How bad is the Coronavirus pandemic? We can’t say for sure yet, but we’ve already seen significant damage done to millions of lives as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Countless brands and companies have had to postpone or cancel their events. People around the world have been forced to abandon their travel plans and forget about attending international conferences or exhibitions.
This is just one example of how Coronavirus has hit the core essence of being a human and stopped all of us from meeting and gathering together in person. Social distancing and quarantines have replaced our habits of reuniting in groups and attending events. And although we don’t fully understand the economical impact that Coronavirus will have on our industry yet, we can already see some unwanted results.
According to The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, “The exhibition and events industry has already lost a total output of 14.4 billion euros.” This same analysis, published on March 10, estimates that more than 500 trade shows are being cancelled or rescheduled.
That being said, we have yet to see the real impact Coronavirus will have on the travel and events industry. However, being in a lockdown doesn’t mean we should stop from growing, innovating, or experimenting. We would even argue that now is the time to explore new alternatives and find solutions to not only keep our businesses surviving, but actually expanding and thriving.
As a matter of fact, as a Skift article indicates, “Many are turning to virtual event platforms, which are receiving a huge burst of interest from planners who are finally ready to experiment with online events.”
So if you’ve had to cancel or postpone your events, chances are you can still gather an audience, provide a knowledge sharing platform, and sustain people in their networking efforts.
From in-person to online events
What can you do if you’ve already invested in event marketing this year? Should you just forget about the efforts you made to design and plan the event? Or could you find some alternatives? We suggest that you rethink your events framework and keep your event marketing strategy alive.
How can you do that?
As you’ve already guessed, transforming face-to-face events into online gatherings is a safe bet nowadays. Instead of running an in-person conference with notorious thought leaders as speakers, plan a virtual summit and have them share their knowledge with your online audience. Instead of running a workshop, plan a webinar and make sure all of your virtual attendees will benefit from your expertise.
Moreover, if you’ve planned a networking event, take it online. But how can you do that? What’s the process? How can you make a U-turn and transform all of your in-person events into online experiences? Here are a few easy-to-follow steps:
Step 1. Create more content to build an online audience
Running online events comes with a set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges is getting through the online clutter and getting noticed by your audience. The only way to truly do that is by creating relevant and meaningful content for your audience.
In other words, you’ll want to design a content marketing strategy and start building an online audience who’ll subsequently become your online attendees. You can run a blog, share insightful and actionable content on social media, create a YouTube channel and post videos, or launch a podcast. Find the channel that works best for your audience to make yourself heard and seen and get leverage when promoting your online event.
Step 2. Start small and run a webinar before a virtual summit
When moving from face-to-face events to online events, you’ll want to run a few tests and see how it works first. In other words, don’t start right off the bat with a virtual summit, which may take much more planning and will likely have some logistic-related hassles.
Instead, start with a webinar, deploy different promotion strategies, try a few digital tools meant to help you connect with your audience, see what the engagement rates are, and only then plan something bigger, such as a virtual summit.
Step 3. Promote your online event
You won’t be able to run a successful face-to-face event without promoting it. Whether it’s by sending invitations or creating online campaigns, people need to know about the event. The same is true of your virtual events. You can’t just set one up and expect that people will magically find it and show up. This won’t work. Instead, come up with a smart promotion campaign.
For example, you can ask your speakers to share your event information on their social media. You can also create interesting email campaigns and offer a discount or promotion in exchange for attending. It’s also important to highlight the benefits your guests will get by attending. Be very clear, straightforward, and benefit-oriented in your communication.
Step 4. Let people engage and network
Networking and engagement are the main elements that make an in-person event worth attending. Online events, however, may lack the networking component. Attendees will basically connect to your event and chat with the speakers through live polls and Q&As, but have almost no interaction with other attendees.
To keep this from happening, we at Eventtia partnered up with the video leading solution Whereby. The purpose of this partnership is to take networking online and ensure that your guests will be able to build meaningful relationships even when connecting to your event remotely.
Step 5. Repeat and improve
Your first online event won’t be perfect. However, don’t get discouraged. Canceling or postponing in-person events doesn’t mean you should abandon your event marketing strategy. On the contrary, now is the right time to innovate and learn how to take your events online and ensure the continuity of your overall marketing plan.
By repeating and improving your online event marketing game, you’ll be able to double down your efforts and your outreach when things go back to normal. In other words, you won’t have to limit yourself to in-person events only once the COVID-19 crisis ends. You’ll be experienced in running both face-to-face and online events and also be a well-rounded event marketing professional.
We’re here to help
As we said earlier, every crisis comes with new opportunities. That’s why we decided to be flexible and contribute by helping companies take their events online.
Our collaboration with Whereby is meant to make sure that your attendees won’t miss the chance to form relevant connections, even when attending an online event. We’re here to help both our clients and their guests make out the most of their online experience.