If your company’s major corporate event has been shut down due to COVID-19, it can negatively impact your business even more than the pandemic already has. As the virus in Ontario shows some signs of slowing down, it will take baby steps to resume life as we once knew it. This means seeing your plans come to fruition won’t be happening any time soon. Cancelling events has become a popular choice, but is it really the best one? It takes time to go through the motions to cancel, and, in the end, you have not only lost money due to refunds but also spent more money working on the cancellation. This is a good way to bankrupt your event or even your business. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost for hosting your corporate event. You do have options that will allow you to reach the people you need without putting anyone at risk. So, what are those options? Here are two realistic alternatives to help you hold your corporate event.
1. Postpone the date
Postponing the date is the best way to provide the same experience for your attendees. However, it comes with its challenges. Will people still be available on the new date? Will your venue still be available? How can you know what date will be safe for gatherings? Before deciding you want to postpone, you should:
- Call your venue to see what they can offer you date wise.
- Call other venues who might be able to offer a similar deal and timing.
- Send out notices with possible new dates and have attendees indicate which ones work for them.
You can get a better idea of what the future might look like and determine if you are willing to risk moving the date. However, you are still faced with the possibility that large gatherings will never be the same again as we know.
2. Take it online
Let’s face it, anyone working from home right now could use a diversion. There is no reason you can’t plan your event virtually. You can still have your keynote speakers perform from home or a safe space in isolation. You can also still provide things such as demos and Q&A sessions online. You can recoup the money you invested, and still provide valuable service from a group of people who are probably even more excited about the prospect than they were before. It takes strong organizational and communication skills, but you have all the tools you need to make it happen. Here’s how to get started:
Get the Word Out: Make sure you speak to all those involved in the event itself to see if you can create a virtual environment for what they had planned. Once you know who is on board, let your attendees know how it will happen and keep them updated as things unfold. Make sure you stick with the dates and times of the original schedule so people aren’t frustrated by changes that might no longer work. Although many people are stuck at home, most are trying to do their same jobs with the same deadlines and meetings remotely.
Plan it Out: Research all the virtual options available to you. You can create a central website with instructions and links to key events. Many platforms will allow you to get creative and even have interactive booths using a multiple screen format, or you can have a live feed link set up for each participant. This allows people to ask questions, see the demos they would have seen going on at the floor level throughout the day, and keep the audience reach high for participants.
Stay Organized: Keep that same focus you would planning your onsite event for your online conference. Meet, communicate, and stick with your schedule to ensure everything is up and running as planned.
Test, Test, and Test Again: Nothing is worse than holding online events with a virtual platform that doesn’t work. Make sure everyone participating is trained on the program, so they know how it works. Look for a platform that allows people to achieve what they want, whether it is one on one interaction via video, or people using a side panel to type in their questions in a cue. Consider other options for keynote speakers, such as podcasts and recording their online speeches to be accessed from a password-protected site. This allows people to feel they are still getting their money’s worth from the information promised.
Up the Engagement Factor: To make this the best possible experience, make sure everyone involved is bringing their “A” game to the event. Help them find ways to create impressive presentations with screen-sharing options so they can share video, music, and images. This will keep your audience engaged.
Use Interactive Features: The best platforms will provide interactive features that will work best for your audience and presenters. As mentioned, being able to speak directly to the presenter or booth reps, as well as providing a question cue, will help. However, there are other things to look for, such as chat boxes, screen sharing, polls following events, etc. Polls are important, as you can get feedback on how things went and share it with sponsors who might be doubting their events were activated effectively.
Create a Mobile App: Mobile apps can be customized to meet just about any need or situation. It can provide a “base” for your event where people can log on, join in, share information, and get updates on what is happening. It also allows you to conduct polling, share messages, and have a direct way to push more notifications. You can even provide ways to reach out to keynote speakers and other participants.
Leverage Social Media: Last but not least, use social media to keep interested and share events and audience feedback. While cancellation could be the death of an event, poor planning for a virtual event can also prove lethal! By sharing live streams, links to podcasts, video clips of keynote speakers, and perhaps even more importantly, shares, likes, comments, and hash-tagged posts from attendees, you can generate excitement and still hold a phenomenally successful conference.
You might not be able to provide the exact experience people were expecting, but you can rise to the occasion and be sure they can participate in a meaningful way.