The events industry has been forced to make bold moves since COVID-19 pandemic breakout. Digitizing conferences and meetings to a 100% level, for instance. And even the best virtual conferences are facing challenges.
The global crisis has surprised conventions and trade shows of all sizes and sectors, including experienced executives and consultants. Carina Bauer, IMEX CEO, reveals some of the main actions she’s been leading regarding strategy, business model, innovation and use of technology.
1. When did IMEX Frankfurt 2020 organizing committee realize that the event was going to have to be cancelled? What was the “no go item” of the checklist?
It was early in the week commencing 9 March. Other large events had been cancelled, including SXSW, lockdowns were starting to be enforced across many European countries and in US states and then the German health minister recommended that no events over 1,000 should take place.
We knew at that point that there was a high likelihood of the show being cancelled due to government regulations. At the same time both our buyers and exhibitors started having to contend with travel bans at their companies and so we realised that it was increasingly unlikely that we would be able to deliver a high value hosted buyer programme.
2. What were IMEX Frankfurt 2020 initiatives to migrate live content to an online format?
We have looked at all the elements of IMEX to see what could most reasonably be shifted online. This is not an easy or straightforward process as the value of being together face-to-face is not easy to achieve in an online format. We’ve tried to focus on content, connections and fun.
So, the obvious thing to take online is the educational content; followed by content such as research, blogs, podcasts, videos, etc. After that, we are looking at how we can adapt our business focused technology to allow some of those business interactions to take place in a virtual setting.
3. Have you attended virtual events since the beginning of social isolation? How was it?
I’ve attended virtual events both as a speaker and as a participant. The best ones are succinct and have elements of audience interaction, such as polls or interesting formats.
4. So far, how do you evaluate the behavior on online conferences attendees? What’s similar and what differs from an in-person event participant?
Virtual attendees are far less ‘present’ than in-person participants. It’s significantly harder to maintain attention span and participation in the virtual world (and that’s not to say that it’s easy in the real world!).
Therefore, I think you need to look carefully at the length of sessions, the breaks between sessions and how to elicit true participation from virtual attendees in order to engage them.
5. Last month, we held our very first 100% virtual event here at InEvent. One of the most valuable feedbacks we got is that attendees need to feel encouraged to communicate directly. How do you see this networking being done online?
Absolutely – I think this is one of the hardest things to do – as referenced above. One of the things that is very difficult is to get participants to engage. There are a number of virtual ice-breakers that are starting to be developed, also getting people to interact in virtual rooms of maybe up to 8-10 pax maximum can help.
Really using polls and chat features and ensuring that there is something moderating those chat features to incorporate questions into the session can all help people feel more engaged and promote networking during an event.
6. Is it possible for brands and planners to have a quick adaptation to this whole new environment, but without being a 100% reactive? I mean: do you think businesses and planners can still keep track of long term goals or is it time to understand that the game changed completely and we need to revisit our strategies?
I think it’s still important to keep a hold of those long-term goals. Now is a time to experiment and learn in the digital world – if not now, then when?
But, at the same time keep an eye on your business goals and strategy. Try to work out how your digital presence will fit into that in the long-term or how your strategy may need to adapt. Business events will return – we just don’t know exactly when; but we need to be ready for when they do. So, keep an eye on the future and try not to be 100% reactive to the present.
Keep learning about the best virtual events trends and practices! Take advantage of our free and always updated resources:
- How to get your conference app downloaded by 100% of your guests. [Top 4 tactics with practical examples]
- Why you need these 5 digital integrations to sell more
- 23 Event Pros and Digital Marketing influencers to follow in 2020 [and their social media profiles]
You can also check out the latest projects Carina has been working on. Visit her LinkedIn profile.