For many event planners working in a reactive environment is second nature. We are used to plans changing last minute and having to have a mindset that is focused on being solution based. But when the entire in-person event industry is shut down due to a global pandemic, how can we avoid cancelling events all together?
The answer is clear. Pivot to Virtual.
As Operations Manager of Running Remote, I was faced with this challenge just a few weeks ago. As the world’s largest remote work conference, there is no question that we clearly believe that digital collaboration and communication is the future of the workplace.
However, the last two sold out conferences have shown that face-to-face interactions are key to growth in relationships both professionally and personally.
We have been able to host some of the most renowned speakers in the world such as Dominic Price, the Head of R&D and Work Futurist at Atlassian, Dmitriy Zaporozhets, Co-founder & CTO
GitLab, and Marcie Murray, Director of Support at Shopify. There are opportunities for networking, afterparties, and masterminds all organised to help our attendees grow their network and learn more about the existing world of remote work.
So when it became clear that we have to reschedule our conference to September, we decided to run a free online charity event instead to share the best practices of setting up the remote work processes from scratch thousands of businesses so desperately need right now. And this is where the new challenges have arisen for us.
How will you communicate with your Audience?
If you have decided to move to virtual from offline you need to think of how you communicate your decision to your audience.
There are some main points to consider when doing this:
- Understanding of how your customers are feeling at the moment
- Providing clear information about what to do if they can no longer attend the event or do not wish to join a virtual event
- Try not to place blame on circumstances but provide easy solutions your Customers can understand
- Realise that everyone will have to deal with this differently from a professional and personal point of view.
- Allow your Customers time to decide what is right for them. Try and avoid a sense of urgency.
How will you manage the experience?
There are a huge number of online platforms and tools that can be used to create different kinds of events. In the same way that you would choose a venue based on the specific requirements you have for that event, choose your event platforms.
While a simple video conference or webinar service may be suitable for smaller events, a larger event may need a more robust platform, which offers attendees the opportunity to network and interact with sponsors.
Event technology has been growing in this area for the last decade and many of your existing AV suppliers may already have a live streaming or online event departments.
Many event planners are used to working with preferred suppliers at venues and the online world is no different. Similarly many event platforms and event technology tools integrate with each other so that you can create a bespoke event platform and experience that works for you and your audience.
How will you make money?
The concern of many event organisers will be the perceived reduction of value when an event goes virtual without the physical location. However we can all agree that the main value in events comes from the speakers, panels and scheduling and networking opportunities created by the organisers. Many organisations have been running successful six-figure live summits online for years. It’s the value they know they bring that people pay for.
Being strategic in your approach is important. While this is a time to pivot to online events perhaps you want to make some free events and some paid. Or change how you use events as a marketing or sales tool.
The most important thing is to be patient and ensure that the strategic decisions you are making as an event organiser are going to produce not only great results for the businesses you are working with but also your customers.
We knew when we rescheduled Running Remote we wanted to do something more that would really help a lot of the businesses that have allowed us to grow over the last two years. The world of remote work is having to adapt and be agile when it comes to supporting businesses in navigating this new environment.
Unsurprisingly, our Speakers and Sponsors felt the same. They have joined us in creating RemoteAID on the 20th April: a one-day, free, online emergency work-from-home preparation event.
Sponsors and speakers became partners by instead of looking at monetary costs looking at how they could donate their time and resources for free. This has allowed us to host the event for free, which means we can provide up to date information and teaching to as many people as possible with our April event.
How will you foster real connections between attendees and speakers?
We knew one of the hardest areas for us to combat when switching to virtual was providing networking opportunities. This was especially important for our events, with over 50% of our previous attendees telling what a high priority the networking aspect of the event was.
We have decided to prioritise this aspect of our event therefore just as highly as our speakers. So our event is integrated networking aspects and gamification to keep attendees interested.
We have to remember when running online events, distractions are just one tab away. That’s why finding new ways to connect to our audience is so important.
Engagement is key in creating an event which people will share and connect with. If you are struggling with ways in which you can do this think about:
- Have an event MC throughout the event that introduces speakers and highlights key takeaways from each session to the Audience.
- Run online polls or Q&A on the platform or on social media (like Twitter)
- Create event hashtags to be used online by attendees that the MC shouts out throughout the day
- Can you create mastermind sessions for more intimate gatherings?
- If all your attendees are likely to be from the same country or area – what’s something location specific you can do to connect with them, like provide catering or direct mail?
- Can you create an event specific Whatsapp community or Slack channel in the lead up or after the event?
There are so many different options and running an online event is not a one size fits all option. You need to make sure your event works as a virtual event.
You also need to consider what you need, what would be nice to have, and what can be put off until the next event.
These are all things that we have had to consider when putting together our plan for RemoteAid RemoteAID — a one-day, free, online emergency work-from-home preparation event. It’s been specifically designed for companies and remote employees struggling with emergency work-from-home policies during the coronavirus outbreak. Once the crisis eventually ends, remote work will still stay on the rise. Today, it’s no longer a perk; it’s clearly a life-saving necessity. To get it right, CEOs, managers, and employees need to be educated. You’ll receive free coaching from amazing guests including David Heinemeier Hansson (co-founder & CTO of Basecamp), Lori McLeese (Global Head of HR at Automattic), Steli Efti (CEO and Co-founder of Close), and Taso Du Val (CEO of Toptal). Register your free pass and make a voluntary donation to the Red Cross if your prefer.
What are your ideas in how to make a virtual event that will wow your customers?