COVID -19 has impacted event planners across the globe with many cancelling and postponing – and many more making the move to virtual events. The current situation is also changing the way organisers spend their time. In fact, a new research study has found that 70% of event planners now have more time on their hands with many focusing on education and making improvements to their planning and marketing processes.
We have seen many organisations scale back activities in these uncertain times. But this can also be a great opportunity for people to step back, re-evaluate strategies and do things even better once the crisis has moved on.
With that in mind, let us look at some of the things you can do with your time now to improve your events in the future:
1) Make Your Communications Crystal Clear
This is the perfect time for you to re-evaluate your communications. Take this opportunity to refresh your marketing and messaging. Discover any gaps that need addressing. Look for new ways of getting your message across. Seek new channels to use.
It is important to keep an open line of communication with delegates and keep them engaged with email comms, your event website and by using the relevant social media channels. If you have an app for your event, use the app as an engagement tool. Even though your event may be cancelled or postponed, you can still push content through the app to keep the delegates interested and let them know of your future plans.
Engage audiences with content marketing. Don’t stop creating content. Use some of your historic content, create webinars and deliver other virtual events. But, above all, keep communicating and most of all, communicate content of value.
Related read: Coronavirus – How to manage delegate expectations
2) Review Your Data
The research findings show that more than 1 in 3 event planners are currently spending their time making improvements to the way they collect, manage and use their event data. And this is something really important.
Event data is gold dust. The more you use it in the right way, the more value it can bring to your organisation. Yet many organisers have typically not had enough time to manage it as well as they’d like. They haven’t been able to get insights they need or do anything useful with it.
Taking this time to ‘get your data fit’ can bring enormous business opportunities for your virtual events or your live in-person events when things eventually pick up (and they will). Use the time now to analyse past events. Dive into the data held in your event management system and understand your delegates more. Look at what worked, what didn’t work, where you made money from your events and more crucially, where you didn’t.
Event data is vital for helping you to make insightful informed decisions to develop your events strategy. Use this time to take a good long look at your data and work out what it is telling you so you can remain competitive and improve things in the future.
Related read: Coronavirus – How to manage delegate expectations
3) Segment Your Audiences
Once the crisis has ended there will be a huge amount of competition as event planners scramble to make up for lost time and lost income. But with even more competition taking place, you are going to need to stand out and attract people to your events like never before. What will help you, however, is having a clear idea on who you will be targeting and how. And the time to start looking at that is now.
Who do you target as buyers? Are they the right buyers for your events? Is the category of buyers too wide? Should you segment them further? It’s usually a good idea to do so. For example, if you target associations and have segmented them from corporates then that is a good first step but it doesn’t go far enough.
There are hundreds of associations – so which segment are you after? Maybe it is medical associations, maybe it’s event associations or maybe it’s a completely different sector. It doesn’t matter as long as you know why you are targeting the sector. The more specific you are, the better. It will help you focus and come up with new products and services for them. It will make event personalisation a lot easier too.
4) Evaluate Your Event Technology
Technology is another area that organisers are currently focusing on with 37% of organisers using this time to evaluate the systems they use (or want to use) around their events
If you do happen to have more time on your hands because of everything that’s going on, then it makes sense to do this now. If you rely on event management software or any other tech solution you use around your events, you’ll know how important it is to do your due diligence and keep things in check.
For example, if investment was made to save you time and money, then you need to make sure that it’s still delivering on that promise today. If it was meant to create a better experience for attendees, then you should have a good idea on how effective it is in doing that. And if your management team asks if the technology is helping meet business goals set around your events, then you also need to have an answer. A good one. Otherwise, where’s the ROI?
Related read: 6 signs your event tech is NOT working for you
Whilst you should be periodically reviewing your technology, having an enforced period due to the crisis, means there is no excuse not to re-evaluate your tech. Perhaps you can now undertake those tech integrations, that you didn’t have time for previously, so you can do things even better next year.
Talk to your tech provider and get the training/tutorial on aspects of the solution that you don’t use as much as you’d like because you never had the time. Learn new ways of using the tech so that you can improve efficiency. Maybe see what other options there are in the market or evaluate new tech you’d like to use but never had time to think about before. For example, you may have always wanted an event app, well this could be a good time to really look at making that a reality.
