Ivan Ferrari, event director, tech, media & entertainment events, Informa Markets, shares his learnings about taking events online, and offers some advice for companies looking to better their capabilities
One of the obvious casualties from the Covid-19 pandemic is the events industry. Many event and marketing teams had to grapple with short notice and swift decision making on whether to postpone their events, cancel their events, or replace upcoming events with a virtual version.
However, as a vast majority of us can relate to spending so much time on our devices, it’s developing a new phrase: virtual fatigue. The question for event organisers has now shifted from “How can we successfully host a virtual event?” to “How can we stand out among other virtual events today?”
In relation to Singapore’s MICE industry pivoting its strategy during the pandemic, many event organisers have now turned to technology as a solution.
I have a few learnings to share – gleaned from ConnecTechAsia2020, the first virtual Infocomm, Media and Technology event held in partnership with Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority – with those looking to take their events virtual.
Don’t experiment this year, go with a trusted platform. With only one chance to get it right this year, I would recommend to make the investment and choose a trusted platform that is stable, strong and secure in all ways. It does not just fall onto the company’s reputation, but the community’s as well. The right platform must be capable of delivering the event’s full value in a secure and safe way.
Conduct walk-throughs with your various stakeholders as early as possible. Once you have confirmed a platform, conduct walk-throughs with your delegates, sponsors, speakers, exhibitors, and attendees early – at least a month or two before the event. Giving them as much information as possible, would ensure familiarity with the platform and its features. While doing this, always keep in mind what the Return on Investment (ROI) is for each stakeholder.
Understand the importance of qualified leads. With any event, virtual or physical, qualified leads are a top priority for exhibitors, and you have to make sure to deliver this. For ConnecTechAsia2020 we provide backend data where they will be able to track and access visitors’ information not just during the three live event days, but for the entire duration the platform will be online which for us will be till June 2021.
Provide high-end business matchmaking. This is another top priority for our attendees. ConnecTechAsia’s business matching platform is powered by artificial intelligence (AI), where attendees will receive personalised connections and meeting suggestions based on their interests and profile. On a consolidated dashboard, visitors can view connections, find out who is interested in setting up a meeting with them and arrange for one-to-one video meets via virtual meeting rooms.
Do not cut the marketing budget. A virtual event is much more challenging to promote, especially this year. In just a span of a few months, we find ourselves competing to provide unparalleled online experiences through content and functionalities. Companies would have to put in the same amount of resources, if not more, to promote the event. This is especially true if you have never run a virtual event in the past and have yet to establish a track record.
While the demand for physical events will not disappear any time soon, the pandemic has made it clear that it has come down to pivot or perish when making the move to digital. This rapid evolution highlights the importance of understanding not just the industry, but what attendees consider value-adding.
The focus is no longer about replicating, but transcending the physical to bridge the gulf between what is expected of them and what makes their event meaningful to audiences in this new frontier.