As Covid-19 continues to alter societies and economies, everyone is wondering what the future will look like. The novelty of meeting on video screens is going the way of learning to bake banana bread: It’s wearing off, and we’re wondering when we will meet again.
We humans are social creatures. We share mirror neurons that allow us to subconsciously match each other’s emotions. Face-to-face requests are 34 times more likely to garner positive responses than emails. Yet, in the absence of an effective vaccine or treatment, 64% of epidemiologists think it will be over a year before large events return. And, it’s increasingly unlikely that we will see a return to the status quo.
Brands should prepare for the future with a meeting & events strategy that includes a mosaic of virtual, hybrid, and in-person events to give attendees the interaction they crave.
CWT Meetings & Events responded to the pandemic by applying our project management and creative expertise to online events, at scale. We have numerous virtual events in development in 11 countries. Here’s how companies can stay relevant, foster engagement, and maintain business continuity in a way that’s sustainable and maximizes future opportunities.
1. Create the theatre
Virtual environments and computer screens are simply not as fun as stages and live audiences. For virtual, we have to go further than ever to create the theatre of the event, grab people’s attention and keep them highly engaged. Recently, we hosted a 2-day space-themed virtual event for a pharma client to motivate their sales reps. We set up an exotic plenary room, built a visual and communications identity around a “moon landing”, added in augmented reality within the presentation and delivered space-themed goodies directly to participants’ homes. This created a real buzz around the event, our client saved 45% versus delivering live and engaged attendees both online and off.
2. Make your platform perform
Your chosen platform IS your venue! We should spend as much time making the platform perform as we do selecting a venue for a live event. We build customized engagement plans that include elements such as creative registrations, virtual environments to walk into, easy-to-navigate agendas, auditoriums, virtual panels, polling, gamification, mixing live and pre-recorded touchpoints, breakout rooms and even finishing with a virtual Happy Hour networking in the bar, or a team-building with a celebratory chef or song quiz. If your virtual event turns out to be just a glorified online meeting, it is a missed opportunity. Instead, apply the excitement of live events to a virtual setting with added data capture.
3. A perfect execution
Unlike a live event, 80% of the work of a virtual event is in the preparation. The key is to marry content with creativity. Think of objectives way before execution. What will the attendees take away with them? What behavior will we want to encourage? How do we reconnect post-event? Pack the “swag bag” with content, downloads, videos, and then give them an offer that connects back.
We set up a global product launch for a fashion and luxury brand. Speakers engaged attendees in 3 regions across 12 hours from two complex broadcast studios in Paris. Robust contingency planning and a follow-the-sun approach made for perfect global connections and an attendee satisfaction rating of 4.7/ 5.
We know we’ll all meet again, first in smaller groups, then larger groups. For now, start by building virtual events, then create hybrid events in the mid- and long-term to build brand loyalty and excellent ROI.
Blog author: Derek Sharp, Global Managing Director, CWT Meeting & Events