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    Handling Corporate Events Amidst the Pandemic: Pros & Cons of Virtual Conferences

    16 Min
    06-21-2020
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    As COVID-19 is rampaging through the world, every country is taking precautions to contain the spread of the virus. One of the most common and effective measures is “social distancing”. Which unfortunately means every conference under the sun is being cancelled or postponed right now.

    This is a huge problem for most businesses. Many count on those corporate events to generate leads, establish connections, gain exposure, and a lot more.

    But fret not! There are actions you can take to mitigate some of the negative effects of event cancellations. We’ll explore some of the options in this article. Let’s talk about:

    • pros and cons of cancelling your event
    • pros and cons of postponing the event
    • pros and cons of going online
    • trying new approaches
    • how to make it work
    • and more.

    Without further ado, let’s get started.

    Should you postpone or cancel your corporate event?

    The answer to this question isn’t immediately obvious. Many springtime / summertime events are being postponed right now and when fall comes, everything will be jam-packed. As a result, we’ll probably have a whole year’s worth of events, compressed into two-three months. This means many people who would’ve otherwise been interested in your event, wouldn’t be able to attend. Taking this into consideration, you should sit down with your team and think about whether it’s better to postpone or outright cancel your event.

    How sales data can help you decide

    Sales data can be invaluable in a time where you need to make the tough calls on a short notice. Especially when it comes to ROI, it’s not always easy to see where you need to allocate your limited resources.

    Data can help calculate the approximate cost of cancelling the conference and make a logical choice, hence generating wider support for your decision. It helps you maintain credibility in case you get questioned about it in the future.

    1. Calculate how many leads came through last offline conference
      1. If you’re using your CRM correctly, they should be tagged. You can use tools like MoData to help, because they track the history of your pipeline. You can go back and check what was in your pipeline before and after the last conference. A spike (hopefully there was a spike) would represent the addition of leads which can be attributed to the conference.
      2. You can also calculate the cost of getting these leads and figure out how you are going to replace them without the conference.
      3. This makes a good way for you to make a case for potentially continuing on with a virtual conference or cancelling it altogether.
    2. How many deals closed in the conference ?
      1. Look at closed-won dates on your deals during the last conference.
      2. If the deals started closing within a few weeks of your conference, with meeting events logged at the conference time, it’s a good chance that face-to-face meeting that your rep had with the prospect during the conference helped close the deal.
      3. MoData can help you track this history.
      4. Consider the cost of lost deals and come up with a plan to replace what you are going to lose.
    3. How many deals moved forward ?
      1. Look at deals which moved further down the funnel (stage changes) within 2-4 weeks of a conference. Again tools like MoData can help you with this task however there might be ways to do that using the tools provided by your CRM.
    4. How many deals accelerated?
      1. Look at how many deals had their closed date moved.

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      How should you go about postponing your conference event?

      If you decide to postpone your event, then:

      1. The first thing you need to figure out is a new timeline that would best work for your attendees. The last thing you want is to set a corporate event at a date no one would be able to attend.
      2. Next, reach out to vendors and check if your new timeline works for them. Fall this year is going to be extra busy so you need to take decisive action as soon as possible. Otherwise, someone else might end up taking your spot.
      3. During the entire process of rescheduling, you need to be on top of communication. Your registrants need to know how things are changing every step of the way.
      4. More than that – you need to show them that despite none of this is your fault, you still deeply empathize with them. In these troubling times, communication will make or break relationships.

      How to generate interest in your postponed event

      Now that the event’s been postponed, you need to readjust the schedule. Since the event is further down the line than anticipated, find a way to keep people interested in the event. Make sure it’s immediately apparent they’ll be getting tons of value from your conference.

      It may not seem like it, but this is a great opportunity to try out some things you wouldn’t have tried otherwise. With the technologies at our disposal, there are many different options. You can:

      • Create a smaller online conference – this smaller event will be a lot easier to organize. It will give people a taste of what the real deal will be like. Allowing you to demonstrate what value you bring to the table, you will be able to generate lots of buzz around your actual event. It will also allow you to generate feedback and make your offline conference even more awesome.
      • Create a weekly webcast leading up to the event – you can organize a weekly webcast in the months leading up to the event. Every week, you can talk about different topics and get to better know your audience. This will create a genuine connection with them because you’ll be providing value on a regular basis. It’s also relatively easy to set up. You can keep posting once the event is over. Webcasting is a great way to grow your business and your audience and now is the perfect time to jump in.
      • Get more involved in social media – with some of your duties off your plate due to the pandemic, you can double down on what you can do. Social media is another faucet everyone knows is important, yet very businesses are doing it properly. Now is the time to improve in that regard, which will bring numerous benefits for your business once all this is over.
      • Improve your company blog – another thing you can do is improve your blogging. You can start blogging more frequently and talking about current events – what problems you’re facing, and how you’re handling them. This is another way you can keep people up-to-date about the upcoming event, create a personal connection, and also provide extra value.

      These are just a few of the available options. The possibilities are endless. Get creative. As a side note, solutions that benefit your business even after your offline event are the best approach. Generating interest for your conference is great. But improving your relationship with your customers and gaining additional exposure is even better.

      How should you go about cancelling your event?

      OK, but what if you’ve decided it’s best to cancel your offline conference? What then?

