Live event producers with events originally slated for fall 2020 through mid-2021 find
themselves in a similar situation to those who had events planned in the first half of 2020. While the hope that COVID-19 would by now be more contained and potentially a distant bad memory, the continued prominence of the virus makes live events a risky proposition. The health and safety approach of any event remains a primary concern for attendees, and the financial risk of attendance dropping is of equal concern for organizers. So what should you do with your scheduled events? (Insert 1990's hit "Things that make you go hmm" from the C&C Music Factory, here.)
There’s a couple of things to keep in mind. One, planning for events happen months, if not years in advance, to build the best experiences. Waiting until a couple weeks before an event is taking place to determine how it’ll be run isn’t tenable due to the resourcing, infrastructure and planning that underpin these activities. Event organizers must hedge their bets early, and make decisions on their remaining 2020 and early 2021 events based on data available now. Two, there's no one size fits all approach as to how to handle this, which makes this situation increasingly more complex. Here's some guidance for event producers to evaluate their way forward in these uncertain times.
Use your event goals to guide your strategy. Like any other year, your event goals should be driving your approach. You should clearly outline what success looks like for your event, including financial results, attendance and sponsorship numbers (where applicable), satisfaction metrics and experiences. What do you want people to do, feel, experience, and most importantly take away with them, as a result of attending?
When is the ideal timeline for your event? This could be looked at in a variety of ways, including when your target audience is available, or the timeline of information being most relevant to them.
Once you know what good looks like for your goals and timing, tailor your approach to accomplish these objectives, understanding the landscape and the delivery vehicles and tools (e.g. live events, virtual or hybrid). None of these vehicles are better than the others, and organizers must think through all the collective strengths and risks, along with how to leverage them to meet their objectives.
Live events: These are exceptional platforms for networking and experiential elements. Event producers must be mindful of the financial risk factors of attendance and sponsorship for live events near term, as company budgets have been slashed, organizational travel restrictions remain, and public comfort levels with group gatherings vary at this stage. Event producers also need to think extensively about the health and safety elements of running live events, including how they will maintain social distancing throughout the property and in sessions, meals, sanitation, health screenings, and how to handle potential cases onsite.
Virtual events: These offer tremendous growth potential as you can market to attendees and sponsors in a wider geographic region than the confines of a live event would allow. We’ve seen huge growth in the uptake of virtual events this year, with attendance exceeding expectations. However, event producers need to remember that virtual attendees are also likely juggling their other obligations at home and work. The key is to keep attendees engaged with your event and appreciate that they may have competing priorities throughout your event hours.
Hybrid events: These offer the greatest revenue opportunity, with the combination of live and virtual attendance and sponsorship. While naturally this doubles down the financial opportunity, it also provides attendees options based on their comfort levels and accounts for travel restrictions. Organizers have to plan for the separate and combined experiences — what live experience they want to deliver, the virtual experience they will drive, and how they can thoughtfully bring these groups together to interact. If you've ever attended a meeting where everyone else is in the room together and you are the only other person joining virtually, you'll likely have experienced difficulty in participating in some way. Event producers must avoid delivering a live event where the virtual component is reliant on people simply tuning in, and focus on the optimal individual and combined experiences.
Each event type can drive great results and it's a matter of leveraging the right tool for your goals, and planning for all risk factors associated with that format. As we mentioned in the last blog post, you can't just take a live event and go with the same game plan for virtual as the opportunities and limitations of each format are inherently different. You need to plan your event with the delivery format in mind to get the optimal results.
To get the best results, talk to an expert familiar with each event delivery mechanism, how to pivot between them, and the limitations and opportunities of each. Next Level Events has been guiding clients to meet and exceed their specific event goals through pivoting to different event formats during the pandemic. We’d love to help you during these unprecedented times as well, so please feel free to schedule a free consultation. www.nextlevelevents.org