An Overview of Events and Coronavirus
Round Table #2
As the global pandemic deepened, the impact on the global economy has been virtually unparalleled. In our industry, shelter-in-place orders due to COVID-19 forced the postponement or cancellation of hundreds of events. Some B2B marketers have been able to adjust and transform live events to digital experiences. Others are becoming even more inventive, developing alternative channels and opportunities to generate demand in place of physical events.
For our second in a series of webinars on the COVID crisis, Integrate’s Chris Wickson, GM of Event Lead Management, led a discussion on how event industry suppliers and organizers are coping with the new normal of business life while preparing for the hoped-for return of physical events later this year.
Joining Chris for the session were Laura McCartney, Head of Exhibitor Experience at Informa Markets EMEA, Susan Cummings, Global Events Coordinator at Andor Technology and Rocky Citti, Senior Director, Technology Solutions at Freeman.
The challenge of zero events in Q2.
To open the discussion, Wickson asked the participants for a reality check on how they were faring in a no-events world.
Cummings, who typically is busy organizing up to 150 events around the globe each year, said her calendar has essentially been cleared. To cope, she and her team have chosen to focus on the heart of Andor’s business––existing customers.
“What we really wanted to do was to be there for our customers more than ourselves through this time, to help them navigate their new normal, as well as our new normal, and help them work through that, like working from home life as well,” Cummings said.
Moving to the digital space.
To meet the new realities of work during a pandemic, all of the webinar’s participants moved quickly from live events to connecting with customers and prospects online.
“We’ve seen a lot of organizers now take on the mantle of the virtual world and try to bridge the gap and put either some of their content online or all of their content online,” Cummings said.
For Rocky Citti and his team, the switch from working in the exhibit and trade show world to supporting clients digitally was an easy but critical transition. It required technical expertise and, as with most issues in this uncertain time, good listening skills.
“We have our online product, called Online Event Pro but we consider and use a better product for any client that already has one or wants to use one,” Citti said. “So, it's really just guiding the client and actually following them, if that's the case as well, and just helping wherever we can in this current state we're in.”
It almost goes without saying that B2B marketers, like all of us, are paying extra attention to customers’ wants and needs. The focus is on wellbeing and using infrastructure and technology that enables us all to be together while physically keeping our distance.
As McCartney said, “We're very much about understanding what impact this is having on our customers, and what can we do as an organizer to support them through that time.”
Celebrating the benefits.
A key takeaway of the seminar: the pandemic is hastening the transition toward digital solutions.
“I think for a long time now, the Events industry in particular, has been on that verge of sort of digital transformation, and all of a sudden with what we're going through at the moment, it's on our door step,” McCartney said.
By moving events online, B2B marketers are encountering new challenges. But the COVID lockdown is allowing the industry to experiment. And it could be laying the groundwork for an industry that is stronger and better-equipped for tomorrow’s world.
“We will see, as we come out of this, just a lot of positives,” Integrate’s Chris Wickson said. “A better experience for exhibitors. And also, a better experience for attendees as well because they'll be able to really connect their online activities with what's happening offline at events.”
“I think companies are going to level up their digital, and this is the time to do it. I think live events are king, but you can still take these different things that worked and make it a nice digital experience and still have those levels maybe platinum and diamond, and still have that nice experience that folks do a lot at a live event,” he said.
To learn more, watch the full webinar HERE.