Many of us thought that by now things would slowly be getting back to normal. Unfortunately, we are still seeing COVID-19 make its rounds throughout the U.S., which means events will most likely be substantially affected for the remainder of the year.
While event organizers are sad to have missed out on opportunities to connect with their audiences, attendees are missing out by not being able to collaborate with co-workers in their office environments. Both are clamoring for connection and are longing for the opportunity to attend conferences to learn, collaborate and network.
This is your opportunity to meet these needs while building value for your event and your brand. Here’s what you can do:
1. Leverage your audience to build your new event plan.
You’ll want to build an event around your audience’s wants and needs. This is the best way to ensure engagement with a high level of interaction. Use your communications about the event being cancelled to invite your audience to help shape the new format of the event. Ask questions about the types of content they want to see, the format in which they think will work best, and the length of time they can commit.
2. Create smaller, more meaningful events.
Take what you’ve learned and curate content in a format that you know your audience wants and needs. Some ideas include:
- Spread your multi-day event out over several weeks. Full days of virtual content can be exhausting and cause fatigue. Consider spreading your event out over four to six weeks, offering content at the same time each week. Give each week a theme and curate your content to that theme. Consider having a keynote speaker first, followed by a couple of educational sessions, and finish up with smaller workshops or roundtables that allow for collaboration and interaction. Make sure your content is relevant to your audience by scrubbing your attendee list based on job function and seniority level. One week could be for beginners, while one week could be for more experienced professionals.
- Create regional events where your audience lives. Depending on local guidelines, you may be able to schedule socially-distanced roundtables or fireside chats at restaurants, or workshops in large conference rooms. These events could stand alone or work in conjunction with the tracks that are presented in the multi-week event design mentioned above.
- Client appreciation virtual events. Client appreciation should remain a top priority in your event plan. Visibility during a time of separation is so important, and luckily, there are lots of fun and engaging ways to do this. Consider bringing a virtual happy hour to them by sending branded food and beverage gifts while talking screen to screen with the group. Prepare a small presentation to discuss successes and goals for the partnership moving forward. You could even surprise them with a guest speaker from the industry or a celebrity. If your budget won’t allow that, you can secure a personalized message for your client from their favorite celebrity through Cameo.com.
After the event, hold a one-on-one discussion with each client to hear their specific feedback about your partnership. Also, send each participant a small gift for them to enjoy after the event to show your appreciation. This could be anything from a goat yoga gift certificate to a virtual cooking class. This is a fun and unique way to engage with your current or future clients.
3. Measure the success.
Research shows that people learn in many ways. By measuring the success (http://blog.nthdegree.com/virtual-event-measurement) based on identified goals, you will uncover the different ways in which attendees prefer to be engaged. This may open up future opportunities to engage attendees throughout the year, rather than just during one event.
4. Remember that there is a silver lining.
Lastly, as we look at our new world, at least for the next 12-18 months, the silver lining is that there are many benefits of smaller events:
- Exposure from the touch-points your event and brand received
- Stronger bonds between your audience and your brand through smaller event networking opportunities
- Increased engagement because of the learning and networking you are continuing to offer during this challenging time
- A cost-effective way for more/different people to connect with your brand and your partner companies’ brands
- Opportunities for people to build relationships that may not exist at larger events
During these times, we are still expected to create innovative ways to help our and our clients’ businesses. Use these opportunities to develop successful programs and facilitate your professional growth and skill sets.
What you do now to stay visible to your clients and provide true partnership through creativity and engagement will only prepare you for the better times ahead.