The Reimagining of Events During a Pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic all but eliminating large in-person gatherings, business owners, nonprofit leaders and planners are creating new normals when it comes to attending and holding events.

“This digital world isn’t going away anytime soon, so this means you can pivot, use your creativity and move events to a virtual platform,” says a post on the Digital Information World website.

If you’re among those who long for the marketing and networking advantages of a big trade show, a local chamber’s coffee event or onsite store promo, take a look at these ideas for how to reimagine events in the age of COVID-19.

Virtual Conferences

Industry groups and trade organizations are turning to virtual conferences as a replacement to the large summit or expo.

This is not a new thing of course as virtual conferences have been around about as long as the internet, says Irfan Ahmad on Social Media Today.

“The same goes for online professional learning, meetings, and more,” he says. “But as necessity is the mother of invention, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing a shift toward more specialized and local conferences that are being done virtually.”

There were about 9,400 B2B trade shows and exhibitions held in the U.S. in 2019, according to the Center for Exhibition Research, and the demand isn’t going away.

“Just like we’ve adapted to Zoom calls, Microsoft Teams meetings and, on a larger scale, virtual conferences, the trade show industry is adapting to virtual events,” says speaker and author Shep Hyken of Shepard Presentations in a Forbes blog post.

See if your trade or industry groups are scheduling smaller virtual versions of events so you can plan on the opportunity to meet with other business owners, vendors, reps, and customers or even competitors.

New Fundraising, Awareness Events

Fundraising efforts are crucial to nonprofits and many have built and rely on campaigns that are pinned to consistently scheduled social events and themed gatherings.

“In this continued era of social isolation, nonprofit organizations have to deal with the unanticipated need to raise funds by adapting their major in-person events,” writes Glenda LeGendre in the Maryland Daily Record.

“Creative migration to Zoom, Google Hangouts and similar virtual approaches are now a necessary way to reach prospective donors and maintain relationships,” she writes.

Habitat for Humanity for Greater Sioux Falls hosted a week-long virtual raffle in lieu of its pandemic-canceled annual spring gala, according to a Keloland News article.

Think Virtual Long-term

Virtual conferencing events can be better targeted for attendees and therefore more successful than what you might think for small businesses.

One reason is that your answers to questionnaires help match you to the talks and seminars that would best suit you, says the Digital Information World post.

“While it may seem that video conferences are a chance for people to zone out, in fact the opposite is true: 86 percent of virtual meeting participants report the same or higher participation levels as in-person conferences,” the post says.

Create a Happy Hour Event

Consider a virtual happy hour event themed around your products or services as a way to draw interest to your business and the customers who wouldn’t feel comfortable coming into a physical location for even a small gathering.

Depending on your industry or product, your virtual happy hour could focus on a shared experience using your products or business, or a service you offer. For example, if you’re in the food and beverage industry, arrange a package of ingredients to purchase for a virtual happy hour cocktail and have a bartender walk your guests through making it.

“This also provides them with the unique opportunity to connect with people online as they are enjoying a drink from the comforts of their home,” says Machielle Thomas in a blog posted by the web hosting company bluehost.com.

Choose The Right Tools

It’s important to select the hosting platform that best fits the virtual event you’re planning, taking into account the number of participants and type of event, writes Emily Heaslip in a post for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Also, find a tool that lets you record your live event and share the video later to a wide audience.

 “Live meetings are great, but in these changing times, you can’t always guarantee that someone will join in the moment. A lot of our customers have started to create on-demand libraries,” says Brent Rogers, vice president of digital PSAV, a global event production company, in the Chamber post.