Any good event strategist always plans for the unexpected, but none of us could have anticipated this. A unique challenge all its own, the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed each of our lives as we know it, making social distancing our new norm.
So, what does this mean for all the in-person events we had planned on hosting or attending? And, how can we gather together to share and create insightful, engaging and memorable moments during city-wide lockdowns and mass quarantines? To help you navigate this difficult situation, our Jackson Spalding Events Team recommends the following tips:
4 Things to Consider When Changing Your Event Plans
1. Proceed Virtually
Social distancing and event gatherings typically do not go hand-in-hand. That is, of course, unless you adapt your event from in-person to online. Live-streamed events work well for conferences, summits, seminars or any type of educational event where a speaker is presenting content. Virtual events also allow you to reach wider audiences, and they’re extremely scale-able and measurable. They will also stand out from the thousands of event cancellation announcements hitting inboxes. And, what’s better than an event you can attend in your sweatpants (without judgment)?
While virtual events lean heavily on effective marketing and reliable technology, they also eliminate everyday event challenges, such as budget constraints, venue coordination and guest logistics. However, our clients are discovering the new challenge is figuring out how to engage your audience in a virtual way. We recommend interactive tactics like polls, contests and live Q&A, which allow the audience to be part of the presentation, resulting in a deeper connection.
Still not sure whether to go virtual? Consider the overall event objective and whether it can be met in a virtual setting. If face-to-face networking or live experiences are key to the success of your event, then virtual is probably not the way to go.
2. Consider Carefully
If a virtual event won’t cut it, you need to decide whether to postpone or cancel your event altogether. Keep in mind that not all events are created equal. Is yours a must-have or a nice-to-have? To help make your decision, consider the following:
- Timeliness: Is the content of your event tied to a particular holiday or season, or can the experience be effectively recreated later in the year?
- Purpose: Could you event potentially be viewed as insensitive or ton deaf due to COVID-19’s impact on your business and others across the country and world?
- Impact: Will the potential benefits of the event outweigh the additional monetary investments required to postpone the event to a later date?
- Audience: Will the majority of the audience care about engaging with your brand during this unprecedented crisis?
3. Communicate Effectively
Whether you decide to go virtual, postpone or cancel your event, communication is key. Be clear and concise in communications to notify guests, speakers, vendors or other stakeholders of the update, and give as much advanced notice as possible. Think about the sequence of notifications and who needs priority consideration. In many cases, the venue or the host committee deserves the first phone call. Remind those impacted that their health and safety is at the heart of the decision and be sure to address any potential concerns or questions that could arise – especially if this process includes issuing refunds for purchased tickets. It’s also important to carefully review the policies and details of any venue or vendor contracts to determine whether any costs can be recouped.
4. Think Creatively
If you plan to postpone your event, creativity will be your key to success. When the time is right, use channels like microsites, email marketing and social media to build excitement for your new event, using creative tactics like animated countdowns, behind-the-scenes content, sneak peeks and new announcements. You should also consider whether it’s necessary to tweak the overall event concept given the new date. And, above all else, don’t forget to be flexible when it comes to your future plans. You may have difficulty securing your preferred date, venue or speaker, so keep an open mind, adjust timelines or budgets as needed and plan for a variety of scenarios.
If you need to cancel your event, there’s still room for creativity – especially in the form of continued touch points or gifting. If you need some inspiration, check out these clever wellness kits and care packages designed to show off a brand’s thoughtfulness and ingenuity. These ideas go to show that you can maintain goodwill among invited guests and leave a lasting impression, event for an event that never comes to fruition.
If you need help brainstorming creative solutions for your event, whether it’s postponed, cancelled or going virtual, feel free to give us a shout. Good luck, event rock stars!