When did you last run your own event?
COVID-19 has certainly changed the way that we meet with buyers. Nearly every single interaction you have with customers isn’t face-to-face anymore, is it?
When was the last time you attended an online-event. Probably quite recently.
But when was the last time you ran your OWN online event?
According to Gartner only 17% of buyers’ time is spent speaking directly with suppliers (see the graphic below).
What this means is that your prospects are gathering information about training and coaching providers from a range of informal sources.
These sources include LinkedIn messages, emails, online forums and roundtables.
What does this mean for you?
Firstly, the people who make buying decisions are conducting their own research. They don’t necessarily call you or visit your webpage until they have more information.
Secondly, they are attracted to events and situations where they have an opportunity to learn about the choices and preferences of people just like them.
- People in the same industry
- People in the same role
- People in the same situation
What if you could facilitate an event where you get to learn exactly what your prospects and their peers are thinking?
You could be in the same room as them, hearing them speak and capturing what it is they value.
You could find out what challenges they have and how they plan to fix them.
This is where running a virtual round table for your training company comes in.
A virtual round table is not for your prospects and customers to learn from you.
It’s for your prospects to learn from each other and for you you to learn from them!
A virtual round table is not for your prospects and customers to learn from you..It’s for your prospects to learn from each other and for you you to learn from themTrainingBusiness.com
When you are able to gather a room of your ICP (ideal customer profile) or ideal prospects in one place, and learn from their discussions with their peers, you are going to learn:
- How to market to them
- How to qualify better
- How to sell them what they want
As trainers, coaches and consultants, we often sell training products and services without certainty.
We don’t know if what we share is what people want because we are not around to hear them describe their problems to people just like them!
We create videos, posts, tweets without always being sure that we are resonating with decision-makers. Is this true for you?
So what’s a virtual round table?
A virtual round table is an event that takes place online. It collects personally-invited people to participate in a discussion of one or more pre-determined subjects.
It is an event with quality people who deserve a place at that virtual table.
Being the host of your own round-table makes gives you credibility.
You are the person who guides the agenda and directs the conversation.
For example, you could host an event where you ask HR leaders you have invited to answer some of the following questions:
‘How are you recruiting high-performers in the current climate?’
“How is your business reducing turn-over among managers?’
‘How are you developing leadership skills to meet 21st century challenges’
You then facilitate a structured discussion ensuring that best-practice and ideas are shared between your attendees.
When I join a round-table, I am not paying for access to the organizer, I am paying for access to the other people at the table.
Senior decision-makers want to discuss business challenges with people just like them. Discussing them with you alone makes it a sales pitch and less attractive.
But when you organise an event with other people in the room, you are seen more like a creator of possibilities and less like a sales person. Make sense?
What do you get from organizing a round table?
That’s a great question!
You want to be sure that it’s in your interest to organise, co-ordinate and run a successful event for senior decision-makers.
There is no point going to the expense and trouble of running a virtual round-table without thinking it through.
If you do decide to run one, you’re going to benefit in at least three ways:
1. Reflected Trust
The fact that their peers are at the table reflects on you. When your guests see others whom they trust appear to trust you, they are more likely to trust you too.
2. Real Understanding
You will hear your ideal customers spell out what they are thinking. You will hear language they use to describe their pains. You will understand how they see solutions and what they need.
3. New Relationships
You will have greater confidence because you will have built relationships with your target market. You are not an unknown. You’re not an outsider. You are now recognized as a credible name.
Voice of the Customer
With a successful virtual round table, you come away with the actual voice-of-the-customer clear in your head. This is gold-dust.
Before you can gather leads, you must understand needs. Concerns, fears, ideas, trends, thoughts, strategy, existing suppliers. There is so much to learn when you listen.
When I spoke with Andy Lopata, he told me that successful networkers sell through their network – not to their network.
Who should be invited?
Ok. So you love the idea of running your first virtual round-table.
But whom should you invite? Who belongs in the room? Whose presence is right for others?
Consider inviting a mix of three kinds of people
1 People who are admired by others.
You may need the help of your friends to help recommend some names. You don’t need rock stars or celebrities. You need credible experts.
2 People who already know you, like you and trust you.
You want people who will be positive and constructive in the event. You need people who want to help you succeed.
3 People you might like to sell your workshops and coaching to.
You want a few people in the room who might like to buy from you. But remember that selling is not the primary goal here.
Invite fewer people
If you are in doubt, ask a few of your existing customers which peers in their industry they admire and why. Ask them whom they have met offline and whom they want to meet again. Now set it up.
When I approach people to invite them to an online event, they always ask one question: Who else will be there? So put some work in to ensure that the right people are in the room.
