Right now there is a lot of talk about reopening events with social distancing measures in place. In fact, our last post was a complete guide to hosting the safest possible event for those who are considering holding an in-person event at this stage during the pandemic. We talked in depth about risk assessment, safety measures, and social distancing. By now, we’re all woefully familiar with the term “social distancing”- and hopefully we also know that in the context of events or public places, it means staying at least six feet apart. Just what we all had in mind for getting together with our friends this summer, right? Socially distant events.
But are socially distant events really an oxymoron? Or can they be a viable, enjoyable alternative to traditional events, creating revenue and setting new industry standards? Today we’re going to explore the impact of social distancing on experiential value, budget, and revenue.
What Does Social Distancing Mean for Your Budget?
There’s a reason we’ll be following up this post with “10 Best Ways to Organize a Successful Event on a Small Budget”. The cost of prevention supplies such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant, COVID-19 screening, and more is extensive; although you can ask your staff to bring their own in the interest of saving money, and guests can be required to bring their own masks, you’ll still need to make sanitizing stations readily available throughout your event space. You’ll also be responsible for disinfecting surfaces, screening for COVID-19, and creating a contingency plan in case one or more people exhibit signs of the disease during your event.
Normally, venues might be willing to allow event organizers to use some of their own cleansing and disinfectant supplies. However, being closed for the pandemic has devastated many venues, including some larger chains and franchises. There’s a good chance that your venue won’t be able to afford to provide you with cleansing products and prevention supplies at your event, so a lot of the cost will fall on you.
Furthermore, if you’ve been watching the news, you’ll have noticed that masks can present a more complicated issue than logic would suggest. While you can certainly require that all attendees wear their own masks, and prohibit them from attending if they don’t, you’ll need to consider your audience. Hopefully, compliance with social distancing rules isn’t an issue, but let’s be realistic- it might be. If you want to smooth over any possible issues with people not wearing masks, you can provide them at the door.
There’s also the very real possibility that some of your attendees will accidentally lose or ruin their masks during the event (although hopefully not by sneezing). It’s safe to say that most people will not bring a second mask in case of such an emergency, so having extra masks on hand is the safer option for everyone.
In our last post, we also discussed signage and broadcasting that reminds guests to follow hygiene and social distancing guidelines throughout the event. It goes without saying that this can be costly as well. Normally, the cost of such infrastructure might be split or covered by sponsors, but again, the entire industry was hit hard by this pandemic.
Adapting the Event Space
Lower head-counts mean safer events- and make it possible for you to hold your event in the first place, but they can also mean covering greater costs over less revenue. Ramping up ticket prices isn’t an adequate solution because your financial losses have been widespread over the course of the pandemic. Simply put, most people have less money to spend. But fortunately, event organizers are some of the most creative and resourceful professionals out there, and there are ways to adapt that positively impact revenue.
Also fortunately, some of the most promising adaptations are inspired by existing industry trends. For instance, breakout sessions were on the rise before COVID-19 hit. As events have become increasingly personalized, individuals expect to be catered to uniquely by an experiential market. Breakout sessions are smaller groups that convene during an event to engage with specific, personalized subtopics of a general theme. For example’s sake, let’s just say that you’re hosting an event designed to educate event organizers about how to resume holding events during the pandemic. Some attendees may be interested in learning more about how to convert cancelled events into virtual ones, so you can offer a smaller session on that topic alone. Other attendees may want you to go more into depth about event design for in-person events during the pandemic; they would attend their own breakout session.
Breakout sessions are obviously ideal for social distancing because they break attendees into smaller groups. They can either be held in the same space at separate times or at the same time in separate spaces (if your venue is spacious enough to accommodate that scenario). This is a great way to ensure that attendees are still getting the maximum benefit from your event despite the social distancing protocol.
Maximizing Revenue from Virtual Events
Virtual events probably constitute the biggest industry trend of the last several years. If you’re holding live events again but losing attendees, you’re not alone; many people are unwilling or unable to attend in-person events yet, and the social distancing guidelines alone call for less people in your space at the same time. Going hybrid or virtual is one of the most effective ways to maximize ticket sales and make more profit. The increasing popularity of virtual events- and their ability to reach remote audiences- fit right into their purpose during a pandemic: to keep events going and audiences connected. In other words, virtual events are currently helping to keep a drowning industry afloat. But how can you be sure to get the most profit out of your virtual event? We’ll dedicate a blog to maximizing revenue from virtual events in the very near future. But for now, we’ve got some helpful tips.
Lead generation is particularly challenging during the pandemic. Without direct interaction, it’s difficult to make connections. That’s why the live portion of your event is so vital. Make sure it’s highly interactive- and the more personal the nature of the interactions, the better. Allotting time for video chats, live polling and surveys, and interactive Q & A’s create opportunities to make direct connections and sincere impressions. Allowing breaks in the schedule for discussions among attendees is another effective way to get them engaged. When they get to interact with each other directly, they really feel like part of your event- even from far away.
Remember that immersive experiences are more memorable. Bring your virtual showroom or exhibit hall to life with as much true-to-life detail as possible, and make it easy to interact with exhibitors or participate in live demos. It should also be easy to arrange one-on-one meetings or ask spontaneous questions to vendors. If they have to inquire and be contacted with more information later, they are likely to lose interest.
If you have a sponsor or can do this yourself, send notification to guests through your mobile event app. These notifications can reach attendees in all physical locations, no matter how close or far away. This can help drive traffic to vendors and increase engagement for you.
And always take advantage of the detailed live data that virtual events provide. Witb virtual events, you can share analytics on leads, attendance, shares, downloads, languages, demographics, vendor traffic, and more.When you create survey questions, you might want to put each question on a separate page of the survey. This way, when an attendee clicks “next”, their answer is already recorded. If they choose not to finish the survey, you’ll be able to collect the answers they did complete.
Virtual Ticket Sales and Memberships
VIP ticket sales are still a viable way to increase revenue from ticket sales and memberships. Although experiential marketing aims to deliver a sensory experience at events, which is somewhat diminished at virtual events, you can still create an immersive experience. If you’re known for your incredible VIP experiences, you don’t have to sacrifice that value if you convert your event to a virtual program. Generally speaking, people need connection more than ever, and arts and entertainment provide a strong channel for this vital connection. Offering a virtual “meet and greet” or even a Q and A with artists and entertainers makes for a special VIP experience; instead of seeing the pandemic as an obstacle to connection, an experience like this will turn it into an opportunity to connect more personally with artists than they would be able to at a crowded show or concert. The same goes with guest speakers at a conference; if you can throw in some added interpersonal value, such as an opportunity to meet senior figures, people will feel that you went above and beyond to give them a special experience despite the isolating circumstances.
Information is Value
Don’t underestimate the power of information at a time when most industries are shifting, and the future of the economy is uncertain. If possible, make market research a part of the registration process. The information you gain can actually be sold back to attendees, especially as the economy reopens and people have suffered severe losses, are looking for leads, and need industry information to proceed. You can ask questions about their budget this year, the role they play in company, and industry trends.
With a little luck and a lot of resourcefulness, many event creators are organizing hybrid events that are beginning to redefine experiential value. With this tentative “new normal” emerging, it’s more important than ever to share knowledge, experience, and ideas. It sounds redundant by now, but “we’re all in this together” holds new meaning right now. It’s our purpose to continually help event creators navigate the shifting landscape of the industry as society begins to think about reopening.