2020 has been an interesting year. From bushfires to floods, and now a pandemic, these cataclysmic events have changed and affected many Aussies, especially those in the events and hospitality industry.
If you had told me at the start of the year that I would have to throw away my event plans for 2020 and start from scratch, that I would have to work from home for an extended period of time (and experience a shortage of toilet paper, of all things!), and that all my events will be held virtually, I would have called BS. And now, with only three months left in the year, this meme really sums up how I’ve felt…
However, as I reminisce on what the last eight months have thrown at us, I’ve realised what an emotional roller coaster it’s been – one that doesn’t seem to want to stop! But it’s not been all bad. Here are the top four lessons that the last couple of months have really taught us about events.
LESSON 1: We can adapt and innovate despite whatever is thrown at us
Before the pandemic happened, everyone had their event strategy and budget planned out for the whole year, and events were already in motion (which likely must have taken months to strategise and negotiate). But when ‘The Rona’ hit us and everything was thrown out the window — budgets were cut, live events were put on hold and companies went back to the drawing board to figure out how they could keep the demand engine running.
What we learnt quickly was cancelling event plans and crawling up in a ball was not an option. We had to adapt and innovate.
- In February, Salesforce turned its World Tour Sydney conference into a virtual event in just 10 days. One of the largest conferences in the Asia Pacific region, attracting around 10,000 onsite attendees and taking more than six months to organise. The reimagined event attracted almost 13,000 registered attendees and 80,000 Salesforce Live views!
- Lord Somers Camp and Power House saw themselves shift to virtual within days and have been able to increase re-engagement with old and new members better than before.
- Last month, Cvent’s annual conference Cvent CONNECT, which usually gets 5,000 onsite attendees shift their conference virtually on their new product Cvent Virtual Attendee Hub® and had over 42,000 registrations.
These are only some of the amazing stories that have come from companies adapting and innovating from the pandemic. What it really shows is Aussies are battlers and we can adapt and innovate at whatever is thrown at us.
LESSON 2: Please stop being boring…
It has been 180 days since I last attended an in-person event – being able to shake hands and be in a room full of people excited about a session, walking through conference booths and experiencing the buzz of activity. Oh, how I miss in-person events!
However, while people have adjusted swiftly to events moving online, my initial transition to this “new norm” was a battle. Attending endless virtual meetings and events have really created this mental exhaustion of being consistently online. Being at a virtual event just wasn’t the same as being at a physical one, plus I couldn’t be the only one experiencing this phenomenon of “Zoom fatigue”.
After attending 30+ online events this year alone, here are my key takeaways to making events more engaging virtually:
- Make sure your virtual experience is memorable: think about engaging your virtual audience with live polls, Q&A, feedback surveys, quizzes, or session preview videos.
- Are you using the right platform? It’s great to be using Zoom, On24 or WebEx for events but make sure you do your research to see what’s in the market to really elevate your events. Choose a platform that allows you to boost interaction with attendees, sponsors, exhibitors and each other. Cvent CONNECT Virtual is a great example here – attendees were blown away by their new platform Cvent Virtual Attendee Hub®
- Consider using a mobile event app so your audience isn’t just staring at a screen
- Have you thought about gamification?
LESSON 3: Let’s start the conversation and think about 2021
With only 4 months left in the year, there is a lot of uncertainty out here on what’s going to happen in 2021 especially if you’re in VIC, NSW or QLD. But there is one thing that is certain — people are yearning to get back to meeting other people face to face. In-person events will be back, it’s just a matter of when.
We’re already seeing them come back in WA and across the pond in New Zealand. From what the pandemic has taught us, we need to make sure we’re flexible and agile to keep up with whatever’s going to be thrown at us next. Therefore, make sure you’re reading up on information on how to plan for a safer in-person event so we can pivot back when we get the green light!
Here are some interesting webinars and collateral that could be helpful:
- The Future of In-Person Events: Find and Plan Space for Safer Events
- Safer In-Person Event Experience
- How Events Will EVOLVE in the New Normal
LESSON 4: Challenges = Opportunities
We don’t know what’s going to happen in the coming months. The path ahead is uncertain but we can seize each day to become better and more knowledgeable event planners. We need to look at challenges as stepping stones to the next innovation. Challenges are just opportunities in disguise — it’s up to us to make the most of them.
This blog was written by Mei Yeng, Marketing Specialist at Cvent Australia.