Virtual Events: Key Takeaways

POSTED ON: 22/05/20 TAGS: Bookseller Events M&P Conference Online

by Lucy Upton


A Bookseller Conversation Series in association with BMS and PPC

Hosted by Miriam Robinson


Maura Wilding (Orion)

Caroline Maddison (PRH Children’s)

Carolyn Jess-Cooke (author and founder of the Stay-at-Home Literature Festival)

Sue Porter (owner, Linghams Bookshop)


Key Takeaways

– When programming virtual events and festivals, consider bringing in big ideas, current events, relevant topics and not just Covid. Big names attract crowds but smaller names have their place, too, for workshops, smaller events or paired with bigger authors. Virtual events also bring in opportunities for fun, ie Stay At Home showcased authors’ pets in their houses.

Author participation helps promotion – asking the author to do a 10-second video to promote the event on their social channels, and of course signed copies/book plates

Micro-events build awareness at the top of the marketing funnel, creating different opportunities for you to engage with your audience and ask for feedback. Puffin Storytime runs on their channels at 3pm weekdays, with a readalong or a drawalong every day plus regular Friday quizzes and a daily Ladybird Challenge.

– Don’t run events without a reason! The panellists run events to create community, maintain publisher/retailer relationships, stay connected, stay in consumers’ minds and foster good will for the long term. Accessibility also sited as a key reason – reaching people who can’t attend events because of disabilities, caring responsibilities, distance or class reasons. Prioritise connection and brand-building.

– FB and IG Live sited as great platforms for really large events, with Zoom working for large ones but also closed groups, too, which create a sense of community with grid view, and when ticketed allow for book sales!  On Zoom people tend to stay for the full event more often, whereas on social they tend to click away. Chat function on Zoom makes it feel more communal than watching a video. YouTube and Facebook are good for family audiences.

– There’s value in large and small audiences – large numbers are obviously very exciting as a publicist and you have the chance to go global. Smaller events create a sense of community and real opportunity to re-engage those attendees and turn them into loyal customers long term.

– Capped events create a sense of exclusivity and encourage people to really set aside the time to participate

– For monetising, book-and-ticket seems to be most popular, and everyone is investigating how to do that on Zoom and Eventbrite. Also being blatant about putting buy links front and centre, telling people before, during and after the event to buy the book.  We looked at multiple monetising models, reiterating that tiered or hybrid systems makes a lot of sense as do sponsorship, donation and Patreon models. Facebook is also launching a monetising feature with Messenger Rooms soon.

Think about libraries! They have massive mailing lists so can help you get the reach if you bring the authors and curate a compelling event.

– You can get organisers’ attention by providing extra support/value – signed stock, added promotional materials, etc.  Look to offer the hosts something different each time.

– As a smaller brand, partnering is key – collaborate with another author, or pair with another organisation with a larger mailing list. All stakeholders now have joint responsibility to ‘fill the virtual room.’

– To prioritise which events you book for your authors, think about the relationships you want to maintain and support. Tap into non-book brands to extend reach.

– Use events as part of the content funnel to maintain community. Events are a great way in for new audiences. Think about what data you have to reach consumers, using Lookalike audiences, etc, to reach people who’ve interacted previously. For organic use content around the theme of the event, eg: a Spotify playlist.

– Give granular level detail to your authors ahead of the event, and do a tech test-run to eliminate potential issues. Zoom events are more draining than live ones so prepare them for that. Authors should be paid for workshops give the time and energy involved, but may not need payment for core promotional events. Clarity is key here.

– With events, nurture attendees/sign-ups:  is there a sign-up discount, can they submit questions in advance, encourage newsletter sign-up. It’s a value exchange for being part of the event and community.

– Move the community through the funnel. Always think – how are we engaging and nurturing for the future?  After the event “Sweat your assets!” Remarket after the event, with playlists, photos, etc. Then you have a ready-made list for the next event.

Watch the video here



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