion goal might seem more obvious on an e-commerce site (a purchase, for example) but depending on your objectives you can always find some action to measure success. Here are ours:

  • Conversion Goal 1 — New business form submission: Fires every time someone completes our new business inquiry form
  • Conversion Goal 2 — Careers application submission: Fires every time someone submits an application

These are the two main actions we want people to take on the site, so at a high-level they can tell us how effective our website is and which traffic channels are performing best.

2. Events

Next, we defined several GA Events to help measure how well the website is achieving its objectives.

  1. New business events
  • New business form form: Number of visits, submits and successes
  • Track what page(s) are driving the most new biz submissions / what content influences people to submit
  • What channels (e.g. social, newsletter, referring sites) drive submissions

2. Career events

  • Job application form: number of visits, submits and successes
  • What channels (e.g. social, newsletter)/websites are driving applications

3. Engagement events

  • Clicks: all clicks to outbound links
  • Expands: expansion of content
  • Scroll tracking: what percent of visitors scroll to 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% of the page

3. Audience Segments

We wanted to view website data through the lense of different audiences to hone in on behaviors — who is doing what and why. Here’s a list of audience segments we set up:

  • Engagers: Users who clicked an outbound link or expanded content
  • Non-Engagers: Users who did not click a link or expand content
  • Converters: Users with at least one goal completion
  • Non-Converters: Users with less than one goal completion
  • Organic Traffic: Users who were referred from a search engine (Google, Bing, etc.)
  • Social Traffic: Users who were referred from a social media channel
  • Email Traffic: Users who were referred by email (our newsletter)
  • Blog traffic: Users who were referred by Ueno blog

Segmenting the audience lets us filter information such as:

  • How does traffic from email channel behave differently from traffic from the blog?
  • What actions from converters are contributing to conversion?

Are you thinking about setting up analytics for your own company or agency? Here are a few tips based on our experience.

  • Start simple. It might be appealing to gather ALL the information, but it can also be overwhelming. Establish two or three goals to start, and focus on learning as much as you can about what contributes to those goals. Build from there.
  • Enlist help. Even though I had a good sense of what we wanted to achieve, we hired an expert GA consultant to help. It was great to have someone confirm or challenge my ideas, share his experience from working on GA setup for other clients, and help with technical implementation.
  • Keep iterating. Setting up your analytics isn’t a one-and-done process. The first phase will establish a baseline, but you may quickly discover that there’s more you want to know. And as your website grows, make sure new pages are tagged.
  • Don’t forget to block your IP address. You can blacklist visits from your company’s IP address so internal traffic data doesn’t muddy your data.

We’re using the data from GA to establish a performance baseline, so we can measure the impact of any changes to the site.

We’ll keep you posted.

-Posted by Elizabeth Donovan-


Big Changes Coming with iOS 9, and What it Means for Marketers

apple_wwdc_news_thumbnailEarlier this month at its annual developer conference, Apple announced some big changes coming with the next operating system. Now that we’ve had some time to digest, here are the some of the new features that will impact marketers:

  1. Apple’s “News” app
    Apple introduced a new magazine-like news experience with its news app, simply called “News.” News content from third party publishes will be curated based on a user’s preferences, allowing readers to choose topics, similarly to the popular news curation app, Flipboard. This is a big opportunity for publishers to get content in front of more readers and monetize via ads: publishers will get 100% of revenue from ads they sell and 70% from ads sold by Apple’s iAd. For marketers, it’s another channel to reach engaged audience on their iOS devices.
  2. New & improved search features
    Apple announced a number of updates related to search, including upgrades to Siri and in-app deep-linking. Siri will be enhanced with better voice-recognition technology, which Apple claims will improve by 40%. Users will swipe right to access to new Search tool offering personalized suggestions from Siri, who will learn a user’s preferences over time. Suggestions will be based on the time, location and user’s previous behavior. With deep-linking to third party apps, users will be able to search for content inside their apps – which is a great feature for app publishers and marketers looking to improve discoverability and engagement for their in-app content.
  3. Ability to block adds on Safari
    iOS 9 will give developers an easy way to develop mobile ad blockers, which could spell trouble for ad networks like Google. According to, “When users download an app with an ad blocker extension, it shows up in Settings. Users can keep the app installed and disable the content blocker independently by using the toggle switches.” Only time well tell when and how developers will utilize this feature in their apps, and what impact it will have on ad networks.
  4. iOS Apps Won’t See User’s other Installed Apps
    In an effort to beef up its privacy promise, Apple will prevent apps from getting data on what other apps users have installed in iOS 9. Twitter and Facebook have typically accessed this data to help with ad targeting. We’ll be seeing more like this from Apple, who is not going to monetize its users’ personal data, per Tim Cook’s recent comments: “Some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”

