How to… embrace a new events strategy
In this article: Coronavirus has made running traditional events almost impossible, but if you adapt your strategy and embrace new ways of working, you can still be successful, as the IMI’s Head of Member Engagement, Sarah Whiteside Jones explains
The coronavirus pandemic has touched nearly every part of our working lives, businesses are not only adapting for the short-term but are also having to consider changes for the future. For many this crisis will incentivise companies to adopt a ‘digital-first’ ethos with a sharp increase in deploying technologies that enable it. While some sectors of the industry are starting to emerge from the lockdown, there are still areas that are impacted.
Events hosting (and strategies) are a huge part of many businesses, including the IMI’s, and in the short-term they’re likely to be among the last to emerge from the restrictions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hold them. But you need to adapt your approach to be successful.
Virtual goes mainstream
Digital is vital for organisations to survive and has quickly become the new norm, so don’t try and fight it, instead embrace these new ways of interacting with one another, whether that’s your current customer base, or those who you’re trying to bring in. The IMI has moved quickly to host webinars for our members, and it’s a strategy that has brought us closer to them and better able to understand their needs.
Not everything needs to be free
Don’t be afraid to monetise virtual events to offset lost income from physical events through ticketing and sponsorship for example. Just because an event is taking place online doesn’t mean it holds less value, you’re still offering the same product, it’s simply delivered in a slightly different manner.
Don’t aim for perfection
There’s a huge variety of technology available – and platforms are being developed all the time as firms realise this is steadily becoming the new normal – but don’t wait until you’re an expert user to host your event. Try lots and see what works for you and your customers; there’ll be a lot of trial and error, but don’t worry this is a learning curve for many people.
That said, you can minimise any issues by making sure equipment is up to spec by investing in good quality cameras, headsets and your internet connection. And don’t forget to test video and audio ahead of the event.
Keep your customers front of mind
The customer journey is critical, anything you do must be easy to join and participate in. Utilise all the digital tools you have for event fulfilment such as reminders, access to materials, and follow-ups.
Encourage audience participation and connection before, during and after the event through chat rooms, live polls, and live Q&A functionality. And don’t forget, once the event is over, it doesn’t mean the conversation is; social tools are being leveraged to keep the conversation going and increase engagement.
When the lockdown is lifted, keep going
When we emerge and reboot our businesses, consider hybrid models that blend physical and virtual events, it’ll give you greater flexibility and reach.
Locked down content has now opened up and there is a will to support the global community not just your typical customer base, which is a huge opportunity worth grabbing as you’ll be able to grow your brand awareness further than ever before.
Digital is here to stay, so it’s time to embrace the movement, take the endless opportunities it provides and run with it. You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll also raise brand awareness and bring you closer to your customers. And remember, when you’re taking your first steps, content and relevance trumps all.