5) Map Out Your Event Planning Processes
When you are super busy running events, your goal is always on making them as good as they can be. And as everything moves at high speed, there is little choice to do anything other than complete the tasks and tick them off.
If you have more time on your hands as a result of everything that is going on, then it is the perfect opportunity for you to sit down and review your event planning processes. Why? Because events have become more sophisticated and delegates have become more demanding. And this will only become more so the case when things go back to normal. More is expected which means you cannot be running your events in the way you would have done a few years ago. For example, think of the new health and safety guidelines you’ll need to implement at your events when things go back to normal. Or whether you’ll always have to have a virtual element for all your events in the future.
You need to ensure that your event planning processes take into account the ‘delegate journey’ of today and beyond. What’s coming next that you can factor in now?
6) Test Your Data Management Protocols
You could be forgiven for thinking that as businesses have closed and people have been told to stay at home, (other than for essential journeys) that other important issues have gone away or been forgotten about. However, that is far from the truth and in fact more emphasis needs to be placed on keeping those ‘invisible’ issues front of mind.
Take for example, the issue of ‘data security’ and protection. The requirements of the GDPR (in place since May 2018) have not gone away because of the coronavirus. In fact, if anything, you need to be checking just how secure the data you hold actually is. Can you still depend on the companies you were using prior to the outbreak, have any gone bust and do you need to source alternative providers?
As well as checking providers, it’s also a good time to ‘test’ your protocols. Do they need adjusting? If you received a Subject Access Request, what would you do, where would you go? How would you deal with it? Now is a good time to look at how securely you are managing your data.
Related read: 8 bad data security habits event planners should quit
7) Invest in Your Own Personal Development
Personal development should always be on your radar of things to be done. Often it can be easily overlooked with only the minimum of compulsory training being undertaken. But now there is no excuse. Make the most of this time and ensure that you are keeping your professional development on course.
There is no single route to education, as everyone learns things in their own way. You should find the most effective way for you to acquire new knowledge and skills – some people prefer reading articles and eBooks, some prefer watching videos and listening to podcasts or webinars, while others opt for more interactive learning experiences where they can discuss new trends with other like-minded people. The event associations offer an array of industry knowledge and qualifications to look at. If you don’t want to do that, maybe adding new tech and language skills to your CV could be useful too.
Have a look at your journey so far. What have you achieved, what skills do you have and what do you need for the next chapter of your career? Once you have made your decision, buy the book or sign up for the course, there is no time to lose.
Watch webinar: How to become a tech-savvy event planner
8) Research New Ideas
What can you be developing right now that will improve the lives of your stakeholders? Are there new initiatives that will help them right now? If not, what will they need when the crisis is over? It’s a hard question to answer, but the reality is that life will probably never go completely back to how it was before.
Delegates, speakers and suppliers are likely to be cautious for a while at least. With much of the world in lockdown, once the crisis is over and face to face events are back in prominence, how different will the experience be? You could reduce their risk. You could look at self-service check-in to reduce queues and close contact. You could decrease the number of communal touch pads or go cashless at your events. Or you could continue to have hand sanitisers dotted around the conference rooms.
Beyond that, maybe you automatically include virtual events as part of your offering. Get in touch with past delegates and find out what they would want in the future. Call a meeting with your colleagues and brainstorm all that you are learning from the crisis. What new opportunities are there? Research new ideas and start developing them. Once the crisis has ended there will be huge competition for business and you will want to be ahead of the curve and not behind it.
Conclusion – Time for a Reboot
Your focus right now will be on carrying out those essential tasks. Once that is done, you have a golden opportunity to crack on with those things that you never had time for and as we have shown, there is a lot of work you can do.
We are in unchartered waters, even when the global financial crisis was at its height, physical events still went ahead. You will be forced to reinvent, redefine and revitalise many things. But remember, every organisation is going through this. The ones that emerge in a strong position, will be those that use this precious time to its maximum to get ahead. There has never been a better time to thoroughly appraise your organisation and give it the re-boot needed for future success.
Considering a move to virtual events? Eventsforce can help you deliver your sessions online and engage with audiences in the same way you would for your in-person events. Click here for more information or get in touch for a chat.