But invite fewer people.
The behavioral Psychologist Robert Cialdini in his book The Science of Persuasion calls this the ‘principle of scarcity’.
What this means is that people value something more when it’s exclusive. True isn’t it?
Don’t stuff the room with people who have nothing to give or don’t want to give. Why should you do all the work?TrainingBusiness
10 things before the virtual round table
So let’s get down to basics here. I want to make this practical for you.
In the next few sections, I am going to give you 10 ideas of things to do before the event, on the day of the event and after the event. OK?
Before your event, you have to really think about VALUE!
1 Step into their shoes and decide what the perceived value of this event is to them
2 Create a clear value proposition and test it with some of your contacts
3 Look at your network (CRM / LinkedIn) to select the right people (see above)
4 Decide on a date and time that works e.g. breakfast time or Friday mornings
5 Sketch out a social media post and/or film a quick video to post online
6 Create an agenda that allows for discussion, breaks and maybe breakouts
7 Create a set of questions that people are likely to have and share answers
8 Draw up a list of resources that you can share e.g. a free video training or pdf
9 Practice your event so you start on time stick to the agenda and end on time
10 Create a planning document and schedule dates with your VA
Which software do I use for my roundtable?
NOTE: The purpose of this article is not to do a deep-dive into technology for your virtual round table. However, you should use a platform that is easy for both you and your attendees to use.
Each of these have pros and cons. You have to select the one that matches your needs, technical-proficiency, budget..and works for your audience.
10 things the day of the Virtual Round Table
Ok! You are ready to host your event. You have kept in contact with your attendees. You have provided gentle reminders of the value of attending. You have practiced your timings and agenda.
You have provided something of value before the event. This could be a voucher for a coffee or a Danish pastry. It must not be perceived to be a bribe or any kind of monetary inducement.
You have also given some thought to the kinds of questions people may ask and how you can encourage participation without providing all the answers yourself.
Here’s a list of 10 things to get you ready to run your event on the day. You don’t have to do all of these things in this particular order.
1 Welcome people to the event and provide quick introductions and the agenda
2 Introduce the topic and remind attendees why it’s relevant to them
3 Tell a story which speaks to their concerns and goal, and involves you
4 Ask a question, select someone to answer it and facilitate discussion
5 Run a poll using Sli.do to gather answers and share results live (below)
6 Introduce a model or framework that highlights your expertise
7 Run a poll if time permits to create interactivity
8 Recap the main points from each speaker and discussion point
9 Offer something of value e.g. document / handout / check-list
10 Recap, thank, remind of next event, encourage new invitations
Your guests have learned new things which they can use right away, thanks to you
They have met new people and they can add them to their professional network on LinkedIn.
10 things to do after your virtual round table ends
You can tell from the list above that there is a lot to do.
Time flies particularly when you are part of the event. Having someone help you to manage the chat room and the tech makes sense.
You have probably experienced one or two issues with technology or hardware of even with the timings of your agenda. That’s ok. This is your first one. You will get better.
Now it’s time to learn from your first round table. You have had the courage to put yourself out there as an expert. It’s time to congratulate yourself on a job well done.
1 If you have recorded the session (with permission) now is the time to watch the replay
2 Do what is called a retrospective so you look back and list what you have learned
3 Reflect on what you need to do improve with your marketing. workshops etc.
4 Create a quick personalised video using Loom to thank people for attending individually
5 Send out a survey using Typeform or Survey Monkey for anyone else (below)
6 Ask them for personal feedback on what they liked about the event
7 Ask people to suggest 1-2 guests to the next event as long as you approve
8 Follow up with anyone who asked specifically for a one-to-one chat with you
9 Create social-media posts with your VA to boost attendance and quality
10 Start selling programs and products that solve your attendees problems.
Bonus Tip #1 : Run your first virtual round table only with people you know before you invite new contacts. People are more likely to forgive technical problems and boost your confidence.
Bonus Tip #2 : Resist temptation to run your first event on a platform which is new to you. Select a webinar platform which you are comfortable with e.g. Zoom or Webex.
Bonus Tip #3: Remember that you are facilitating a discussion. If your audience smell a sales pitch, they will run a mile. Create a great networking-experience and people will come back for more.
These days, you have to get better at selling solutions to your customers’ business problems. Many trainer and consultants have to guess what those problems are.
But when you have run a virtual round tables, you gather intelligence first hand. You hear the voice of your customer. You are seen as a credible expert. Marketing yourself is a lot easier.
A roundtable run by you puts you front and center with your prospects. You are not someone knocking on the door trying to get in. The virtual round table is your room. You own it.
Feel free to share your ideas to improve this article for readers. Add your expert comments below!