Small Business Insights

The New Normal: Planning Events in a Post-Pandemic World

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way most of us do business, particularly when it comes to the way we meet potential customers and host events.

Whether you typically attend industry trade shows or host major conferences, the pandemic has likely found you in one of two scenarios: with a gaping hole in your calendar or shifting your focus to virtual events. If it’s the former, and you haven’t been attending or hosting virtual events, then you’re missing out on a big opportunity to generate leads and interact with prospects.

Why the Need for Virtual Events?

Even as travel and in-person events have returned to some degree, the event landscape has permanently changed. Like so many aspects of our personal lives — working out, grocery shopping, therapy sessions and medical consultations — the online (or virtual) versions have become the preference for many individuals.

Online and hybrid meetings are here to stay. Fortunately, they can be just as, if not more, valuable to organizations as in-person conferences and get-togethers. Here’s why:

1. Audience Participation

Even when in-person events are offered, many attendees are interested in virtual or hybrid options, with opportunities to engage on-site and digitally. Many people are still (and will continue to be) reluctant to go to in-person meetings that involve a large number of attendees. It also helps that people can attend virtual events whenever and wherever they want. Thanks to on-demand recordings, attendees can view sessions when it’s convenient for them, so your audience isn’t limited to those who can attend on a particular day.

2. Low Cost, High ROI

The budget for joining or hosting a virtual event is much lower than what it typically costs to do the same in-person. For one, you’re cutting out travel and hotel costs completely, and digital events are less costly to run. You can repurpose some of those dollars into creating a truly special experience that ends up reaching more attendees with digital materials that wouldn’t necessarily translate to in-person communication. Unlike in-person events, virtual attendance is essentially limitless.

3. Tailor Events to Your Strategic Goals

Trade shows and conferences usually serve more than one purpose for companies (for example, brand awareness through sponsorships and client acquisition through one-on-one conversations). You can do the same with a digital experience. These virtual platforms can be used to showcase thought leadership, educate your audience, boost your branding or interact with warm leads, all depending on your organization’s goals and priorities. Some even find it easier to engage with different types of people during virtual events since all interactions happen within one platform, and you have the opportunity to network with just the click of a button.

What Types of Events Are Available?

There’s no shortage of ways to engage with your target audience at virtual or hybrid events. Event support comes in all shapes and sizes, and with new technology advancements, organizations have been getting creative with their event efforts. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Sponsor a session or event: Most virtual event organizers offer the opportunity for you to sponsor either part of the event or sign on as a title sponsor. This is a good solution for brand awareness and can also be a lead generation tactic, depending on the terms of the sponsorship.
  • Present a session or participate in a panel: Sign up to present your own session virtually at an event hosted by a trade organization or popular publication in your industry. Cost of entry is usually low and it’s a great way to generate leads who are interested in your topic or solution.
  • Small gatherings and happy hours: These types of gatherings, which can range from lunch-and-learns to happy hour wine-and-cheese tastings, are a more casual solution. They work really well for client retention and prospect acquisition.
  • Host a networking event: If you’re looking for the opportunity to showcase thought leadership and create a more engaging experience for your audience, consider a networking event. Give folks a space to connect and learn from others in your industry.
  • Host a full conference or exhibition virtually: If you’re looking to do something bold and engaging, try hosting your own virtual or hybrid event. There’s more legwork needed on your part (lining up presenters, marketing the event, producing the content and managing the on-site portion if applicable) but it’s the best way to make an impact on your audience.

With all of the options available today, virtual events have become much more interesting and engaging. Once you have an approach in mind, the next step is pulling it off. We’ll explain how to execute a seamless virtual event (no matter what it looks like) in our next blog.

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