Like many brands, Marigold Engage by Sailthru was eager to get back to hosting live events in 2021. But instead the team encountered a year of last-minute pivots to virtual experiences. Events still needed to feel personal and offer attendees a reason to stay on screen. 

“We knew we had to get creative to give [clients] a reason to keep their cameras on for the whole session.” says Julie Miller, Marigold Engage by Sailthru’s senior event manager. “No one wants to be on another Zoom call at 5 p.m.” 

The answer? Offering experiences that were shorter, more fun, and difficult to resist.

Tapping into Experts and DIY Kits

“One of our first hits was a cupcake-making tutorial hosted by the owner of Baked By Melissa,” says Sailthru event manager Francesca Nolan. “We hit our rsvp target faster than with any of our other events.” 

Guests were sent a baking kit as soon as they registered, and after the event each attendee received a personalized thank you note from Sailthru’s outreach team.

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Mixing, Melting, & Marketing live digital event hosted by Melissa Ben-Ishay, the founder of Baked by Melissa.

“These kinds of events broadened our reach,” says Nolan, “and offered guests something they could do with their families in an open area of their homes.”

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Let it (Lobster) Roll offered a live tutorial on building the perfect lobster roll hosted by a trained chef.
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Guests were sent a box ingredients including lobster, caviar, and all seasonings needed for the recipe.

That success paved the way for more DIY experiences like wine tastings, at-home facials, making gnocchi, and building lobster rolls. The events were streamed in real time and included an introduction from a Sailthru industry advisor. “Our advisors are instrumental in ensuring that we cover topics that are timely and useful for the marketers attending,” says Miller.

“The experiences are a lot of fun but if you can walk away with a tip to make your job easier, even better,” Sailthru retail advisor Monica Deretich adds. “These events not only provided a fun experience, but a chance to build community around topics that most attendees were actively navigating for their organizations.”

“It’s a fun way to give your mind a break and then re-energize it with both networking and discussions on relevant, timely topics with other marketers in the field facing the same challenges. They may have already solved for them, or at least started down the path,” adds Sailthru’s retail advisor Laura Carrier.

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Pumpkin Spice and Everything Gnocchi event featuring Sailthru lead retail advisor Monica Deretich.
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Foraged for Fall: Wreath Workshop virtual event.

Leveraging Relevancy and Celebrity Appeal 

One of Sailthru’s most popular events in 2021 featured actors Brian Baumgartner and Oscar Nunez from the hit television series The Office.

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Back to The Office: An evening with Dunder Mifflin’s finest online global event hosted by Marigold.

Developed in partnership with Marigold Engage by Sailthru’s parent company, Marigold, the event was structured as an online Q&A session focused around the actors’ experiences on the famed sitcom. It was spring of 2021, and many people were eager to return to an in-person work environment by summertime.

The plan paid off.

Craig Wright, Marigold Engage by Sailthru’s head of sales confirmed “We reached more people than we ever have, and provided an hour of fun that a lot of people could relate to. We didn’t use it as a knowledge exchange or sales pitch. It had to be all about going back to the office, which is what everyone was talking about at that time.”  

Reducing Screen Fatigue

The events team and brand advisors loved the new registration numbers with virtual events, but quickly saw that it did not necessarily translate into solid leads or larger “turnout” at events. “The ratio of registrants to actual attendees stayed fairly consistent, but the completion rates were declining,” cites Miller when comparing live events to digital ones.  

Miller and Nolan were keenly attuned to this decline, as organizations everywhere grappled with screen and meeting fatigue during the new work-from-home era. 

The solution was to make virtual events and videos shorter and immediately available to replay at another time. Happy hour events became strictly one hour online, and webinars were cut from 55 minutes to 40 minutes.

“Meeting fatigue is real — it’s been around a lot longer than Zoom. It costs companies millions of dollars each year. Our ability to pivot and produce shorter, more focused, and different types of events offers attendees real solutions. It gives companies some of those dollars back,” says Sailthru retail advisor Laura Carrier.

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Virtual happy hour events hosted by Sailthru and Liveclicker brand ambassadors, Monica Deretich, Allison Mezzafonte and Kerry Twibell.

Deretich adds, “Our more intimate roundtable happy hour events allow our guests to lead the topics of conversation with other marketing peers. We always leave with fresh ideas, helpful tips and meaningful connections. Many of our roundtable participants are repeat attendees.”

In 2021, Marigold Engage by Sailthru also tested the notion of pre-taping interviews and webinars without a live audience.

“We wanted to experiment with an on-demand format that viewers could watch at a later time. Not everyone can tune in at lunch time, and reaching audiences across time zones remains an issue,” says Deretich.

So far the numbers are encouraging. “The 20-minute length is definitely keeping the engagement level high, and we purposely put the strongest content in the first 10 minutes of the interview, which is when viewership numbers are at their highest,” cites Nolan.

Maintaining Momentum for 2022

Will in-person-only events become a thing of the past? Most believe they will, and that the hybrid model is here to stay. 

“We get thousands of click-throughs on these event invitations, we regularly register hundreds of people for events, and everyone I’ve spoken to in the virtual events space can’t believe the great turnout we get from that,” says Celeste LeCompte of ProPublica in a recent webinar interview. “We reliably have more than 40%-50% of the people that register for our events actually show up on the day of and stay for the entire thing.”

Hybrid and virtual events are cost-effective and streaming technology gets better every day. But is the hybrid version really better? That remains to be seen. Miller concludes, “Everyone wants to go back to in-person events. But we are just not there yet.” 

Want to be a part of the Sailthru events community? Bookmark this page to stay up-to-date with our 2022 schedule as new experiences are announced!