Home / Tricks of the Trade / The show must go on! But how?

Welcome to the year 2020, where world-changing challenges are thrown at us daily (maybe hourly), and where industry and company events as we know them are being forced to pivot from IRL to virtual at a record-breaking pace. With this change comes an opportunity for creatives to do what they do best, get creative!

As we monitor this enormous shift in the events industry, we can’t help but relate it to the incredibly innovative and cheeky ways people are finding to do what they love from home in social isolation. If anything, the forced solitude we face now has made us think and innovate ways we can forge meaningful connections with others while staying safe.

For 2020, brands with scheduled events have a choice—cancel, postpone, or move to virtual. Canceling is probably the least-preferred option because you lose valuable opportunities to connect and share content with employees, customers, or partners. Postponing is what we’ve seen many companies and organizations do, but given the uncertainty, many are postponing indefinitely, which raises even more questions. Going completely virtual is what we’re seeing the majority of companies do, but it requires significantly re-thinking business goals, strategies, and costs.

We partner with many clients to bring their events to life, so this has been a hot topic around the CDW virtual water-cooler. Here’s an inside peek into how we’re approaching this, including some of the questions and considerations we think organizations should be asking regarding the future of their events.

Logistics

As an agency, we’re always excited about events as a prime opportunity to showcase a brand. Today, our new design challenge is to re-think the large scale environmental graphics and massive digital experiences we relied on for brand showcase moments, and to consider how to bring them forward in a way that works for whatever device the attendee is using.

To do this effectively, it’s going to mean we work to understand the attendee’s digital journey so that we can target the touchpoints for a cohesive, on-brand experience.

We also have work to do in content strategy and copywriting—exploring new ways to reach attendees and sponsors with messages that compel them to attend. Here lies another prime opportunity for us to think about how virtual events can be even better than in-person experiences—as they have lowered barriers to entry (no travel, reduced costs, etc.).

Are you also considering what attendees and sponsors you’re targeting? As opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach with a large, in-person event, virtual events could present the perfect chance for you to offer more targeted, personalized, and relevant experiences.

Content

Now’s the time to re-double down on thinking about quality over quantity when it comes to event content. Knowing that virtual attendees have even shorter attention spans and many more distractions, here’s your chance to turn those hour-long presentations into more engaging—or even “snackable”—types of content.

We’re talking about everything from digital scavenger hunts to games for attendees’ kids to a stand-up comedian. Fun breaks that can offer entertainment, movement, or even mindfulness exercises can all help to keep things interesting.

From sourcing content to creating novel experiences, it’s a missed opportunity if brands attempt to just re-use what they’ve done in the past. 

What’s next 

Here are some of the big areas and questions that we’re continuing to explore: 

  • How can we make attendee networking better? Will they join a post-event happy hour from home? How compelling will streaming live concert performances be?
  • How are event technologies like event apps and streaming services going to adapt to the changing world of event marketing?
  • Will this new model evolve into creating content hubs similar to TED online/Netflix/Khan Academy?
  • Could we see more hybrid events in the future that more seamlessly integrate in-person events and virtual events?

Some of our favorite innovators

Check out some of these cutting-edge brands that we’re following to see how they are shaping the transformation of event marketing in the age of shelter-in-place:

The bottom line is that we think going virtual means that you can create, measure, and optimize much more quickly—so take advantage of that. Testing new content and experiences will create better engagement with your audiences and better results for your brand and event.

Need help taking your event from the main stage to the virtual stage? Reach out and we’ll get a Zoom meeting on the virtual books.