Monday, June 29, 2020

COVID-19 Forces Online Moves

With the appearance of COVID-19, both of my association clients are moving their events online.  Major modifications are in place for both events as we plan to address the need for social distancing, but keep an eye on the future for a return to in-person events.  The goal today is to continue meeting the event needs of the Associations by implementing new procedures that are not temporary, but expandable for that time in the future when we return to in-person events.

The key question we are asking right now...  As we look at virtual platforms to help us with today's meetings and events in the on-line world, how can the platform be utilized and continued at such a time we return to face-to-face events?  The reason we must ask this question is simple.  ALL of the guests attending online events will be introduced to a new environment, and this environment will last for quite a while.  Once we are able to make the move to in-person events, our event guests will be familiar with the world we are implementing today.  The more seamless an event transition appears to participants, the more likely they are to return.

For my association clients, the needs served by new technology and virtual platforms must go beyond providing online conference sessions, webinars, and videos.  We must consider how the program itself can become an added feature of the in-person events in the future.  Can we include value-add services for our exhibitor base?  Can the platform provide features like "New Product Showcases" that can be continued in tandem with in-person events?  Can we provide events like "Supplier / Buyer hosted events"?  Can we present product catalogs with real-time sales support?  How can we include Supplier spotlights?

And most importantly, many of the organizations supporting our live events are also looking for vehicles that will allow them to continue communicating with the prospective buyer audience the Association brings.  These Association suppliers have access to many of the new technologies available for the Association.  They can produce live, on-line, virtual events on their own.  The Associations must keep this in mind as they build new platforms for their events.   As show management, what can we create that remains so compelling and unique to the Association members that it remains the primary source of continued education, information, participation, and communication?

We need to make sure that we take advantage of the new opportunities presented in response to the events industry shut-down to build a better event future.  For many associations, live events make up over 90% of non-dues revenue.  Capitalize on the current opportunities that will make tomorrows events stronger... better... and a necessity for the industries served.