Virtual Events

Should You Cancel Your Events? How Event Marketing Professionals Can Build Community In a Time of Crisis

By Bob Birdsong

The World Health Organization officially declared Coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic, and things have quickly moved from there. As of the writing of this post, more than 393 events have been canceled in the U.S. — including most major sports seasons and the NCAA tournament — with more announcements rolling in by the hour.

Conference planners are especially wracked with anxiety. Many have been planning events for a year or more, only to find themselves sending cancellation messages, dealing with refund policies, or being put on the hook for damages from hotel chains and airlines.

In some cases, event marketers aren’t even in control of cancellation decisions. Governors, local governments, and mayors are making those calls for them, forcing the cancellation of all events of a certain size. Even the CDC is saying gatherings should have fewer than 50 people.

We’ll be working our way through this pandemic for the unforeseeable future. Whatever your situation is at the moment (and it’s probably quickly changing), you have two major opportunities:

  1. Lead in the face of uncertainty, and
  2. Double down on building community.

Virtual Events are About to Have Their Moment

With Coronavirus forcing most live events to be canceled, many are looking to virtual experiences as a way of salvaging community and costs. In fact, many attendees are asking for virtual versions in lieu of now-canceled live events.

For some legitimate reasons, virtual events have always had a bit of a bad rap. They’re criticized for being less personal, having low attendance and interaction rates, and being hard to organize, manage, and promote.

However, these things are only true when you treat virtual events as an afterthought. Compared to live events, a virtual event can’t compete. There’s a social aspects that simply lacking. The problem is in the comparison itself. Virtual events just aren’t comparable to live, so they must be treated separately.

The good news is you don’t have to choose virtual events over live. You can actually have both (just not right now).

Working from home is giving virtual events their due — especially when it comes to building or sustaining community in tough times.

But you’ll need a clear strategy behind your virtual events with an intense focus on intention. What you trying to accomplish?

Keep the Focus on Community

Some companies and organizations are choosing to convert their live events to virtual events using video or streaming platforms. Others will want to use video or live streaming to provide updates and answers to community questions. All are great ways to lead and communicate.

The people who were planning to attend your event need answers. And you need to be prepared to give those answer to them.

But video and live-streaming is just one piece of a much larger puzzle. Most event planners and event marketers are focused on the issue at hand — which video delivery platform to use. Choosing a video platform is nothing more than choosing a venue.

Just like you wouldn’t rent a giant conference hall and think you’ve planned an event, you can’t just choose a video platform and think you’ve gone virtual. Doing so misses a huge opportunity to communicate on the front and back ends of the event, letting people know where to meet, how to connect, what’s expected, how they should show up, what to do after, and more.

Getting the Technology Right

As mentioned earlier, virtual events can’t just be a quick fix for live events gone wrong.

Your event content and communication strategies are more important than ever. In fact, communication must be just as strong for virtual events as for live events if only for the reason that virtual events are easier for people to forget about. Attendees need to be informed before and after. You need to be able to broadcast updates, changes, and cancellations.

Don’t be fooled: virtual events are not less work than live events; in some cases, they’re more work. Your event marketing software should be able to help with registration, virtual ticketing, event reminder emails, social media posts, event landing pages, and calendar. (Hint hint, you’re looking at one right now)

You might not be thinking about these things when you’re trying to solve the immediate crisis in front of you, but it’s the only way to sustain or build the community you have.

This is your chance to do it right, to get the right technology in place so this not only doesn’t happen again, but allows you to build something great from here.

We know you’re in crisis mode right now, but when you have time to strategize and think ahead about how virtual events help build a thriving community, Localist can help by giving you an event platform that not only integrates with your video software, but helps you manage your CRM and spin up marketing content, landing pages, and a fully events branded site that centralizes every virtual event.

Coronavirus will come and go and when we’re all allowed to gather together again, you’ll be able to go back to business as usual. But once you know how good the virtual events world can be, you may not want to.

More Virtual Event Tips

We’re offering lots of tips about virtual events and community engagement as we navigate the effects of COVID-19. If you're a marketing professional who’d like to receive more content like this straight to your inbox, click here to join our Virtual Event Lifeline email series.

About Localist: Virtual Event Marketing Software

Localist takes the stress and anxiety out of planning and promoting virtual events. It's simple to use, lets you create beautiful landing pages for multiple events, and consistently brands everything you promote; simply drag and drop your elements and begin sharing. Because every event and calendar is centralized in a single dashboard, creating, publishing, managing, and promoting your virtual events has never been easier. Request a free demo today.

Localist is your complete virtual event solution

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