Over the past few months, we’ve been working with clients to not just keep up with changes due to COVID-19, but get ahead. One of the biggest challenges has focused around events; when to make the call, what to change, and is going virtual the right way forward?
Across industries, events serve an important focus. First, many conferences, and get-togethers vital forms of income. These fundraisers might be one of the biggest sources of revenue each fiscal year, and without them, companies may struggle. Second, these are excellent networking opportunities, where communities can grow stronger, experts can establish their credentials, and vendors can get industry-specific feedback face-to-face. Finally, conferences create a conversation. The buzz or big news from an event can make or break a business and even focus on the direction of new products or even an entire market.
Organizations and companies that rely on events for business have had a mixed track record on getting things right, with livestream bugs, delays, and static programming posing big challenges. However, there are a lot of positives to turning your event virtual, too.
Accessibility. One of the biggest advantages of going virtual is almost limitless accessibility. Anyone anywhere can likely get involved, even those who may have otherwise had conflicting schedules, a limited travel budget, or a finite amount of time to invest in attendance. For many companies, offering a virtual element to events will play a big role in future efforts, even once meeting in-person is safe.
Budget. While there is some initial investment to be made in choosing an online platform and training your team how to use it, odds are that the cost is much lower than the travel, set-up, rent, and other fees associated with large spaces. This lets you do more in terms of attracting great content and more dynamic speakers. And if we’ve learned one thing, virtual doesn’t mean people don’t get some schwag; whether with coupon codes or mailing, invest in getting something tangible in participants’ hands.
Connection. Even virtually, attendees still have the ability to connect, converse, and learn. Many virtual event platforms have functions that allow real-time chat or break-out sessions as part of presentations. While certainly no replacement for in-person, face-to-face get-togethers, these are a good option for conferences or events that rely on generating ideas. We’ve even seen some fun games that make the most of the relative ease with which participants can hop back and forth between small groups and a larger presentation.
Real Value. Especially right now, event sponsors are looking for ways to get in front of people. Creating smart ways to represent your partners digitally can sometimes have an even more direct and effective impact on those who support your work. Measuring clicks and coupon codes, placing video or graphic advertisements within presentations, or branding content used in the event with sponsors for specific activities are all ways to get more, not less, for your top supporters.
Analysis. Finally, virtual events offer a better way to measure success. Even if you’re making the switch on-the-fly, it’s important to create and aim for some specific goals. Whether a win is a certain amount of attendees, a dollar amount raised, or clicks to specific partners or other opportunities, shape your effort to make those successes as frictionless as possible for attendees. You can also set yourself up for better events in the future by prioritizing data collection and building a strong email list that you use the other 364 days of the year to make that one big fundraiser the icing on the cake, not the whole enchilada.
Want to learn more about successful virtual events? We’ve done, and attended, plenty. Let’s chat.