Everyone in the event industry understands and realizes the importance of face-to-face engagement - its undeniable. Like most of those in our industry, I have watched (anxiously) as the effects of COVID19 descemated live events. As the phone began to ring with cancellation after cancellation, it got "real" for us on March 13 and has continued to be "real" ever since.
So what do we do? Do we spend time wallowing in sadness or fear? Do we shut our doors and wait for it to pass? or, do we PIVOT? Do we find a way to make events happen, virtually? WE CHOOSE TO PIVOT!
NON-PROFIT GALA GOES VIRTUAL
Some of the first clients to feel the effects of this shift were our non-profit clients, who rely heavily on face-to-face engagement for donations that fund their annual budgets. Cancelling simply was not an option.
So, our team sprung into action and helped one of our non-profit clients pivot their events to a virtual event, delivering 100% of their content online. No doubt, it was challenging, but the client was fantastic, callaborting all along with way and the event was a huge SUCCESS raising over $100,000 for the non-profit!
PROMS AND GRADUATIONS MAKE THE TRANSITION
Next, school proms and graduations began cancelling. Administrators, teachers, students and parents were all disappointed that these milestone events would be missed by the seniors, who have spent 12 years of their life working toward these milestones, would not have the graduation or prom they had always dreamed of.
Once again our team sprung into action creating Hybrid Graduation Ceremonies with many of the local schools that included a version of on-line and in person graduation celebrations. Unique backdrops for the online presentation, photo opportunities - socially distanced and fully sanitized - for students and parents to enjoy by appointment, were just a few of the ways these events were pivoted successfully.
And, while we might not have been able to save the prom, we were able to provide beautiful photo backdrops to several "at home" prom events, that made the night special and memorable for those that were involved.
Are you faced with the need to PIVOT your event?
We're offering some keys steps to help you make the PIVOT a little more "sure-footed".
Be Decisive. No Time to Second Guess - Time, for right now, is a big enemy. It takes a huge amount of time to plan an event - and even MORE time to make the pivot from live to virtual. To ensure that things keep moving forward and in a timely manner, you need to be decisive. Identify the key decision makers, keep roles and responsibilities well defined and be certain that there is a clear path forward to making big decisions.
Build a Team. You are going to need a slightly different team to delivery a virtual or hybrid event than a live event. Be sure to align yourself with vendors who know and understand how to make it happen. Lighting, sounds, video equipment, colors, backdrops, speakers.... it all needs to be SPOT ON.
Consider what your Audience Needs. Before making a decision to pivot to a virtual event or a hybrid event, know what your audience is looking for. Polls, Q&A sessions and discussion prompts can help you determine which type of event will best fit their needs and how you are going to meet those needs. Don't just assume you know... take the time to ask, and build the event around their needs.
Themed Events are still the MOST engaging. Once roles and audience considerations are in place, you have to remember the FUN. Even if the event is VIRTUAL, the audience still loves a good theme. Your annual employee awards program was going t o be superhero themed. Now that it is going virtual, you considered changing it. We ask - WHY? Just because the event is going virtual or hybrid - does not mean it can't be fun! Have employees dress up when they log in. Provide themed backdrops for the speakers - - have the speakers dress up. Send themed gifts to the attendee before the event, have everyone come up with their own superhero name for the zoom screen. No matter the type of event, hybrid or virtual, there are a ton of ways to incorporate theme and decor into them to make them stand out for the attendee.
CONTENT IS KING
Now more than ever, content is taking the stage. The magic of live events has always been the ability to be in the same room with other people, to feed off their energy and emotion. Now that the live element is being removed by government bans on meetings and events, we’re going to have to find new ways of getting our message out—at least in the short term. Content is taking the stage and needs to demand and engage the audience more than ever before.
We can’t just do the same thing we would have done in the ballroom or event facility and transfer it to a virtual or hybrid environment. We must also bring surprise and delight to the virtual format, and the only way to do that is through the content and well planned themed elements - - and of course, a cohesive plan.
So no matter what type of event your are planning, don't forget to PLAN. Make it fun, interesting, engaging. Ensure your content is KING and will stand alone at the front of the room and engage and inspire. Be prepared, with a strong, collaborative team and be ready to PIVOT at a moments notice, because that is what these times require.
I remain hopeful - as most of us do. I am a glass half full person, and through all of this, I believe that live events will come back - STRONG. But, I also strongly believe that those events will all contain a virtual element for those who cannot join in person - and the HYBRID event is destined to be the new wave of the future. Having a strong partner on your team through the planning and implementation of your event - be it Hybrid, Live or Virtual - is always the best thing you can do to ensure your success.