Over the last few years, virtual events have ballooned in popularity — with many customers experiencing event fatigue as invites pop up weekly within their inboxes, LinkedIn, and Instagram ads.
The world has clearly recognized the benefits of virtual events, and marketers everywhere are hopping on the bandwagon. However, this makes it harder than ever for your own events to stand out in a sea of invites.
So, how can you make your virtual event stand out in today’s crowded event space?
Many event companies will try to convince you that the answer lies in landing big-name celebrity speakers or throwing flashy giveaways. However, after running events for over 17 years for companies like Vimeo, the American Red Cross, HubSpot, and Bizzabo, I think the answer is actually much simpler than that.
The key to running successful, resonant events today — regardless of what your competitors are doing — is to foster a fear of missing out (FOMO) among potential attendees. Below, we explore why FOMO works in event marketing, as well as a few ways that you can use it before, during, and after your event to increase registrations, boost anticipation, and maximize your event’s ROE.
Fostering FOMO to drive event registrations
The need for belonging is a basic human instinct. People have an innate need to connect and to belong to a community. The recent shift to remote and hybrid work over the last three years has only underscored that need for many, with over a third of remote workers today saying they feel lonely at work.
Events — both virtual and in person — are an invaluable opportunity to foster community. But let’s be real: fostering FOMO doesn’t mean that you’re making people feel excluded from your programming. Instead, FOMO in your event marketing follows a three-part formula, where you:
- Position your event as exclusive, timely, and limited
- Make your event’s value proposition crystal clear
- Stoke attendees’ competitive spirits
Let’s explore why each of these actions work, and how you can implement them practically for your next event.
If your favorite musician were coming to town and you didn’t have tickets, you might feel a sense of FOMO.
But if your favorite musician was coming to town, you didn’t have tickets, and all of your friends did? Then that FOMO would reach a fever pitch.
Similarly, the best business-to-business (B2B) events don’t exist in a vacuum — instead, they act as tentpole events that bring together existing and established communities. When potential attendees hear about your event, they should see it as an opportunity to connect in real-time with a group of people they feel they already know (even if they’ve never actually met).
So how do you achieve this? I call this the FOMO funnel:
- Level 1: On your landing pages, social content, and email sequences, include social proof and highlight brands that’ll be in attendance. This establishes your event as credible and relevant to potential attendees.
- Level 2: Feature unique humans and real people who are coming to your event. With attendee spotlights, you’ll create a sense of anticipation of “Who’s coming? What are their pain points? What can you learn from them once you’re all in the same room?”
Fortune serves as a great example of this. An established business publication, Fortune also hosts over 50 conferences a year. But Fortune isn’t marketing these events to a fresh audience each time — because they’ve already cultivated their ideal audience as members of their Fortune Connect community.
Within the Fortune Connect app, members access premium news, join livestreams routinely hosted by business leaders, message and connect with other members, and take part in learning sprints.
Members say they feel they are “part of [the] community” and that they can “establish real connections” with peers in Connect. For these community members, Fortune’s events aren’t just an opportunity to learn and step away from their desks for a couple of days — they act as a chance to solidify their belonging to a network of peers.
Of course, creating a sense of community doesn’t mean you have to build your own trademarked app. Instead, you can:
Position your event as timely, exclusive, and limited
In the past, “Register now” served as a sufficient call-to-action in event marketing — but today, that’s no longer the case.
Thanks to the abundance of events available, educated buyers are now only making purchasing decisions when they’re fully informed and committed to buying. Before registering for an event, they’re asking themselves:
- Is this worth the investment?
- How much time will I need to invest?
- Am I going to advocate for my company to allow me to go to this program?
- Is this urgent?
To get potential attendees to answer “yes” to those questions, you need to position your event as a timely, exclusive, and limited affair. You can do this by:
- Limiting the number of available tickets to create a sense of scarcity
- Having potential attendees sign up for a waitlist or limited-entry giveaway prior to opening up ticket sales
- Adding a timer countdown to your event registration page, so that potential attendees know that they’ll lose their spot in line (and their ticket) if they don’t complete their purchase quickly
- Offering a limited VIP tier ticket that gets access to exclusive offerings at the event
For inspiration, look no further than Web Summit’s roundtables, which require attendees to sign up for limited seats that are filled on a “first come, first served” basis. Web Summit asks participants if they’d like to “make it to the top table at Web Summit” and warn attendees to choose their roundtable selections wisely, as they can only attend a maximum of three.
SparkToro also does a great job of fostering FOMO with its SparkTogether summit. Unlike most virtual events, SparkTogether sessions aren’t recorded to be re-shared later — because speakers’ presentations are treated as confidential outside of the event itself.
If attendees don’t join for the live virtual event, then they’ll never know the juicy, unfiltered secrets shared by speakers. Attend it or lose it.
