Planning & Hosting Virtual Events with Dynamics 365 for Marketing

Maybe your organization hosts a hundred events a year, or maybe you’re trying your hand at hosting one for the first time. Regardless of your situation, a comprehensive event management system can have a significant impact on event success. Dynamics 365 for Marketing is a comprehensive marketing automation platform from Microsoft that features extensive event planning & management capabilities for a price that small and midsize companies can actually afford. Appropriate capabilities are in place to host both live and virtual events, but the focus of this blog will be on the latter.

Create an Event Record

The first step towards hosting an event is creating a root record that will track all details and records related to the event itself while also providing a customizable business-process timeline to help guide users through it. Information regarding an event is organized into five tabs – General, Agenda, Registration & Attendance, Additional Information, and Post Event – each of which have required and business-critical data fields that shape the event and its format.

To make an event virtual, users will go to the General tab and set the Format option to either Webinar (no live audience) or Hybrid (live webinar with access to sessions afterwards). Organizations must make an account and go through a third-party provider to broadcast a webinar. The only provider currently supported by Dynamics 365 for Marketing is On24. When the event format is set to Webinar or Hybrid, the General tab in the event record will update with four new settings to be configured.

  • Webinar Configuration: Identify the third-party webinar provider and account that will be used to run the webinar. A configuration entry is required for each provider used (typically one).

  • Webinar Type: Options for webinar type will be established by the webinar provider. This setting can affect available features for both presenters & attendees.

  • Language: Select the language the webinar will be presented in.

  • Producer: Determine the event team member who will manage the webinar while it occurs.

Once these items have been set, Dynamics 365 will create a record for the webinar in the On24 system. This in turn will generate two URL’s, one for the webinar itself to share with attendees and one for the webinar presentation manager, where he/she will be able to control the presentation. With the event set up and URL’s created, the next step is to spread the word about the event and get people registered through an event website.

MAKE AN EVENT WEBSITE

*Image used with permission from Microsoft

*Image used with permission from Microsoft

Event websites have become a common business practice and for good reason – they create and spread publicity about the event and make registration for potential attendees a breeze, all while costing close to nothing to maintain. Dynamics 365 for Marketing provides event site templates out-of-box that can be configured to allow online payment and let registrants build their own agenda, among other options.

When Dynamics 365 for Marketing is initially downloaded, the event website solution is automatically installed onto the Dynamics 365 portals solution and ready for use out-of-box. Each event will have its own site that draws information from its event record to display the correct details. On these websites, potential registrants can read about the event and its speakers, sessions, and event schedule as well as make an account, register for the event, and even make payments. The information and designs displayed on a site derive from the event record created in Dynamics 365, so the more the details that can be provided - the better the site will look and work. Sites are built on Angular framework and hosted on Dynamics 365 portals, though users have options to host elsewhere. When the Dynamics 365 portals options is utilized, users will need to download the source code for a sample event site in order to customize what their site will look like. Both the front and back ends of event sites can be customized, though through different methods. Full documentation for downloading sample sites and the required elements can be found here.

After speakers and session times, payment portals, and other relevant details about the event have been set in stone, the site is ready for go-live. Because each specific entity in the record contains different pieces of information, they will need to be published to the live site one by one.

REGISTRATION OPTIONS

There are two registration styles available in D365 for Marketing, event-level and session-level. Session-level registration allows attendees to pick the specific sessions they wish to attend and make their own schedule whereas event-level registration signs registrants up for the event itself and all sessions that will be taking place. To enable session-level registration, navigate to the Agenda tab and set the option “Allow registrants to create their own agenda” to Yes. Additionally, organizations can choose whether to allow anonymous registrations, allowing visitors to sign up for the event without first making an account/profile where they will only need to enter the minimum required details to attend. Without anonymous registration, site visitors must create an account or sign into an existing one in order to attend. Note: If an organization opts for the session-level route, they lose the ability to use event passes and online payment portals.