The battle between the largest tech players, Facebook, Google and Apple, is as interesting as ever. Some of Apple’s updates and new features are obvious digs at their competitors. But ultimately, Apple’s direction simply makes sense. Consumers today expect a personalized, simple experience where their privacy is not compromised. Apple is smart to develop features and products that enhance the experience without compromising personal data. As users become more savvy, sketchy data practices will become more scrutinized and even made illegal, so business models that support customer privacy will come out on top (not that Apple isn’t on top, already!).

Further reading:


-Posted by Elizabeth Pace-

The Rise of Social TV (and what it means for marketers)

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We all know television is in a state of flux. Between the popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, and a growing number of millennials cutting the cord to avoid rising cable bills, it’s no wonder TV execs are scrambling for the “next big thing.”

Well, the next big thing may be here already. Social TV, the integration of social elements with TV to create a dual-screen experience, is on the rise and proving quite popular. According to Mobile Marketer, brands like ABC who have integrated hashtags into their TV experience have seen immense participation across the Twittersphere. Another example is Discovery Channel’s Shark Week—the channel’s iPad app featured content intended to be consumed while users watched Shark Week on TV. SproutSocial reported that this campaign led to more than 13 million people having 21 million interactions with Shark Week on Facebook.

It’s no surprise that this trend is most prominent amongst millennials. Deloitte’s Digital Democracy survey (released in Spring 2014) found that 48% of millennials say they use a social network while watching TV. 86% of all US consumers say they are multitasking while watching TV, up from 72% two years prior.

So what does this mean for marketers? We should be thinking about an integrated approach when engaging consumers through TV. If we want our audience’s full attention, we need to take over their TVs and the device in their hands. But, heed this good advice from Clickz: “Before deciding whether you should spend your marketing budget on a social TV campaign, take a close look at your brand. If you think your brand does not have a lot to say in the space, look for other channels to engage your audience.”

Further reading:

-Posted by Elizabeth Pace

NYC Removes Mobile Beacons after BuzzFeed Article Blasts Privacy Issues

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An NYC agency approved hundreds of beacons—devices that can push ads and track mobile devices—to be installed in phone booths around Manhattan. But after BuzzFeed published an article about the beacons yesterday, City Hall promptly requested that they be removed.

As BuzzFeed reported, the beacons were installed without any public notice. This is problematic because of the potential privacy issues. BuzzFeed wrote, “The spread of beacon technology to public spaces could turn any city into a giant matrix of hidden commercialization.” Because the beacons can track the location of the public’s personal mobile devices, privacy advocates are concerned about the lack of transparency.

Hours after BuzzFeed published its article, City Hall requested that the beacons be removed. According to the Wall Street Journal, transparency is critical when using new technologies such as beacons: “It shows that while marketers tend to get jazzed about new advertising technologies, it is important not to creep consumers out or try to dupe them.”

Further reading:

-Posted by Elizabeth Pace

Will Programmatic Advertising Stifle Creativity?

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Programmatic advertising was a hot topic at Advertising Week in NYC this year. The 5-day event, which draws to a close tomorrow October 3rd, features more than 200 events including seminars and workshops that focus on key business drivers in advertising and marketing. (For a further dive into what exactly “programmatic” means, read this Aspiring CMO post from July.)

On Wednesday, Havas Chief Executive Yannick Bollore spoke about programmatic advertising and whether it threatens to stifle creative output from execs. “Algorithm will never replace the creative director; I’m not worried at all for the future of creativity,” said Mr. Bollore.