      1. First thing to do is to review your major contracts. The contract should include a cancellation clause, so review the conditions. Considering the global situation, it shouldn’t be too hard to cancel an event right now. Yet, there are still cutoff dates that make it more difficult to deal with cancellation, so act promptly.
      2. Also, review the refund policy and discuss them with the organizers so you can get your deposits back. Keep your expectations realistic. You probably won’t be able to get back everything, but most of your money should make their way back to you.
        1. Bear in mind, it’s possible some sides involved in the process (venue, catering company, etc.) will be eager to keep your deposits. So when you enter the conversations, do so with an open mind and explain the situation. If you’ve used that vendor before, calmly point to your past successful relations. If you haven’t, then you can state you’d be interested to use them in the future, but won’t be able to do so if they refuse to cooperate with you in these troubling times. Don’t be rude or threatening, but be firm.
        2. Depending on the size of the deposits, don’t hesitate to consult with a lawyer or your legal team in case things get out of hand. However, keep this as a last resort. You don’t want to go into the negotiations guns blazing – you’ll probably want to organize an event in the future.
      3. Other concerns. Many people are understanding in the current situation, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be happy if you simply cancel the conference. Especially if they were looking forward to it.

      It’s a good idea to still do the event online, if possible. Of course, this still has pros and cons, but the pros far outweigh the cons (more on that below).

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        Pros and cons of a virtual conference

        Whether you decided to postpone or outright cancel your event, it’s still a good idea to prepare something online. People still want to hear from your organization. You would be at a strategic disadvantage if you leave them hanging. Especially since your competitors won’t.

        The best way to stay relevant is through a virtual conference. Even though online conferences can be great, they are by no means perfect. We’ll examine the pros and cons of online conferencing and try to mitigate some of the negatives.

        Online conference pros

        Online conferences have many advantages over their offline counterparts. Some of them are obvious, while others – not so much. Let’s dive right in:

        • Cost – as if this needed to be spelled out. Online conferences are a lot cheaper to organize. You don’t have to rent a venue, think about catering, transportation, etc. Also, they’re a lot cheaper to attend. They don’t require travel, staying at a hotel, eating out constantly, etc. All in all, lots of money can be saved all around by going online.
        • Efficiency – online conferences are a lot more efficient and a lot easier for people to attend. They don’t require them to travel or make any arrangements outside of sitting somewhere with a stable Internet connection.
        • Scheduling – one of the main problems with offline conferences is when two presentations you want to attend happen at the same time. This is not going to be a problem with online events. Attendees can simply view the recording from all the presentations or lectures.
        • Note-taking – this is a big one if you want to be thorough in what you learn. Everyone who’s ever tried to take notes knows how challenging it can be. This worry is completely eliminated when it comes to online conferences.
        • Setup – offline conferences can be a nightmare to set up. With online events, it’s a piece of cake. You’re spared lots of stress, fuss, and general anxiety over setting things up. Just make sure everything works from a technical standpoint and send out the invitations. That’s pretty much it. Most platforms do the bulk of the work for you.
        • Wider reach – because it doesn’t need lots of organization and travel, a webcast is far more likely to attract a bigger crowd. Even as the event is in progress, people can still easily tell others about it on social media and let them know it’s good. Which will in turn boost the numbers.
        • Post-conference – once the event is done, you can use chunks of the content social media to promote your organization, your product, your conference next year, and more. It’s a lot easier to do when you already have things online.

        All of this is pretty great, but online virtual conferences have some downsides, too.

        Online conference cons

        As great as online conferences are, they have some downsides we need to address.

        • Distractions – when they’re at a conference, the audience is present. It’s not socially acceptable for them to cruise Instagram or to check Facebook every 5 seconds. You can’t get away with a boring talk, but you don’t need to work extra hard to keep their attention – that’s the default. However, at an online conference, there are a lot more distractions around and you need to put extra effort into getting your point across.
        • Impaired networking – one of the biggest advantages of an offline conference is the networking opportunities. There are so many contacts you get by just attending a conference. Lots of spontaneous business relations start at just such events. But things are a lot different online where you don’t get to walk around the room and delight in chance encounters.
        • Competition – there’s a lot of competition over the viewer’s attention right now. Everyone is organizing an online conference. This puts a lot of extra pressure on your event to provide extra value in order to stand out from the crowd.

        Let’s address these downsides and see if there’s something we can do about them.

        1. Distractions will be the toughest one to deal with. Since you can’t limit people from distracting themselves, you need to work extra hard on the content you’re presenting. And work on your delivery. Watch some TED talks, read books on public speaking and captivate your audience. But make sure your presentation is top notch. Many people take the opposite approach when they organize a conference online, and it shows.
        2. Next, you can deal with the impaired networking opportunities, by creating a group or a space. You can do so on social media, or you can opt to do it in your chosen platform if the option exists. This will allow people to connect with one another. And it will allow you to present yourself as a thought leader and lead this process.
        3. Finally, even if your conference doesn’t generate many attendances, you can distribute the highlights in the form of clips. Then post those clips on your social media accounts and YouTube so you can reach more people. This will definitely increase your reach. You can even sponsor some of the key posts.

        Conclusion

        Cancelling or postponing your event doesn’t need to be the end of the world right now. There’s a lot you can do online. While there are some disadvantages to online conferences, the pros far outweigh the cons. Time to adapt your approach to the changing times.

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