A pandemic hit. Cities closed. Large gatherings were no longer allowed and every event across the nation was forced to cancel, postpone, or go online. As a result, event planners have had to take a step back and reevaluate what events will look like in the coming months and years. What is the right approach, or what steps can we take, to get events back on the calendar? How do we safeguard aspects of the event that were already in motion during the pre-pandemic planning period? Is this an opportunity to test new waters?
To help answer some of these questions, we tapped our VP of Client Success, Jesse Meyer, for his expert advice on how to effectively support clients and their efforts when planning their next event.Q: What advice do you have for a team that was just forced to rework every aspect of their event?
JM: Take a comprehensive approach to your next steps and question everything – this is a wonderful opportunity to rewrite a new normal. Those ideas your team once thought would create a revolt should be dusted off and explored; there may be no better time to make a change.
- Evaluate and examine how your objectives, priorities, and event goals may be shifting
- Outline your objectives and determine solutions given the current state of affairs
- Have all stakeholders, including your agency partners, do the same
- Assess how your sponsors, partners, and attendees will be impacted and consider adjustments to your plans
It’s essential to be sure that your path forward has a solid strategic baseline and holistically considers all your constituents.
Q: What can Event Marketing and Management companies do to best support their clients during this time?
JM: Listen well. In order to ensure you’re in sync with your extended teams, listen, ask good questions, set clear expectations, and be supportive of the challenges faced. Over communicate.
- Be proactive. Work to get ahead of questions we know client teams are going to ask. These include questions about mitigating financial losses dues to cancellations, inclusions for future year venue and partner contracts, and ideas about how to stay connected to sponsors and exhibitors in a meaningful way until future sales cycles commence.
- Be creative. The roads that we’ve taken to successful outcomes may not exist any longer. Think about how we can get creative with lead generation and sales channel development based upon current conditions. Determine how we can keep audiences engaged in the lead up to, during, and after a conference
- Be forward-thinking. What will live events look like when they do recommence? Be sure to do future scenario planning and consider new variables that will need to be managed. Your clients should be thinking about food and beverage service, session room capacities, and registration and event check-ins in light of the new norm that we will face.
Q: What measures would you recommend that event organizers put in place as they start to re-imagine their events?
JM: A marketer’s goal is one to one, highly focused, relevant messaging. Let’s take advantage of the tools and tactics at our disposal to take steps closer to delivering personalized, timely, and actionable content to attendees, partners and sponsors. Don’t limit your thinking to taking a physical program and turning it into a digital or virtual program. Re-imagine your end destination and create milestones and pathways to achieve these goals.
In order to accomplish some of these objectives, we’re encouraging our clients to:
- Talk to your peers and colleagues. Every one of us has a different perspective, varied experiences, and only so much time in the day to navigate all the discussions, demos, and meetings we’re cramming into our schedules. Spending time with people encountering similar situations can expand your reach and add knowledge to your decision-making processes that would otherwise be impossible to acquire on your own.
- Ask for help. Use your agency partners and your preferred vendors to provide their perspectives and ideas around rapidly changing best practices. This aggregation of information will improve your visibility on the current landscape, options at your disposal, and recommendations for a path forward. Your partners want to work with you to help you answer the questions you have; leverage them to accomplish that.
Q: Which aspects of an event are most important to ensure regular communication and engagement are still happening?
JM: Every program has different objectives, but each event is only as successful as the eco-system in which it operates. It’s important to prioritize each of your event populations (sponsors, speakers, attendees, etc.) by communicating and setting clear expectations about your plans. It’s also vitally important to ensure that these communication pathways are truly two-way. You want to hear, understand, and plan for the needs of your key constituents.
- Sponsors: Inform them of any near-term opportunities that you may have for participation and partnership. Beginning the dialogue about your next planned in-person event will build excitement and make your sponsors aware of your planning road map, along with how and when you plan to engage them in discussing specifics.
- Speakers: Content will remain the most vital component of any virtual or in-person program. Make sure that speakers are up to speed on expectations and plans for the future. Ensure that they are equipped to deliver remote sessions and embed them in key processes so that they’re involved in your content strategy.
- Attendees: Make every effort to update your attendee base as frequently as you can when you have new information. Like your audience acquisition paths, content will drive outreach frequency. Clearly identify your plans and ask attendees for their ideas that you can work to execute.
JM: There is enormous opportunity amid this crisis. The live event industry has, by necessity, a tremendous window to become more technologically savvy, to be hyper focused on crafting customized attendee journeys, and to really engage with customers, prospects and attendees in new ways. There will always be a need for human connection, for networking, for sales operations, and for continuous learning to happen. How we tackle these items now will shape the future of events. Don’t be afraid to ask, "What if?” These are uncharted waters.