Despite Mr. Bollore’s confidence that human creativity will always remain at the heart of advertising, Business Insider’s Programmatic Advertising Report claims “Programmatic platforms are on pace to fundamentally reshape the entire digital advertising landscape.” The report found that real-time-bidding (RTB), one of the key components to programmatic buying, will account for over $18.2 billion in U.S. digital ad revenues in 2018, up from $3.1 billion in 2013.

There is no doubt programmatic advertising will garner an increasingly large investment from marketers in the coming years, but creativity remains crucial for the success of any campaign. While programmatic may cut out some of the middle men/women who plan, buy and optimize campaigns, it doesn’t replace the human ideas that fuel ad concepts.

I whole-heartedly agree with Mr. Bollore that art and science can, and must, coexist in the new advertising age. According to Mr. Bollore, “It is nonsense to oppose data with creative, and to oppose emotion with rationality. A combination of the two can completely work.”

Further reading:

-Posted by Elizabeth Pace

Measuring Mobile Performance: Don’t Rely on CTRs

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A recent study from xAd and Nielson found that Click-Through-Rate is a poor indicator of ad performance on mobile. In fact, Lower CTRs were often associated with the highest offline in-store visitation rates.

The study ran on xAd’s platform and measured 80 campaigns from 12 brands during Q1 and Q2 of 2014. Placed, a local analytics provider, measured in-store visits as a response to ads.

CTR is commonly used as a measurement of engagement for ads on the web. The assumption is that if a viewer clicks on an ad, he or she is probably interested in the product or service advertised. However, the likelihood that a viewer might accidentally click on an ad is much higher in a mobile environment. In its report, xAd said as many as 40% of clicks on mobile devices are accidental.

So how should marketers be measuring ROI in mobile? xAd suggests they should be looking at the full picture, which includes CTR along with SAR (secondary action rate) and SVL (store visitation lift). Because the vast amount of commercial activity still occurs at a physical store location, xAd recommends SVL as the best measurement for mobile ad effectiveness.

The question of how to best measure mobile effectiveness has plagued marketers for years. A recent study by Forrester shows that only 13% of marketers feel very confident in their ability to measure cross-channel, and only 18% are confident in their ability to measure the ROI of mobile efforts.

With over 10 million iPhone 6 phones sold by Apple in one weekend, there’s no question that mobile is a channel to be reckoned with. But marketers will shy away from spending on mobile advertising until the technology can catch up.

Further reading:

-Posted by Elizabeth Pace

Yahoo is Acquiring Flurry, a Mobile Analytics Company

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The race to capture marketers’ mobile dollars is in high gear as Yahoo allegedly purchased mobile analytics firm Flurry today, according to TechCrunch and MarketWatch. As written on Flurry’s website, “Flurry Analytics is the industry standard in mobile, and provides more than 170,000 developers the business data they need to understand their audience, usage and performance.

Yahoo’s latest purchase is one in a string of mobile acquisitions made by tech giants Google, Twitter and Facebook in recent months. In October 2013, Facebook acquired mobile analytics firm Onavo. Twitter acquired native mobile ad platform Namo Media and mobile commerce firm TapCommerce in June. Google acquired mobile analytics company Adometry in May. Amazon developed its own mobile analytics platform. (You get the picture.)

These recent moves are part of each company’s effort to increase offerings in the mobile advertising space. An estimated 1.75 billion people will use Smartphones in 2014, with usage growing every day. Mobile ad market spend will hit $18 billion this year. Everybody wants a piece of that pie, and a majority slice to boot.

Further reading:

Is Predictive Targeting the Way of the Future?

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Most digital marketers are familiar with the term “retargeting,” a tactic that allows us to show ads to individuals who have visited our website or exist already in our database. Retargeting can be done through display ads on Google, Yahoo and Bing as well as on Facebook via Facebook Exchange or Custom Audiences.

Retargeting can be particularly effective, if not creepy, for prospective customers in the e-commerce world. Many of us have had the experience where we placed a pair of shoes in our virtual shopping cart, then abandoned the site, only to see that exact pair of shoes following us across the web for weeks.