Make the value of your event crystal-clear
“Make your event’s value proposition clear” might seem like the most obvious advice in the world — but you’d be surprised at how often event marketers will focus on the details of their events in their marketing materials, rather than highlighting the event’s benefit to attendees.
One way that you can break out of this habit is by ensuring your marketing materials consistently answer the question: “Who will attendees become if they attend this event?”
Collision is a four-day conference that covers 20 diverse tech content tracks. But on their homepage, rather than focus on the session topics they’ll cover, they focus on telling the story of who you’ll become if you attend Collision.
Not only does Collision promise attendees that they’ll be part of the “people and companies redefining the global tech industry,” but they also highlight a string of prominent past attendees and make it clear what you’ll get out of the conference — namely, networking, learning, lead generation, and exposure.
Show and tell attendees exactly how your event will transform them. You can do this by:
- Highlighting glowing testimonials from past attendees
- Inviting industry influencers to join as speakers, attendees, or media
- Bundling event tickets with limited-time offers, like access to a course or resource, that will increase the value to participants
- Making sure your session titles focus on what attendees will learn or tangibly take away from sessions
- Answer the question: “Who are you going to become after attending this event?” Share the hard or soft skills they can expect to strengthen, learn or develop
- In your post-event survey, ask folks what they upskilled on because they attended your event
When it comes to social proof, make sure that you’re highlighting testimonials from two types of attendees: those that are relatable to your audience (and have similar titles, jobs, and company sizes to them) and those that are most aspirational, revered, and influential to them. That way, attendees can see themselves as attendees among peers, while also seeing themselves transforming into the influencers they respect and aspire to.
FOMO in events means taking a “you had to be there” approach, one that emphasizes the quality of connections that can happen when you’re in community with one another. That’s why Vimeo partnered with The Vendry to create an intimate supper club for global event leaders in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
As event experience leaders, we rarely invest in our own development. We’re serving our attendees and hosting stellar events, but find ourselves craving a community of like-minded people who can validate strategy, measurement, and experience design. We built a safe space to have authentic, vulnerable conversations with their peers about the future trends of the event industry.
Stoke attendees’ competitive spirits
At most events, attendees expect to mainly be consumers of content: they attend sessions, listen to speakers, and receive swag bags. They network, sure, and they may ask a speaker a question or two during a designated Q&A period. But they generally don’t see themselves as participants or contributors to an event.
Getting attendees involved, however, can ramp up attendees’ excitement for your event. Shining a spotlight on attendees through awards or recognition from peers can also bring a fun and dynamic twist to your event.
What might that look like in practice? Every year, Webflow hosts its Webflow Conf, where Webflow users come together to learn about new products, share their expertise with one another, and network. But Webflow stays away from simply sharing news about their new features and keeps attendees engaged and participating with their Webflow Awards and their annual Speed Build Challenge during the conference.
The Speed Build Challenge also builds anticipation for the conference a month before it starts, with 16 challengers competing in a virtual, qualifying round on YouTube. Four finalists are then flown out to the conference for the final competition, which takes place live.
And of course, Webflow highlights attendees’ excitement about the challenge front and center in their conference testimonials:
To tap into attendees’ competitive spirits, get them involved by:
- Hosting a challenge during the event
- Asking registrants to nominate a colleague or industry leader for an award, which is then presented during the conference
- Adding interactive elements into your virtual event so that you can call out strong answers or gift participants with swag
Build FOMO into every stage of the marketing life cycle
Finally, keep in mind that increasing potential attendees’ FOMO isn’t a one-time task that ends when your event begins. It should be a part of the entire marketing life cycle, and you should be finding unique ways to increase attendees’ FOMO before, during, and after the event — because that will all build the FOMO for your next event.
During your event, build FOMO in real-time by:
- Sending attendees sneak-peeks and highlights of the sessions they didn’t attend (put those virtual event analytics to work!)
- Letting them see the extra benefits that VIP or higher-tier attendees received, so that they want to spring for an even better pass next year
- Capturing and sharing live footage of the event on social media
Building FOMO for your next event should also take place immediately after your event wraps. Don’t wait for six months after the event ends to restart the promotional cycle for your next event. Re-engage attendees immediately and stay top of mind by:
- Offering your attendees early registration for your next event (you can even offer them an exclusive benefit, such as a mentoring or matchmaking session, if they sign up early)
- Sending out additional resources, toolkits, and event highlights post-event
- Teasing out your next event’s speakers, sessions, and offerings over time
The wrap up
Ready to start planning your next FOMO-packed virtual event? Vimeo’s virtual event platform makes it easy to build custom landing pages, registration forms, and event reminder emails to maximize FOMO and attendee excitement before your event.