March 22, 2020, is a day that will live in infamy for many Greater Cincinnatians. For weeks, we’d watched as large cities locked down and local COVID-19 cases ticked up. That day, it finally hit home. No gatherings. Essential trips only. Grocery shortages. Plexiglass, masks, and hand sanitizer everywhere.
We couldn’t know how far-reaching the pandemic would be, but as live-events marketers, we knew one thing for certain: Life was about to change, big time. Many of us have been gazing into our crystal ball ever since, trying to imagine how life will look when this is all over. How long will we keep wearing masks? Will hugs and handshakes ever come back? Most critical to our profession, what will conferences, festivals, and concerts be like going forward?
It will still be months before the threat subsides and we begin to move toward that oft-dreaded “new normal.” In the meantime, here are a few things to consider as you plan for success in post-pandemic life.
Tip 1: Use this time to share what you’ve learned.
With recovery now on the horizon, we’ve learned more than we ever wanted to know about disease control. We also learned that marketing doesn’t stop for a pandemic—or anything else. For better or worse, your competitors are already sharing their insights. If you haven’t already, it’s time to join the conversation and offer your own takes via blogs, videos, and social media posts.
Start by looking at what you did early on to keep people safe and productive. Perhaps you extended a blanket WFH policy to your employees and ramped up your investment in virtual tools. Maybe you kept the conversation going with key contacts. Some folks got directly involved through volunteer and outreach efforts. Articulating your experiences will show stakeholders how you’ll keep that spirit of innovation alive once coronavirus is a thing of the past.
Tip 2: Keep exploring virtual options.
Those early days were quite the crash course, weren’t they? In a matter of weeks, most of us went from a casual awareness of Dropbox and Zoom to relying heavily on these and other tools to get through the day. Raise your hand if you now have multiple communication platforms running on a daily basis. Keep it raised if you’ve attended a conference, wedding, or other virtual gathering to varying degrees of success. Congrats! You’re now a telecommunications expert by sheer virtue of necessity.
Virtual collaboration was big business long before the pandemic started. And now that we’ve had a taste, our hunger isn’t going to disappear overnight. These collaborative platforms know that, and they’re developing their own products and programs for post-pandemic life. Remember how these tools benefited you in your time of need, and use them to work smarter—not harder—toward your goals.
Tip 3: Be more critical about your events than ever before.
Even as we anticipate returning to public life, we know that some aspects will be forever changed. For one thing, pandemic fear now has deep roots in our collective psyche. For another, our definitions of essential and non-essential have changed drastically. As you consider resuming programs and events, consider these questions:
- Does it have to be in person? You’ve undoubtedly faced tough decisions to cancel, postpone, or digitize events that felt central to your mission. But with those disappointments came a much deeper understanding of what’s possible. If you achieved success with webinars, for example, keep using them to spread your corporate messages across large groups. Street festivals, on the other hand, will likely require a more thoughtful approach as people ease back into public life.
- Can we make it smaller? Similarly, this pandemic has helped us identify the people who need to be in the room, versus those who can connect digitally or debrief after the fact. Multi-location companies have long used hub-and-spoke or hybrid models to combine the best elements of live and virtual events. In addition to posing a much lower threat of contagion, smaller satellite groups bring a level of familiarity and intimacy that’s hard to achieve across huge, in-person events.
- Will people feel comfortable? We all have our own unique takeaways from this crazy year. As you begin planning, gauge stakeholders’ comfort level using anonymous surveys and direct conversations where appropriate. Use the information you gather to give everyone options for joining in person, connecting virtually, or reviewing recordings on their own time.
Need help ideating, promoting, or capturing your first post-pandemic event? We’d love to help.