Last week I moderated an online Virtual Party roundtable that included executives from 8 different direct sales party plan companies. (I’m a big believer in the idea that we learn better collectively rather than in silos, so I try to host roundtables periodically about current challenges facing the industry.) We came together to share learnings and best practices we’ve discovered about the current experimentation going on with virtual parties. I have to tell you, it was a fabulous conversation. I came away with a lot of ah-ha! moments, and I know that a lot of the participants did too.
If virtual parties is something that your company is currently contemplating, then here are some of the best practices we discussed that you may find helpful as well:
- Don’t try to recreate the in-home party. Your in-home party is too long to work online, and you need to adapt the format to take into account the ways people use technology in order to achieve your objective. You must treat the virtual event as a brand new thing.
- Have one objective for your online event. At an in-home party we have 3 objectives: sell product, get more party bookings, and find new recruits for the business. However the most successful virtual events typically just focus on one objective. One participant in the roundtable shared how their consultants are having great success with virtual sponsoring parties. Everyone who attends comes knowing that the event is for learning about the opportunity, and they come open to that mindset. Another participant shared that the virtual introduction they provide to their products leads to more in-home bookings.
- And that leads to one of the most important learnings from the roundtable: treat your virtual parties as “feeder” events for your in-home parties. We are finding that if people are enticed enough by what they experience in the virtual experience, they’re a lot more likely to commit to booking an in-home party.
- Companies need to create virtual event marketing materials to ensure brand consistency. Companies have created a lot of print collateral for in-home parties…sponsoring brochures, catalogs, etc. But the virtual party is a different thing, and it needs its own set of marketing materials. This includes product demonstration videos, hostess coaching videos, images, and more. It’s important for companies to begin to consider what the salesforce will need to stay on-brand while creating virtual experiences.
- Some companies are hosting corporate virtual events that individual consultants invite their hosts to. There are prizes and other fun incentives to participate. And this leads to sales and bookings for the consultants that participate and invite people.
- Keep it quick. Online events should be no longer than 30 minutes, and they must be fast-paced and multi-media. There must be images and videos as well as interactions with the consultant. The tools are all in Facebook to do this, but consultants must be trained on how to do it properly to keep up the pace and maintain interest among participants.
- Hostess coaching still matters. Consultants must be taught how to hostess coach for virtual events, including using text messages that can be forwarded, to increase attendance.
More and more consultants are expressing interest in online events, and today’s busy consumer is often more inclined to attend a 30 minute online event before committing to a longer, in-home experience. We have an opportunity as an industry to create a format that is duplicatable, trainable, and on-brand for our consultants.
For more on this topic, you may be interested in this article from our client the Direct Selling Education Foundation: http://www.dsef.org/2013/05/09/12-tips-for-successful-online-virtual-events/
Do you do online events? What best practices would you add to this list? Would love to read your ideas in the comments below.