How can you convert an in-person experience to an entirely virtual format and exceed sponsorship and engagement goals?  

See how Vetsource, a home delivery service of pet pharmaceuticals, partnered with Webex Events (formerly Socio) and did just that, and more.

About the Vetsource GTM conference:

Vetsource serves veterinarian practices and animal hospitals in the US as a Portland-based online home delivery service of pet pharmaceuticals, medications, and prescription food. Each year, Vetsource holds an in-person sales and marketing kickoff event, GTM, to align business goals for the year ahead and promote team building.

Due to COVID restrictions on in-person gatherings, Julie Honse, Sr. Manager, Events and Trade Shows at Vetsource, needed an event management solution to pivot “GTM 2021: Dare to Be Different,” to a fully virtual event. 

As a veteran event organizer, Honse says she welcomed the challenge. Her initial objectives included:

1. Find an event management platform to take GTM virtual:
With a virtual event, the event platform serves as the central hub, where users access the live stream and agenda as well as connect with other attendees and sponsors.

“I was relearning how to do my job for the first half of the year,” she says. “So, I was rapidly learning about all the different virtual platforms, sitting in multiple  demos, just building up a spreadsheet comparing apples to apples with service, pricing, and features.” 

Honse says she was hungry for ideas and inspiration and had the opportunity to attend several virtual events throughout the spring and summer, which is where she first heard about Webex Events.

2. Facilitate virtual team building and networking:
With a U.S. sales network spread across the country, GTM provides a rare opportunity for the entire Growth Team organization to come together. A typical in-person GTM event features multiple networking opportunities, so Honse required a solution to facilitate meaningful connections for the remote attendees.

3. Produce an engaging virtual event:
Honse knew from personally attending virtual events that attendees quickly lose interest if the content doesn’t keep them on their toes. That meant completely redesigning GTM’s event format to accommodate shorter attention spans, and creating exciting surprises and fun, engaging activities. Her virtual event platform needed to offer the right features, including gamification, social media functionality, and engagement tools like session chat and Q&A. 

4. Meet revenue goals and demonstrate sponsor ROI:

Vetsource depends on sponsor revenue to help fund GTM, so it was highly important for Honse to choose an event management platform that not only offered exciting features to promote event sponsors, but also provided deep insights and metrics to show a tangible return on investment.

Vetsource GTM 2021 goes virtual

After narrowing down her platform search, Honse says she chose Webex Events as her virtual event management solution because the platform’s features could support her vision for GTM 2021, and due to the exceptional customer service.

As Honse began organizing GTM 2021, she focused on several key solutions, including:

1. Use Webex Events as GTM’s virtual event solution:
Honse incorporated her learnings from previous virtual events and consulted Webex Events’ Professional Services Team on event design strategies, sponsorship offerings, and for specific guidance on building an event game. But first, she had to retrain her support team on the nuances of virtual events.

“I basically learned how to redesign an agenda that would keep people’s attention and interest, and then helped re-educate the conference stakeholders and presenters to get them on the same page about quick bites, different formats, and foregoing slides.”

Vetsource yoga with pets

2. Promote networking via a virtual lounge, platform features:
Honse was adamant her virtual event must offer robust networking opportunities. She utilized several Webex Events features to bring attendees together, including creating an event game that encouraged attendees to connect with others. Following the two-day event, attendees cashed in their points for various prizes and swag that Honse mailed to the attendees’ homes.

The GTM virtual lounge ranked as the most popular among attendees. Honse integrated the networking tool Wonder into the platform and attendees could join the lounge via a smartphone or computer. Likening the lounge to a hotel lobby bursting with activity, Honse says attendees joined one-on-one or group video chats, and could pop in and out of topic-based rooms.

“Some were sponsor rooms, others were named after restaurants and bars around our offices that people used to go to in the olden days, so people could say, ‘Meet me at Migration Brewing on the next break,’ or a speaker could say, ‘We’re out of time for questions, but I’ll be in the lounge during break if you want to come meet me there and ask more questions,’” Honse says. 

3. Reimagine event design to power virtual engagement:
Honse worked with her team to translate her event content to fit a virtual format, focusing on shorter, bite-size programming, and a mix of live and pre-recorded video. 

“The key was to approach everything as I was building an interactive, two-day news program,” Honse says. “A TV show is the same format all the way through, just with different scenes. But a news program is in-studio, throwing to people on the street, throwing to b-roll footage. There are so many different things for your eyes to keep your attention.”

