Eventbrite hosted the RECONVENE summit in May 2021, bringing together thousands of event producers. We’re sharing key takeaways from popular sessions — on topics like safely returning to in-person events, the future of virtual, and best practices for growing your audience — on our blog and our RECONVENE Recaps hub.

Before the pandemic, the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago hosted more than 50 events a year. Admission to the zoo is free, so events — like summer wine nights — were crucial for revenue.

After quickly pivoting to virtual, Victoria Luisi, the zoo’s marketing coordinator, realized there was a benefit to online events that the zoo needed to maximize. It had become easier than ever to drop the audience into the animal’s habitat, like the penguin cove. In real life, there were capacity limitations, and the penguins might have hid from their visitors. That didn’t happen virtually – plus, the zoo could send a survey immediately after an event and get fast feedback. “We solved a problem we didn’t know we had,” she said.

During Eventbrite’s RECONVENE summit, Luisi shared tips on marketing for growth, with a focus on virtual events. Here are four takeaways for event creators.

Watch Victoria Luisi’s full talk below: 

Think of virtual events as a sandbox of opportunity

Pre-pandemic, what ideas did you have to toss out due to cost, capacity, or labor restrictions? Try them now in a virtual setting, as an add-on to in-person events.

The zoo sees virtual events as a low-pressure way to try new things and figure out what works with the different audiences it has cultivated over the past year. It’s also a way to test out new event partners. “Virtual is now our playground to try things we would have never been able to try before,” Luisi said. 
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Experiment with Facebook Lives as a tie-in to bigger events

When Luisi’s team wondered if people would be interested in virtual events with the zoo’s snakes, they decided to host a Facebook Live featuring the reptiles. Then, based on the reception from those who tuned in, they created another virtual event for the reptile lovers in the audience. Post-pandemic, it will be important to continue prioritizing frequent visibility on social channels, Luisi said.

Utilize digital tools to track and analyze data

Using the Eventbrite Boost marketing platform for the zoo’s paid social ads “completely changed the game on how we create and evaluate our ads and their performance,” Luisi said. It’s an easy way to see all campaign performance in one digestible place. Luisi particularly liked that Eventbrite Boost made it easy to bounce between different platforms and databases, which helped save time.

Luisi then got more granular with Google Analytics, using a free custom URL builder that made it easy to see where people were coming from.

Adopt a hybrid event model to cater to new, broader audiences

Lincoln Park Zoo is getting ready to host its popular Adults’ Night OUT event, which will be held in-person with capacity restrictions. It will be paired with a virtual event – which allows the zoo to connect with both its local Chicago audience and the international audience it tapped into during the pandemic via organic social traffic.

“Now we reach an international audience we would have never dreamed of reaching before,” Luisi said. “Don’t forget about that new wide audience you cultivated this past year. They’ll still need to be in the loop.”