By Simon Mainwaring, Forbes
The global onset of coronavirus is limiting in-person events. Major happenings like SXSW, Coachella and the NBA have been called off for the immediate future.
While many of us are temporarily quarantined in our homes, we are still social animals. On a fundamental level, we need social interaction for mental health and emotional well-being. What’s more, the business world relies on conventions, summits and curated experiences to build brand awareness, connect with new clients, and advance thought leadership.
Even though we aren’t meeting face-to-face, we cannot stop holding group meetings. This could be anything from internal discussions to summits with thousands of individuals. In the age of social distancing and remote work, virtual events are ever more critical.
A company carving out a niche in highly tailored corporate events is Landmark Ventures. Recently they launched Curate, a strategic events arm offering turnkey, custom convening solutions (virtual or in-person) focused on helping their clients accelerate business growth. Their first foray into Curate is a series of purpose-driven webinars influenced by the current landscape with topics ranging from “Corporate Responsibility in Times of Crisis,” “Early Lessons in Education Technology for At-Home Learners,” and “Workforce & Economic Resilience.” For both virtual and in-person Curate events, Landmark provides start-to-finish attendee and speaker recruitment, technology management, and event strategy and marketing.
While coronavirus has sent shock waves throughout the world and the economy, there is critical learnings from this challenge.
Key lessons from Landmark Ventures on how to host virtual events:
Prepare for the unexpected:
There’s no way to know what the future holds. We can, however, lay the groundwork to secure successful results in the widest array of plausible scenarios. Thankfully, the isolating lifestyle changes associated with COVID-19 will pass. However, having the digital infrastructure in place to engage large and small crowds in real time will make your communication network stronger to future interruption risk.
Now is a good time to assess how to maintain internal and external business gatherings. It could be video conferencing, virtual reality experiences or other digital environments.
Olivia Allan, Head of Events at Landmark, shared that, “It all just changed in the blink of an eye. Without a doubt, companies that can poignantly produce virtual event content that connects their customers with their business mission during this unprecedented moment in human history will gain customers for life.”
The key takeaway here is to build you digital event capabilities. While it is an excellent backup to keeping the wheels turning in the case of disruption, you may prefer virtual events. Online gatherings can connect people all across the planet. They reduce travel time, costs and emissions, as well as attract guests or speakers that may otherwise not have been able to attend.
Offer curated experiences:
Just like physical events, high profile digital gatherings require unique access to thought leaders and influencers. Think about how to inspire the same type of engagement and excitement that comes from in-person events.
Landmark Ventures’ “Custom Conferences & Salons” make it easy for companies to host events online, in real life or a combination of the two. Their experience, network and adaptability help brands develop white-label summits both large and small.
Essentially, don’t reduce the production quality of your event because it is online. To the contrary, you can find ways to host novel, unique and exclusive experiences that will impress and inspire presenters and attendees.
Hold space for networking:
Much of the value that comes from industry summits is derived from new relationships. In today’s digitally connected world, human to human interaction is highly important. Make sure your attendees have the opportunity to ask questions to speakers, exchange ideas with each other and have opportunities for spontaneous engagement.
Some ways to inspire engagement include hosting virtual Q&A Breakout sessions, facilitating collaborative problem solving or incorporating a virtual happy hour to create time for interactions.
The insight here is to remember the importance of one-on-one human engagement. It is vital to bring your community together and build mutually beneficial bridges that accelerate business prospects.
While virtual gatherings are nothing new, COVID-19 has increased the need for them. There is uncertainty about stopping the virus itself as well and the related social and economic implications. Digital events may be the new normal for some time. It’s important to prepare and innovate to keep your community safe and healthy and to keep your business growing.