Well, here we are again. Now that we’re all hunkered down in our toilet paper forts, we figured it’s time to stop contributing to mass panic with reports of event cancellations. If panic is your thing, feel free to turn on cable news or google ‘Dow Jones Industrial Average’ at your convenience.
Just to recap, pretty much everything is cancelled (Coachella, Europe, bars, the bull market, bars, my career aspirations, bars, etc.). The White House just updated it to no gatherings of more than 10 people. That is just how quickly the landscape is changing.
So, take a few moments and have a freak-out session. It’s well-deserved. We’re all stressed. No judgement here. I watched Contagion for the first time over the weekend assuming it’d just be a zombie flick so, I get it.
Now, rein it back in and let us guide you into the shining light of online event solutions. This is only a tactical challenge and you still have plenty of options for meeting your events goals this year.
To help you out, we’ve come up with a general 6-point attack strategy for transitioning your live event into an online experience. Before you decide to just cancel your current plans, go through this list. It’s easier than you think and you leave yourself in a better position for success if you simply transition your event, rather than cancel it and attempt to regain your audience and momentum down the road.
Revise Your Event Goals & Benchmarks for Success
OK, we know that live events are an impossibility until at least the Summer, so let’s revisit the core goals behind your live event. That attendance goal you have? It’s probably time to set that aside. Your goals about a product launch, increasing brand awareness, or generating a dialogue through a speaker/panel series however, can still be very much in play. Figure out which goals are still attainable.
In the short term, a successful event is well-attended, most of the right people show up, and most everyone leaves with a positive impression. Great. But we’re talking about long-term markers of success – how much more traffic does your website receive after your event? How much sustained social media buzz is there for you new product? How many more online or in-store sales are you making? You’re going to want your events management company, or an in-house events team to derive a revised set of success benchmarks informed by resources like livestream analytics. Plenty of livestreaming companies offer these services, but here’s one just to give you an example of how you can leverage an online event into a business boost.
Revise Your Message
When we talk about a “message”, we’re really thinking about a consistent image or concept that communicates your brand’s intentions and identity to your audiences. That’s still doable, but it has to change to accommodate these new circumstances. Maybe it’s time to seriously alter your event’s website to make it your central event hub. Maybe it’s time to significantly change your approach to social media. Maybe it’s time to shift gears on your brand storytelling. Think about a unified online aesthetic and narrative to communicate the message of your branded event to your audiences. Here’s some ideas to get you started.
Translate Format & Attendee/Presenter Experience
Know your content and your audience. Think about the live experiences you intended your audience to have in the abstract – how were audiences expected to engage aspects of your event? Was this a sitting-quietly-and-listening event or were audiences expected to interact with a person or new product? In light of that, what formats for presentation would they most likely respond to? Are scheduled video drops the way to go? Is a livestream presentation more appropriate? Would your viewers like something more interactive for Q&A like a message board? Should you send out your new product to handful of lucky people to make their own unboxing videos? There are analogous online experiences that can be created for nearly all of the live experiences you had planned.
Evaluate Personnel & Skill Requirements
Obviously, with a change in format you’ll also need to think about the requirements and skills necessary to pull off this online event. Does someone need to moderate a forum or livestream? Do you need additional personnel available by phone or live chat to answer questions? Is your current website and social media management sufficient, or do you need additional personnel to forward your revised message and strategy? After revising message and your event format, prepare a list of new remote work and skill requirements needed to manage your event.
Create New Communication Plan
Navigating an online event can be less intuitive than a live event. You can’t really put up signs. Announcements are more difficult. You can’t just walk over to the next room and speak with someone. Revising your communication plan so that you can actively maintain contact with event stakeholders, presenters, and audiences is crucial to mitigating these challenges and will insure the success of your online event.
Finalize New Schedule
At least for the next 8 weeks, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where your audiences will be and when they’ll be available. You do not necessarily have to cram a whole event into a three-day weekend since you’re not working under constraints like travel or the cost of renting a space. There are options here to draw out what would have been a very short event into a week-long or multi-week affair that offers viewers a small but steady stream of content every day. Think about how your audiences and presenters are now occupying their time and schedule for the best results.
Right now, online events are everyone’s jam. Decibel has been tackling this online challenge for years now and plan to continue bringing you helpful content throughout this crisis to keep your organization moving forward. Check out our new podcast series here for more helpful tips, and reach out to get your live event retconned into an effective online experience today.