Christina Marmor, Director, Marketing Events
Event professionals play a critical role in times of chaos.
The growing impact of COVID-19 has sparked concerns around various aspects of our daily lives, and the events industry has and will continue to take a particularly heavy hit. In these uncertain times, it’s more critical than ever for event professionals to serve as a calming voice of expertise and a trusted resource for mitigating disruption. Bringing communities together at events is a vital function in many organizations, and events and marketing professionals play a key role in this process. Make sure that you’re reinforcing these best practices for maintaining business continuity while keeping health and safety top-of-mind.
Communication is key.
Disruptions of this nature are unpredictable, and it’s challenging to fully anticipate their long-term impact. Even if next steps aren’t set in stone, it’s important that prospective attendees and internal stakeholders know that you’re working toward finding the best possible solution. Be prepared to answer questions, proactively communicate new developments, and ensure that your messaging stays consistent along the way. These challenging situations also reinforce the importance of having a crisis communication plan in place and sharing best practices with your community. The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), a member of the Fonteva customer community, offers a variety of valuable resources on navigating COVID-19 for event professionals and the organizations they serve.
If your organization is relying on siloed data and outdated software solutions, it can be difficult to deliver quick and effective communication at a time when your customers or members need it most. With your events software and customer data in the same true-cloud platform like Salesforce, you can easily provide real-time updates and quickly address follow-up inquiries. You can also configure your event website to serve as a go-to resource for attendees to access the latest information and engage in meaningful conversations. In short, tools that provide your events and marketing teams with access to important data and enable better communication are key to staying one step ahead.
Maintain a (modified) sense of connection.
In-person events may provide an unmatched experience, but certain alternatives can help maintain a sense of connection while social distancing. For a smaller event, consider offering video sessions for your community to connect remotely. You could even convert your event into an entirely virtual experience through live-streaming, as done recently with Salesforce World Tour Sydney. Many associations are pivoting and turning large, in-person events into webcasts. Virtual learning can also be useful for any ongoing education that your organization offers. Fonteva recently adopted this approach for its monthly product training.
Before committing to a virtual experience, think carefully about whether you have the bandwidth and tools to do so. Also, keep in mind that a virtual approach won’t always work for every pre-planned aspect of your event. Shift your strategies as needed to better align with your newly digitized delivery. When used appropriately, virtual alternatives allow you to easily pivot and potentially maintain revenue continuity.
Make data-driven decisions.
Event professionals can guide their organizations and attendees in times of chaos when they have access to the right data and insights at their fingertips. With advanced event registration tools, you can confidently make critical decisions based on reliable data – not assumptions. For starters, assess your current registration and attendee data and how it potentially impacts the bottom line. If an event is a leading contributor to your big-picture business goals, postponing could be an option before cancelling.
Dive deeper into the level of engagement around the event. You can also quickly generate reports on attendee demographics, and use these key insights to deliver a virtual experience that will resonate.
Sometimes, there are times where cancelling an event is your only option. This can be an extremely tough choice to make – especially if it serves as a significant source of revenue and is mission-critical to your organization’s culture. However, your attendees’ safety always comes first. In these cases, it’s important to stay as flexible and strategic as possible. Proactively schedule a brainstorm with your team to discuss how you can re-shift priorities and pursue new initiatives to get back on-track with big-picture business objectives.
At the end of the day, nothing can take away the value of a handshake. But in today’s world of elbow bumps, it’s critical that we have the right tools to rapidly respond to changing event needs and continue our business objectives without dramatic disruption.