We have seen wholesale changes over the last several months because of the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19. Shelter-in-place orders in many areas forced companies to evaluate how they communicate and stay connected with colleagues and customers. Conferences in many industries are an omnipresent part of the business that are used to showcase new technologies or to celebrate successes and provide networking opportunities. Conferences and industry events are important. With the current and widespread increase in COVID-19 cases and states grappling with how to balance trying to remain open with the very important aspect of public safety, company and industry events have been forced to be reconfigured to reflect these realities. Is canceling your upcoming prudent, or can it be replaced with a digital delivery?
Events like SXSW, 2020 Summer Olympics, industry conferences, and hundreds of festivals and concerts have been canceled. However, other events like Microsoft Ignite, Dell Technologies World 2020, Veeamon 2020 have been transitioned into digital events to still connect with and serve their customers. Most companies may find that with a compressed timeline and lack of expertise on how to prepare, the key question becomes “Are we ready to go digital?” It is not simple, but with proper planning, you can do it and do it successfully. Below, Wellforce offers five tips for taking your event from in-person to digital, enabling you to stay connected and keep moving forward.
1. Create a plan
Regardless of size and audience, success depends on determining your key goals and concepts and develop your strategy. Proper planning is integral to the ultimate success or failure of your event, so it is important to take the time and effort to do so. To begin, answer the following questions:
- Will the event be live, on-demand, or both?
- Is this a free or gated event?
- Will you require registration?
- How will you promote the event?
- Will you be working with sponsors or advertisers?
2. Research technology
To determine what platform is right for you, you need to prioritize platform capabilities. Are you simply looking to live stream presentations, or do you want to create a varied and rich multimedia experience for attendees? Tools can range from Zoom for live Q&A to platforms like 6connex and Crowdcast that provide built-in registration forms, social media integration, and real-time analytics. Since digital events are more prone to attendees becoming distracted or otherwise multitasking, you will want to make sure that you are providing varied access that can better hold attention and create a better overall experience.
Determine the key selling points of your planned event. Opportunities to network, skill-sharing, noteworthy speakers, etc., all create buzz around your event that you want to take advantage of. Share your event details via email and social media. Select the correct formats that your customers and potential customers would be most likely see it. Taking advantage of various social media tools that are available is helpful and allows you to reach a greater audience in the channels that they are active in.
4. Technical Delivery
Prepare for technology issues. It is imperative to ensure that hosts and all speakers/presenters have ample bandwidth and stable internet connections to deliver the best experience possible. Perhaps not as obvious but no less important is to make sure that there is a backup or alternative method for sharing any presentation materials that may have been part of a planned presentation. If possible, run a rehearsal to identify problems and implement solutions. These things happen despite your best planning efforts, so assume that they will likely happen and be ready to shift on the fly. Since this is such a massive shift to hosting events, attendees are going to be more understanding of minor issues that arise, but that does not mean that attention to detail is not important, and attendees’ patience with technical challenges is finite.
5. Take Advantage of Opportunities
Many attendees have expectations of what a “normal” conference entails from prior experience. Keynote speakers, breakouts, and networking opportunities will reflect those experiences. However, there are opportunities available from a virtual or digital conference that simply does not exist in face-to-face formats. You can space out learning opportunities with smaller, shorter sessions over a long time that may work better for some attendees. They may not have to choose between presentations and can focus more on the content and opportunity without less distraction. They will likely have more opportunity for interaction with presenters, as sessions can be protracted for smaller groups, or even schedule multiple live streams that will allow greater attendance by not limited to one specific day/time.
Ultimately, the time and effort that you put into preparing for your event will be reflected in the delivery and quality of the event. As we continue to navigate through uncertain times, it is important to understand that there are challenges, but also opportunities as well. Wellforce understands these challenges and can consult with you to strategically plan your digital event to take advantage of the new opportunities that exist in the “new normal.” Remember, we are all in this together, and together we can create something special.