Blog post

How to pivot from an in-person event to a virtual experience

min read

Conferences, trade shows, annual meetings—many are on temporary hold in conjunction with the social distancing guidelines recommended to help ease the pandemic. The latter half of 2020 is likely going to look very different from what you originally envisioned. With continued uncertainty swirling, it’s difficult to make concrete plans, especially those regarding events and gatherings.

Before you completely disregard your 2020 calendar and start from scratch, try a different tack: replanning. While your strategic goals will stay relatively consistent, you might find yourself and your team working toward some new, critical priorities, like keeping your audience connected and informed about what’s happening. Having communications and sustaining connections with key audiences is more important than ever.

Gather your calendar, your goals and your strategic marketing plan. Then, follow these 5 tips to build a new approach without reinventing the wheel.

1. Assess your goals

Examine what you had planned to accomplish and work toward this year. Then, decide if those goals are still relevant or if there are additional or new priorities that you should fast-track. While there are many unknowns, the need for plans that attack what’s next remains strong.

The good news is that common goals — brand- and community-building, communications and calls to action — are no less important now. You may find that some or all of your goals are more important than ever, given the sudden and stark change in circumstances.

This updated list of goals will serve as the foundation for your strategic planning process, helping you identify what you want to accomplish so that you can now focus on how to do it.

2. Prioritize events and communications

With your desired outcomes verified, revisit how you’re going to get there. Look at your existing meeting, marketing and communications plans. Is there anything you need to reprioritize to fit your updated goals?

Many organizations and companies are fast-tracking communications that detail their approach to COVID-19 and the steps they’re taking to refine their operations and pertinent event updates. By understanding your top convening and communication priorities, you can structure a timeline that helps give you confidence and consistency in a time that otherwise feels anything but. One thing to keep in mind: you need to communicate more frequently right now. Adjusting to do so is a good first step.

3. Look for alternatives

This is the part of the replanning process where you can start to get creative. Let’s say that your 2020 plan includes one or more major events or meetings. Even if something is taking place later this year, it’s wise to be proactive with a plan B so that you’re not caught off-guard and can also keep your audience in the loop.

How can you still host that essential gathering within our current social distancing parameters? Can you host a virtual experience now and the in-person event later? It might not be a full-fledged meeting or trade show, but you could look at the event plan, goals and audience and create a suitable alternative for the now while planning for the need for the whole later.

If your plans to host a mission-critical event or show have been derailed, this is when it’s most tempting to just throw in the towel and start over. Yet it’s worth taking a look at what you had planned and thinking through some modifications. An online event never takes the place and creates the value of an in-person event. But is there a way you can still capture the essence of the experience and what you wanted to accomplish with a virtual video conference, mobile apps and digital communications now and plan for the full value later in the year? This is an important time to maintain stability wherever you can, which will not only help your audience feel reassured and engaged; it will also help position your business or organization to hit the ground running as conditions rebound. Then be ready to have critical recentering conversations when we all come out of the current situation.

4. Fill in the gaps

Now that you’ve got an updated list of goals and how you’re going to accomplish them, you may realize you have some communications and other gaps to fill. What assets and content do you need to create in the coming days and weeks to support your strategic plan? Do you need to source virtual tools or other resources to implement your modified event plan? Plug these needs into the timeline you created for your upcoming strategic, events and communication priorities, then share that information with your team to delegate tasks and stay on track.

5. Revisit frequently and adjust accordingly

If there’s one thing we’re all learning this year, it’s how to deal with big and sudden changes. We likely haven’t seen the last of a departure from “business as normal.” But there will be a new normal that comes out. That’s why it’s important to be ready to pivot as needed.

If you don’t already, you might also want to take a quarterly approach to your strategic planning. That way, you’ll be well-positioned to operate under any current restrictions or guidance. And if things do significantly change again, you won’t necessarily need to overhaul your new plan for the year. Revisit your plan on a monthly basis, so that you have more time to react with minimal scrambling.

And remember this: you and your business or organization aren’t alone. So many people are dealing with the same challenges now—including all of us at Augeo. If there’s anything we can do to help you, reach out at any time. We would love to have a no-obligation strategic brainstorm with you if it will help. We’re all in this together. And we’ll get to the other side.

Meetings & Events
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