The impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak have been far-reaching and hard-hitting, especially for companies in the events industry. Faced with a global crisis where in-person gatherings are suddenly impossible, many of these companies are left wondering how to cope with sudden and unfamiliar challenges brought on by this crisis. Here are 2 major tips on overcoming these challenges.
Communicate clearly about any cancelled or rescheduled events
Unfortunately, cancellations and postponements of events across the country – and the globe – have been quite widespread over the last few months. Some aspects of life have been returning to normal as of late. And larger-scale events are first on the chopping block amid continued uncertainty of a total mitigation of the coronavirus outbreak. Several events were cancelled outright with no plans to reschedule. This was due to uncertainty, and the complicated logistics surrounding event planning – accommodations, venue reservations, booked talent, staffing.
Cancellations are disappointing for all involved. Yet, it’s an opportunity to release a statement and convey that you’re cancelling in the best interest of hosts’ and event goers’ health based on advice from qualified public health professionals.
Conversely, postponing during a global crisis is still a common strategy, though it can pose its own set of challenges compared to canceling outright. Regardless of what route you decide to take for your company’s planned events, forming clear channels of communication with your audience is critical. Here are some major points to make sure you are hitting when conveying plans with your customers:
Plan a mass email update for attendees to announce a cancellation or postponement. Not everyone will seek out your website or social media accounts for updates, so delivering a message directly to their inboxes is thoughtful and, for many, convenient. Add in personalization to the email, like auto-filling a recipient name or information about the event in question. People want to feel like they are being spoken to directly, rather than part of a generic blanket statement.
On your social media accounts
In the social age, there is a significant portion of your audience that will visit your social pages for quick updates before heading to your website or scrolling through their inbox to check for an email. Since stay-at-home guidelines have gone into effect, social media usage has seen an increase, so offer your audience information in the place where they’re already hanging out.
On your website
Your website is your home base, and for many customers is the first place they may look to for updates and information. Affix a temporary static banner to your home page, or a pop-up window, to grab attention and shift customers toward critical information that you can lay out in a blog post or updates page. This time is also a great opportunity to look over your website in a constructive manner and be sure that your user interface is as clean and efficient as possible. Is it easy for people to access critical information?
The overarching point here is that having a clear, integrated communication strategy across all of these touchpoints is critical. Do everything you can to avoid confusion and frustration at this time.
Consider shifting to virtual events when possible
Virtual events have been on the rise in recent years thanks to the prevalence of social media and advancements in communication technology. In light of this global crisis, however, virtual events have definitely skyrocketed in popularity.
If your company hasn’t put a lot of energy into virtual events before, or hasn’t approached it at all, here are some benefits to re-strategizing to virtual events during this time.
They’re more flexible and accessible
When you aren’t limited to a certain physical location for your event, attendees don’t have to worry about travel costs or accommodations that may have held them back before. It’s easy for a potential audience member from Los Angeles to tune in to your virtual conference that might have otherwise been held in New York. Not only that, but you as the event coordinator are not limited to the resources that your venue may or may not have – like, for example, a limit on conference rooms to hold breakout sessions, or a total capacity limit. Virtual events remove these physical barriers.
Costs are lower
In a time where your budget is likely suffering, this is a big draw. Virtual events wildly reduce costs like staffing, accommodations, talent, or venue booking. Don’t skimp on the essentials you’ll need to create a high-quality experience, though. Direct funds toward good A/V equipment, and do your research into the best virtual event platform for your goals. For instance, a casual Facebook Live session is great for a low-key product demo—not so much for a large-scale tech conference with simultaneous talks from different speakers.
It’s easier to network
During in-person events, a lot of interaction between attendees is limited to structured Q&A bits after a talk, or quick conversations between sessions. With virtual events, you can set up a concurrent chat room for attendees to talk and share their thoughts in real-time. Consider leveraging a chat platform with private channels tailored to specific talks, as well, to spark engagement around specific content.
Despite the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has posed to the live events industry, it’s inspiring to see companies put their best foot forward. They not only will adapt to their current circumstance, but set themselves up to come out stronger on the other side.
P.S. It can be certainly hard to personally cope in a global crisis, check out this podcast episode for some tips to help.