Honse sent all of her speakers branded backgrounds, external cameras, microphones, and ring lights, and asked them to record their presentations ahead of the event. On the day of the show, her production team used the Webex Events RTMP Player to combine the pre-recorded videos with the presenter’s live introduction and post-session Q&A. With RTMP, A/V teams can film in separate locations, combine multiple streams, and incorporate professional overlays, graphics, and branding for a more professional, TV-quality virtual event experience.

Vetsource gtm production

“There wasn’t an awkward transition from cut to cut—it just looked so seamless,” she says. “I could tell from the chat that people didn’t know it was a pre-recorded session.”

Honse also used the platform’s gamification feature to drive engagement. Her Webex Events Customer Success Manager suggested over 70 unique challenges that Honse implemented across the two-day event.

Other engagement strategies included hiring a DJ who doubled as a game host for a scavenger hunt and trivia game, adding a virtual photo booth, and bringing in Song Division to craft a custom event song. To encourage movement, attendees could join Two-Minute Workouts with Lizzy Williams and partake in yoga with kittens.

Vetsource GTM yoga with kittens

For each session, Honse used Webex Events session chat and Q&A, which live in the same frame as each individual live stream so attendees can engage without having to go to a separate window or app. 

4. Promote event sponsors across the GTM platform: Honse says she had no trouble bringing vendors on board for the virtual event since Webex Events offered multiple opportunities to showcase GTM vendors.

Honse requested each sponsor set up a profile in Webex Events (formerly Socio), where they could customize a call-to-action (CTA) button linking to their website or a promotional landing page. 

“We made sure to feature them prominently in the gamification challenges—we had trivia and a scavenger hunt, and they each had their own sponsor table in the virtual lounge,” she says.

Honse also created three sponsorship tiers, with diamond sponsors given the opportunity to provide 10-minute presentations between sessions. Vendors could choose to sponsor different activities, commercial breaks, and even the DJ, who made sure to shout out sponsors by name.

The proof is in the results

1. A near-perfect virtual GTM experience:
Describing GTM 2021 as “near perfection,” Honse says the event was a huge success for attendees and sponsors alike. 

“The survey results were just through the roof, people loved GTM so much,” she says. Honse says the event exceeded expectations in multiple ways, from surpassing revenue goals to seeing record engagement in the session chat.

2. 2,500+ new connections:
GTM’s networking efforts paid off, with the 193 attendees making over 2,500 connections, an average of 13 new connections per attendee. Additionally, GTM attendees visited the virtual lounge nearly 1,600 times over the two-day event.

“Some people told me they liked it more than the in-person event,” she says, adding that the virtual format makes some attendees feel more comfortable asking questions or engaging with the programming.

3. Over 2,000 completed challenges, session engagement:
The event game proved highly popular, with GTM attendees racking up over 300,000 total points among the event’s 75 challenges. Honse used Webex Events live display to promote the leaderboard throughout GTM, which increased engagement with the event game. 

“People loved it,” Honse says. “I made sure the prizes were really fun, and the fact that it was virtual, they actually could choose a prize and then I shipped it to their homes.”

Ultimately, House says it was a combination of the event’s engagement efforts that truly made it successful.

“I think that, feature-wise, people just loved the lounge, they loved the game, and they loved using the chat,” Honse says. “All of those things really made for strong engagement, and that was my feedback it was really working the whole time.”

Vetsource virtual GTM

4. $14,000 over revenue goal, 100,000 banner impressions per sponsor

Honse says the virtual GTM conference exceeded sponsorship revenue expectations. “Doing it virtually, we actually brought in $14,000 more than our last face-to-face event,” she says.

Honse used the Webex Events data dashboard to provide each of her seven sponsors with insightful post-event data on banner impressions and CTA clicks, profile views, and more. 

“Being able to provide our sponsors stats from the metrics dashboard was a big value add,” Honse says. “We can’t give them stats for live events to show how long people stood and talked to them, how many people came to visit them—we wouldn’t know.”

Power virtual, hybrid, and in-person event success with Webex Events

Utilizing Webex Events proved highly successful for Vetsource’s GTM 2021 conference. 

“I want to reiterate how wonderful the [Webex Events] team was to work with,” Honse says. “And the training handoff was awesome. They built out the event and then once I took over to make updates, I realized, ‘This is so easy to work in.’” 

If you’re interested in using an end-to-end event management platform that:

  • Allows for full brand customization
  • Seamlessly facilitates networking and attendee engagement
  • Comes loaded with chat, polling, Q&A, and flexible streaming options
  • Offers multiple options to showcase sponsors
  • Provides world-class support