COVID-19 has undeniably changed the way businesses function. Almost overnight, companies had to analyze their marketing strategies and quickly adapt to our new reality. Without a doubt, the biggest impact has been to live events, often the backbone of a go-to-market plan, particularly in the B2B and tech spaces. It’s almost impossible to predict when mass audiences will convene for a trade show or conference, but it certainly won’t happen overnight. In fact, industry experts don’t expect live experiences to recover until 2022 at the earliest, and even then, it will be a slow process.
Most companies have taken a financial hit with COVID-19 and are re-evaluating their strategies, including how much time, money, and resources to allocate for business travel. If digital/virtual experiences aren’t part of your long-term strategy, you are losing business connections and relationships with your audience, which will ultimately impact revenue.
There are various ways to digitize in-person experiences, some of the most common being webinars, podcasts, and virtual events. Depending on your industry, webinars and podcasts should already be a part of your marketing strategy.
The challenge is finding the right frequency and enhancing output quality. With most of the world doing business online, there is a sense of “virtual fatigue” of people constantly interacting with a computer screen. We’re not suggesting that you completely avoid webinars and podcasts, however, use them wisely. Ensure the content is engaging, relevant, and interesting to your audience. This not only includes what you’re presenting but also how you’re presenting.
It might be the right time to refresh presentation skills and the way you (or your employees) communicate and appear on camera. More than ever, you need to be personable and approachable, which often means getting through the intimidation of seeing yourself on camera. When it comes to your content, build interactive elements such as polling questions and surveys into your presentation. Allow adequate time for thoughtful Q&A to encourage dialogue. Remember, you don’t have the benefit of live, 1:1 communication, and you need to ensure a more personable experience.
Companies have been moving to a virtual experience to find themselves underprepared. Infusing elements of an in-person event (e.g., networking, breakout rooms) can be challenging. The first step is to research the right agency with experience in virtual platforms. Ask for examples, case studies, research, and data. Many event agencies are scrambling to find revenue sources and will oversell their capabilities when it comes to virtual experiences.
You will want to start with understanding your expected attendance. If your platform only has bandwidth for 500 people, and you’re expecting 800, it will negatively impact the user experience. Define upfront the requirements for your event. Do you need workshops, networking sessions, private meeting rooms, or keynote presentations? Will it be a mixture of pre-recorded and live content? How do you anticipate the user journey?
Finally, ensure there is a human element. Engage the senses where it makes sense. Create interaction and consider AI so your attendees feel part of the experience. Find the emotional connections that are otherwise lost.
Transitioning from live/in-person events to the virtual world is challenging. Whichever activities work best with your strategy, try not to be too reactive. Adapt quickly, but with intentional, researched, and thoughtful planning. Respond, don’t react to this unpredictable and volatile reality.