Event Tech in the Wake of COVID-19: Best Practices to Help Planners Bypass the Challenges

Brad Langley of event tech platform Aventri shares top tips for overcoming the challenges COVID-19 has brought upon event and meeting planners.

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Every week, I speak with planning teams that are faring well—even in the current climate. How do they do it? While each team built a different path to success, all have one thing in common: They lean on technology to reduce the fallout from COVID-19.

Here are four best tech practices of successful teams today. The aim is to help planners bypass the challenges and emerge strong on the other side of the pandemic shutdown. 

1. Be agile, and do more with less.
Historically, planning teams have relied on separate tools to handle different activities, from event registration to engagement and reporting. But complexity doesn’t work in a challenging economy when smaller teams are stretched thin. There’s no time to fight with systems that do not work in sync. You have to be nimble and communicate fast. With cancellations, re-bookings, and virtual event tech to master, the need for efficiency has never been greater.

Savvy planners use intuitive, all-in-one platforms to simplify their work. With integrated tools, you do not need to learn separate solutions. You also eliminate duplicate data entry and information uploads and downloads between platforms. Data moves seamlessly from one tool to another. So you improve security and streamline event management start to finish.

2. Keep your brand voice alive.
Let’s say you host a user conference each year. What are your plans during the pandemic? Will you go silent and risk losing a chunk of your audience to competitors? In our always-on digital age, competition for buyer attention is fierce. Nothing breaks through the noise and delivers a clear brand message like event marketing.

Whether you connect with your audience online or in-person, leverage technology to keep brand voice alive. A major strength of virtual is it can extend the life of your conference. Digital libraries let you store speaker content for viewing 365 days/year. This tactic benefits organizers as well as sponsors. Digital libraries give your partners the chance to engage their audiences more often, too.

During the pandemic, some companies have actually ramped up outreach, using virtual events and webinars. The outcome? Even in a pandemic, they have gained market share.

3. Get ready for omnichannel event marketing.
Think about the early days of e-commerce. For the first time, throngs of shoppers had online and offline options. Digital channels expanded audience reach. Over time, successful retailers boosted sales overall.

Our industry will follow a similar path. Online events will mirror in-person gatherings to provide consistent brand experiences. Of course, nothing drives leads like meeting face-to-face. That said, online has its own advantages. For example, we have seen customers double attendance at annual meetings during the lockdown by switching to virtual formats.

Hybrid events of the future will combine the strengths of the online and offline worlds. As such, they will enable you to reach more people more often through more channels. Hybrid opens the door to people who can travel, as well as those who cannot due to health or financial concerns. This format also presents new packaging and ticketing options. For example, an attendee might spend two days at an in-person conference and join online on the third. Like the rest of the industry, I cannot wait for in-person meetings to return in full force. But I also cannot wait till hybrid becomes mainstream to benefit organizers, sponsors, and attendees.

4. Leverage data to prove value.
Data has always been important, but virtual ups the game. Online, you can see in an instant how your event is performing, using metrics like number of attendees in each session, how long they stay, their engagement level, sponsored session ratings, leads captured, and more. The industry has always looked to data to show return on investment. Now, virtual gets us closer because this intel is easier to capture when events are online. 

In the current landscape, proving value is vital. However, the benefits of event intelligence go beyond ROI. Data provides keen insights to help you manage your business and improve offerings. So your programs get stronger event after event, year-over-year.

Some say live events will never be the same; I disagree. 

We have survived other crises, from 9/11 to SARS to the financial meltdown of 2008. Yes, the pandemic has hit our industry hard. Planning teams today face severe health, economic, and risk-management challenges. But mark my words: We will get through this, and organizations that adapt will thrive. 

Fact is, for driving leads and closing deals, nothing beats in-person events. In the past, our industry relied solely on face-to-face gatherings. Now, we can augment with virtual and hybrid components. This is why I am optimistic about our industry's prospects for the future. Plan strategically now and for the long term. All this change means attendance will grow over time, and events will deliver more value than ever.

Photo: Prateek Katyal from Pexels

This story originally appeared on Connect's sister site,  BizBash.com, here.