There’s little need to dive into the incredible challenges the coronavirus pandemic has forced upon the events industry. It has been devastating, to say the least. We can’t sidestep around the fact that by and large, tech companies like our own have done considerably better than they expected to over the past few months. We’re very lucky and grateful and have been working extremely hard to honor this privilege.
But this begs the question - where does the pandemic leave the rest of the industry? Over the last 12 months, we’re seeing considerably more event planners finding success with virtual events than they did before based on our internal metrics.
Event planners are running 2.3x more events per year than before, attracting 32% more attendees per event, ticket prices (for virtual events) have gone up by 52% (virtual events started out free or very cheap), and sponsorship/exhibitor revenue has nearly doubled.
When the pandemic first hit, many of us feared that all event planning jobs were at risk of never coming back, and that for the duration of the pandemic, virtual events would take over or events wouldn’t happen at all. Many feared that the skills event planners had would not transfer over well to the new world of virtual events. Many events were switching to Zoom, and just stringing together whatever they could that would resemble some sort of a virtual gathering. The magic, creativity, and skill that characterized an event were gone.
As months went on, technology matured, ideas germinated, data was gathered, and virtual events went from becoming a hotfix to a viable option for events today and in the future. In fact, we ran our own virtual events using PheedLoop, and found that we could simply never consider not running virtual events again. The reach, low cost, and awesome functionality were amazing. We were able to go from idea to a full event hosting 750 customers, 15 exhibitors, 10 sessions, and more in less than 2 weeks!
We’ve noticed over the last many months that platforms like PheedLoop, and expectations for what a good virtual event looks like, have evolved considerably. Some of the magic, creativity, and skill required to execute them are slowly being restored. We’re still only in the early stages of understanding what the precise role of an event planner can be in this new world of events, especially as events eventually transition to hybrid, but we’re seeing positive indicators. We’ve worked with thousands of event planners, and have noticed a few key characteristics about those who are thriving which we believe may represent what any event planner looking to succeed in a post-COVID world should be thinking about.
A huge advantage of virtual events is their cost and ease of implementation. Relative to their in-person counterparts, virtual events are incredibly affordable per attendee, and repeatable.
To succeed as an event planner in a post-pandemic world, the best thing you can do is develop experience and expertise. Those only come with repetition and experimentation, which virtual events are perfect for.
Our suggestion is simply to run as many events as you possibly can. They don’t all have to be large conferences with sponsors and major speakers. They can be small gatherings on topics you care about and be just as effective, an ongoing series to complement your flagship event, or volunteering for someone else's event. The point is that you want to try new tools and/or strategies to develop a larger portfolio of events that you can share with a future employer.
Every time you run a new event, try a different approach or format, or try a new piece of technology. An even better option would be to document and share what you learned, to help you become a thought leader. More on that below. You can consider experimenting with new networking formats, designs and visuals, streaming tools, schedule formats, live interaction tools, gamification, and countless other things. A platform like PheedLoop is so feature rich that there's always something new to discover and try. If you're not using a platform that has a lot of built-in features, to continue experimentation and "hacking", look for smaller platforms with specific features and combine them. Many platforms that are more limited in scope have free tiers as well.
There are countless virtual events happening every single day. They don’t require travel, they don’t require accommodations, they are often free, and they’re phenomenal opportunities for curious and motivated event planners to learn.
Attending more events not only allows you to learn new things about the topics being shared and discussed but as a planner, you are able to learn about the event itself. We’ve all been there as event planners for in-person events, unable to help ourselves when we attend an event we didn’t organize. We take note of everything from the decor and food, to schedules and any glimpse we can get of what’s happening behind the scenes. It’s exciting!
Virtual events are no different. Each virtual event has something unique about it, from the technology it uses to the way they manage streams, promote sponsors, communicate, handle glitches, and more. Attending more events has never been easier given the low barrier to entry for virtual events, so get out there and learn as much as you can from others!
Virtual events, in a lot of ways, are underpinned by strong digital marketing skills. It’s tough to put on a good virtual event if you’re inexperienced with or intimidated by good web design, social media engagement, graphic design, copywriting, being on camera, and more. You’re not going to convince prospective attendees and sponsors to join your virtual event using traditional marketing tactics. For virtual events, your marketing needs to be fully virtual as well.
To excel at virtual events, we suggest taking some digital marketing courses and practicing digital marketing skills. Skills we recommend learning are:
Although this list may seem daunting, these are critical skills that the modern event planner must have to succeed in growing their events. They’re also not very challenging to learn and master either.
Digital marketing skills are highly transferable and useful for hybrid and in-person events as well. You have everything to gain by starting your journey to become a digital marketer.
A good place to start learning some of these skills is simply popping open YouTube and searching for tutorials and guides to help you grasp the basics. From there, start applying what you learned to events you plan, and turn the process of becoming a digital marketer into an iterative learning process.
Be it virtual or in-person, there has never been a better time to make new friends and connections. People are eager to have conversations with each other and share ideas. At events powered by PheedLoop, we’re constantly shocked by how much people love networking with each other and just having a conversation.
Meet new people to do nothing more than expand your network, and be helpful for whoever it is that you meet. Doing so will naturally inspire new ideas, and bring new opportunities to you. Just don’t stop meeting new people.
We’ve found is that people who you may think are unreachable, too busy, or too successful to engage in a conversation with you are a lot more open these days. All it takes is being a bit proactive and reaching out.
Considering sending people cold emails or Linkedin messages, responding to their posts and comments, or just attending other events to network. Set a goal for yourself to meet one new person a week, and start expanding your network.
In times of crisis like the one we’ve found ourselves in, people are constantly looking for information, advice, predictions, ideas … really anything that can help them make sense of things. This is your chance to build a personal brand for yourself and become a thought leader in your social and professional circles.
This crisis is the ultimate equalizer, the opportunity is available for anyone to step up and become a leader.
What you want to do is immerse yourself in as many new experiences as possible, and report back with your findings. If you follow the first four tips we shared above, you’ll constantly have stories to tell from new events you planned, new events you attended, new skills you learned, or new people you met.
Start blogging and vlogging, and within a few short months, you’ll find your online klout grow substantially. Not only will this help prepare you for an amazing job opportunity, but it may just help you earn a lot on the side as you find companies reaching out to you for consultation and advice. We are living in a day and age where personal brand is of utmost importance, don’t miss this chance to put yourself out there.
We know this probably feels like the worst time ever for many event planners, but if you look at it another way, it may be the reset we’ve all needed. Events haven’t really changed for decades, and in the last year, they’ve changed more than any of us could have ever imagined. We’ve worked with countless event planners who are thriving, and it’s simply because they are open-minded and excited to take on new challenges.
At this point, with the world flipped on its head for event planners more than most others, the only constant is change.
This is a golden opportunity to acquire new skills, make new connections, and become a leader. It’s far too risky to assume that events will rapidly return to the way they were before, and even if they do, it will take years. The time is now to embrace the digital transformation and prepare as a new event professional ready for the next decade of events so that you emerge from this crisis, not as who you were before pre-pandemic, but significantly more talented, skilled, and valuable. You can do it!