But how effective is retargeting, really? In an article published yesterday on AdAge, Tom Goodwin – CEO of London-based agency Tomorrow Group – argues that retargeting is not effective, and the way of the future is pretargeting. Goodwin argues that retargeting is based on actions users have already taken, and these users are not likely to act again. He writes, “There is no time in my life I am less likely to buy some white pants, a toaster or a flight to Los Angeles than after I’ve just bought these items, yet that’s precisely the time I see ads for these products or services.”

Goodwin also claims that Paid Search, while it is the only opportunity to address people at their moment of need, will be trumped by “converting needs we don’t yet know we have.” Enter: predictive advertising, or pretargeting.

Prospective customers are painting accurate pictures of their lives, Goodwin claims, by liking posts on Facebook and sharing information across devices, among all of the other ways they transmit information across the web. Data that we share about ourselves through online behaviors can be used to show us ads with the right message at the right time. Goodwin gives several examples:

“It will be the coffee shop suggested when you have time and it’s about to rain; the Taxi2 ridesharing app telling you someone else wants to go the same way as it thinks you do; the car garage that will repair the problem only your car knows it has; the train times when snow blocks your route to work; the meal special offer when your friends are close and your calendar is free.”

Some ad companies are already taking advantage of new technology that enables predictive targeting. ViralHeat provides “sophisticated predictive social analytics” to uncover users who are mentioning a brand in real-time. used various data sources, both internal e.g. surfing behavior on publisher client’s site, as well external data to develop statistical models of a target audience group.

If all of this sounds a little complicated, and unproven, that’s because it’s so new and constantly evolving. Mr. Goodwin writes that we should “accept that privacy is a lost battle” and embrace the act of sharing information to further general acceptance of pretargeting. The benefit for marketers is obvious, but what about for consumers? Take a look at’s Consumer Portal, where it allows users to opt-out or in to its advertising:

Yes, I would like to continue to have advertising relevant to my interests displayed and I consent to theme-based analysis of my surfing habits by This consent is restricted to one year (“Opt-In“).

No, I do not want nugg-ad to continue theme-based analysis of my surfing habits on websites. This Opt-Out is stored as a cookie in my browser and has a lifespan of ten years. The user is responsible for ensuring that the appropriate cookie is not deleted from his browser as long as he wishes the Opt-Out to be valid. The (“Opt-Out“) is stored in a cookie with the name “nuggstopp“.

The argument is that most consumers will want to share information in order to see more relevant ads. But the consumer consensus on this has yet to be seen.

Further reading:

-Posted by Elizabeth Pace

What’s all the fuss about programmatic ad buying?

Many marketers are sick of hearing the term “programmatic buying” by now, but it’s still a hot topic in the industry. Programmatic buying is touted as one the most efficient ways to buy online media, both in terms of cost and time. However, there are questions about its value, as cautioned in this WSJ CMO Today article from June 2014.

Programmatic buying is an automated way to plan, buy and optimize online display ad campaigns. Settings for the campaign are automatically adjusted based on a marketer’s budget and goals.  Real-time-bidding (RTB) is one way to buy ads programmatically, but the term “programmatic buying” encompasses the full spectrum of technologies that allow for campaign automation and optimization.

Some of the benefits of programmatic buying for marketers include:

  • It can be less expensive. Technology will automatically optimize ads based on performance goals set by marketers. The waste is cut out and so is costly manual labor.
  • It’s time-saving. No more hours staring at spreadsheets and manually pulling levers to manage campaign optimization—this is all done through technology.

So where’s the controversy? Well, for one, many marketers still don’t understand what programmatic buying is and why it’s valuable, as reported by CMO Today in March 2014. Some marketers associate the term “programmatic buying” with low-cost, auction-based inventory that means your ads will end up in the worst placements (ad placements are cheaply bought, but never seen). With new technologies emerging every day, programmatic buying is much more than just auction-based RTB. Marketers can now buy guaranteed impressions from specific publishers, and even layer in behavioral or demographic data to target the ideal audience.

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Another challenge is that programmatic buying can leave marketers in the dark about where their ads are placed.  This is a big issue for brands who wish to be associated only with specific websites and publishers (and more importantly, who wish not to be associated with others). The lack of transparency has some brand advertisers wary.

Regardless of the controversy, it’s clear that programmatic buying is top-of-mind for many marketers. Check out some further reading below:

-Posted by Elizabeth Pace