The following is a guest blog submitted by Eileen Shaw, Marketing Coordinator at MVP Visuals.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person events as we knew them have effectively been extinguished for the time being. Faced with a global circumstance where gathering is the very thing we can’t do, brands and organizations who once relied on live events have had to pivot hard and learn on-the-fly to develop a new way of hosting events for people to enjoy.
Virtual events have been around for a while now, thanks to technology and social media advancements connecting us on a wider scale, but their prevalence among shutdowns and stay-at-home orders has absolutely exploded. Online events aren’t just a convenient or unique way to host an event; they’re now the only way.
Benefits of online events
- The possibility for a wider audience. With no travel logistics getting in the way, people can attend the hottest conference of the year in New York from the comfort of their living room all the way in Los Angeles.
- More cost-effective. With eliminated costs associated with things like travel and venues, you can dedicate your budget to other marketing strategies, such as promoting your virtual events through paid social ads or investing in video streaming equipment.
- A seamless experience. Now, the transition between hosting an event and connecting with attendees before & after – such as email, social media, or feedback surveys – may feel smoother since everything is on the same digital plane. Your attendees may be more receptive and engaged when they can just click a link in an email to attend the event instantaneously rather than coordinating complicated travel, and receive a feedback survey as soon as it’s done, instead of a few days later after the time it would’ve taken for everyone to settle back at home.
Best practices for hosting online events
- Choose an accessible platform for your audience. For something like a virtual conference or seminar where you might want the opportunity for attendees to ask questions or otherwise engage in real time, video conferencing app Zoom is the forerunner for this purpose. If you’re a consumer-facing brand – like a brewery discussing your newest beer available for pickup – a Facebook Live session is a great way to connect with your customers and brand enthusiasts in a casual place they’re already hanging out: social media!
- Don’t skimp on quality. Investing in good video and audio equipment is absolutely key here. Attendees won’t appreciate a low-quality production with blurry resolution or sound they can barely hear. If you’re hosting a real-time event such as a Facebook or Instagram Live, or a Zoom call, make sure you have a strong internet connection over WiFi or ethernet.
- Get help from the pros. If you’re planning a paid event or want to track attendance with RSVPs, event coordinating companies have optimized their resources to help you set up and launch your virtual events without a hitch.
Expect the trend of online events to persist after the pandemic – and adapt for it
Even as stay-at-home guidelines relax and gatherings slowly scale up again, not everyone is going to be comfortable with that. Some may not want to engage with larger in-person gatherings and events for a while yet, or ever again. Adapting to changing circumstances is critical to keeping your business agile – and afloat – especially in the face of uncertainty.
Continue to invest in resources that will help support your online event strategy, and most importantly, check in with your audience to take a pulse – how do they feel about it? Even with guidance from public health officials, do they feel safe attending physical events again? There are no events without an audience, so keep your audience’s desires paramount in your strategy no matter what your plans are.
Make a comprehensive plan for the return of in-person events
With that said, many people do want to get back to in-person gatherings and events when it’s safe to do so again. Humans are inherently social; events are so prevalent in today’s life for a reason!
- Pay attention to guidelines from public health and government officials. Stay up-to-date on the news, and make sure any events you plan are hitting all the necessary checkpoints to keep your attendees safe and healthy. Not only is it in the best interest of your attendees’ health, but not complying with these guidelines could land you in trouble and even get your event cancelled.
- Keep communication clear. When events return, they probably won’t look like they did before. Face masks, controlled attendance capacity, and continued social distancing may be in place for quite some time. If your events have these “need-to-know” rules for your attendees, make sure you convey them explicitly ahead of time, and at the event, to avoid any uncertainty. Use customized signage like banners to display any messages at the event location in a big, bold way.
- Stay flexible. We’ll get through this, but the pandemic isn’t over yet. If cases rise and stay-at-home guidelines have to ramp back up again, make sure you can take any necessary event cancellations in stride and have a plan B in place to take the party online, or let your audience know about a reschedule.
No matter what, how, or where, events will bring people together. The insurgence of virtual events gives your brand an opportunity to connect with your audience in fun, new ways in the absence of face-to-face interaction, and even helps create some semblance of normalcy in a currently unusual world.
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Eileen Shaw is a Marketing Coordinator at MVP Visuals who is passionate about helping businesses connect with their audiences through the power of creative branding, from major league sports teams to your favorite mom & pop shop on the corner. Since 2006, MVP Visuals has helped brands increase their return on investment for event activations with beautiful, custom displays and visuals.