I’ve recently had a few conversations with the CEO of a tech company that has been organising an annual technology conference for the past few years.
The conference has enjoyed a good reputation and steady attendance in the past, but for the 2020 edition, it was clear that the scenario was going to be quite different.
When confronted with the impossibility of holding the conference in-person, the alternative lied inevitably in either cancelling or moving the event online. Instead of dropping the project altogether, we got together on a soul-searching journey with him and his team.
I call it a ‘soul-searching journey’ because the current challenging environment allowed for some detachment from the event and to go back to the ‘why’ of the event. That is when the magic began!
The ‘how’ of the conference going virtual was a given. Of course, there were some justified concerns to address around holding a virtual event in this historical time: With the hundreds of webinars, live-streamings and virtual events happening, how do you stand out from the competition? With all the free content readily available online, why would the audience feel compelled to sign-up for this event? What would be the ROI for sponsors within a virtual event?
For the CEO, it felt like the risks outweighed the benefits. Indeed, the current circumstances have presented some unprecedented challenges for the business world. But if this turbulent time has taught us anything, is that behind a challenge lies an opportunity.
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Conceiving a virtual event does not equal to taking the content that would populate a face-to-face experience and uploading it onto an online platform. Virtual events require their own strategy and design-thinking approach in which technology may actually come last. For this reason, we invited the CEO and his marketing team to relook at their strategy, starting with a few simple questions: what is the purpose of holding a conference? What makes it relevant? Why should your target audience care?
They put their hearts and minds into this exercise. The result was an evolution of the in-person conference into a virtual event that would be more meaningful and offer a high ROI to all those involved. And voilà, new business model around the conference emerged.
This is a time for reflection – an opportunity to do soul-searching around your event strategy, unveil its purpose (sometimes even repurpose it) and redefine its role for the industry. Virtual events can allow for a more holistic and effective approach, a wider reach and new partnership models. But none of this will work if the ‘whys’ behind your event strategy are not clearly defined.
If the purpose behind your face-to-face event no longer rings true in this new normal, we have the tools and the experience to become your partner during this soul-searching phase. Through our engagement and digital solutions, we can help you design and deliver an experience that feels true and authentic to your attendees, sponsors and partners.