After speakers and session times, payment portals, and other relevant details about the event have been set in stone, the site is ready for go-live. Because each specific entity in the record, such as speakers and sessions, contain different pieces of information, they will need to be published to the live site one by one.

CUSTOM REGISTRATION FIELDS

By default, the registration page on event websites displays fields for first & last name, email address, and pass type, but in many cases, additional info such as industry and job title will be either very helpful or even necessary to ensure registration goes smoothly. To build custom fields, go to ‘Custom Registration Fields’ under Events > Event and fill out the settings that appear.

  • Owner: Name of the user owning the field.

  • Text: This is how the field will appear to people registering on the site.

  • Is Required: Determine if an answer for this field is required to register

  • Type: Choose the type of input this field will have. Simple Text will give registrants an area to type a value. Boolean creates a yes/no checkbox. Single Choice will display a drop-down list where users can select only one value. Multiple Choice provides a set of checkboxes and registrants can select as many or as few as they please.

  • Choices: This will only show when Type is set to Single or Multiple Choice.

After the field is made, it needs to be applied to the event in order to show up on the registration page of the event site. Navigate to the Registration & Attendance tab, scroll down and click the ‘Add New Event Custom Field’ button in the ‘Event Custom Registration Fields’ section.

SET UP ONLINE PAYMENT

In order to allow registrants to pay for the event online, organizations are required to use the event-level registration option described above. There must also be at least one type of event pass in place. Online payment is not supported for events with session-level registration.

The first step to administering online payment is creating an account with a third-party payment provider like PayPal or Stripe. After that, event passes must be created with appropriate sessions added to them (all sessions if using only one pass type). When these things are done, a payment page must be added to the event site, accomplished by navigating to Portals > Content > Web Templates, selecting +NEW, and pasting the web-page code that was created for the gateway into the Source field.

In the General tab of the event record, scroll down to the Website section and finalize a few settings.

  • Enable CAPTCHA: Select Yes to include a CAPTCHA form on the registration page.

  • Portal Payment Gateway: Set this to the name of the portal page used to implement a payment gateway

  • Enable multi-attendee registration: Yes to site users to register several people at once. No to allow only one attendee per registration.

  • Allow anonymous registrations: When hosted on Dynamics 365 Portals, set to No to require all visitors to create an event-website account before they can register for an event. Set to Yes to allow visitors to register without making an account.

All that’s left now is to promote the event. Organizations will want to spread the word on social media, create attention-grabbing banners & graphics, and notify current clients of the event via email, all of which can be accomplished through Dynamics for Marketing. Organizations that utilize email marketing in Dynamics 365 for Marketing should also create a customer segment of those who attended the event, so to follow up with them regarding items they’ll be interested in.

EVENT FOLLOW UP

Prospects don’t sit through a whole webinar without a reason, they do it because they are serious about working with or making a purchase from the hosting organization. Companies that view each attendee to the event as a lead can set ‘Create leads for event registration’ to Yes to automatically generate a lead in Dynamics 365 for Marketing for each contact that registers. Dynamics will check if a matching contact already exists and link the new event registration to the contact if it does. With a bevy of newfound leads in Dynamics 365 as a result of the event, sales teams should follow up with attendees as soon as possible to assess the value that might be returned from the event. Because Dynamics for Marketing is integrated with Dynamics 365 for Sales, these new leads/contacts and their related info is available to sales teams immediately at the conclusion of the event. Learn more about how Dynamics 365 for Marketing integrates with Dynamics 365 for Sales here.

The full-length documentation for Dynamics 365 for Marketing event management and its capabilities are provided by Microsoft here.


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In addition to its far-reaching capabilities in event management, Dynamics 365 for Marketing features extensive options for customer drip campaigns, email marketing, social media marketing, and marketing automation. Enter your information below to sign up for a free 60-minute demo of Dynamics 365 for Marketing.

 
 
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