As an agency owner that serves the travel, tourism and hospitality industry exclusively, I have been tracking the data on when face-to-face group meetings and conventions will return. My clients depend on it!
The good news is face-to-face events will return. The better news is innovation is happening at a rapid pace in the meetings industry and you will see many virtual features that have become popular during the shutdowns stick around as new hybrid formats are created. If you or your clients have been resisting the investment in virtual events, now is the time to get serious about adding them into your marketing mix.
Here are some data points that we have been tracking that tell us this makes good business sense. First, the sentiment of the American Traveler is telling us it will be a slow rebuild for face-to-face events to be at the level they were pre-pandemic. A few highlights from Destinations Analysts Coronavirus Traveler Sentiment Index Report from December 15, 2020:
- 74% of American Travelers say they will not attend an in-person group meeting or convention until the Coronavirus situation is resolved.
- Only 24% of American Travelers say they have plans for in-person group meetings and conventions in 2021
- 53% of American Travelers say they will not feel comfortable going to an in-person group meeting or convention until sometime after September 2021
If you or your clients are counting on adding events back into the mix in 2021, be prepared for fewer event options and lower attendance. Many projections are targeting 2024 and 2025 for a full return, if live events and meetings are an important part of your marketing mix waiting four years is likely not the best option.
Benefits of Virtual Events
This is great news for agencies because we have the skillset and connections to help our clients and ourselves tap into the potential of virtual events. Virtual events are a tactic that can help you or your clients with the following:
- Lead generation
- Audience growth
- Email list growth
- Positioning as a thought-leader
- Foster stronger relationships in your niche
- Create new revenue streams
A virtual event can provide an opportunity for buyers and sellers to meet one-on-one, digitally, allowing them to create business opportunities for future planning. With the cancellation of so many trade shows, there are few opportunities for buyers and sellers to meet face-to-face. Even if the face-to-face meeting is over zoom. They will be thankful for the option to keep up with their business sales cycle despite travel restrictions.
Another benefit of virtual events is that buyers and sellers can have multiple people in the meetings allowing for a greater reach and deeper relationships within an organization. People who may not be included in a live event due to the cost can now be part of your event.
The virtual event lives on past its live dates providing for increased exposure and digital assets that can be leveraged over and over again.
Virtual events provide an opportunity for social connectivity. Especially during a pandemic when there are so many travel restrictions but also post-pandemic, these events allow for people from across the globe to connect.
Agency’s are perfect for the job
It is not rocket science, not only that but marketers like us are in the best position to put these together.
Your agency likely has most of the skills needed to create amazing virtual event experiences. If you don’t have the skills in-house, you likely have partners who can help. The virtual event is a content and digital marketing strategy. These are some of the tactics where you can apply your team’s skillset to the virtual event:
- Creation of email marketing funnels and email copywriting that get opens and clicks.
- Copywriting for all types of channels to promote the event or your client’s presence at the event.
- Tech tools, website landing pages, online forms, content delivery channels all work together to deliver a virtual experience. You may have the talent in-house, use an existing platform or partner with another agency to create the assets that you need.
- Video production is integral, pre-recorded and live sessions eventually become video assets for the event. Many AV companies are getting into the virtual events game because they know how to create highly produced, professional video content. They are offering services where they send event presenters lighting, camera equipment and green screens with explicit instructions on how to set up the mobile studio and record their presentation. The raw video then gets uploaded for a highly produced finished piece. Then the equipment package is returned to the AV company. Video does not always need to be highly produced. A lot of times presenters can record their presentations on Zoom meetings, then upload the video file for the event to add in an intro and outro and edit out the akward face that always happens when you are leaning in to hit record on your computer.
- Creation of a promotional mix to support the event and get the word out; email, social, web, PR, paid – check you’ve got this!
Fostering relationships with Event Planners
From our client’s perspective, we can help them help the event organizers that are most meaningful to their industry. Event organizers have had to pivot and innovate quickly this year. The pain points that they are experiencing are some that our clients may be able to help solve. Imagine partnering with the event planner to produce a memorable and successful event that will build stronger connections with the event planner and your client’s prospects. A few areas to consider:
- Sponsorship, event planners are struggling to figure out the monetization model for virtual. They will figure it out, but wouldn’t it be great to offer assistance in designing sponsorships that deliver exactly what your client needs. Imagine the possibilities and the deeper connections that can be made.
- Zoom fatigue is real. Event planners are looking for creative ways to engage with their audience. A few ideas include, virtual photo booths, celebrity entertainment, virtual cooking classes, gamification, trivia hour, swag and more. Let your imagination run with it. If you can help the event planners add excitement to the event your client will stand out.
- Differentiation, event planners are looking for ways to stand out among all of the online conferences, webinars and experiences that are flooding the market. A keyway that events are making it through the noise is with superior content. Shorter content, quality presenters and engaging keynotes. If your client can provide compelling content or a connection to a highly sought-after keynote presenter, you will show up as a hero. What connections can you make?
The bottom line, virtual is here to stay and it offers a huge business opportunity for your agency and clients as we navigate to a post-pandemic world. Now is the time to get in the game.
If you need help or are looking for ways to get started with virtual, I am happy to answer questions and share what we have learned, you can reach me at [email protected]. If you have an immediate need, we may be able to help with our white label virtual event planning service offered exclusively to AMI agencies. Or to learn more about Break the Ice Media, our virtual event planning services and to see our virtual event case studies, visit: https://breaktheicemedia.com/capabilities/virtual-events/