How do we choose between the different types of corporate events? How do we plan an effective communication strategy? What measures will we need to take to ensure people’s safety during our event? And how to make the most of the new virtual and hybrid events formats? Here are some guidelines to better organize our event in the post-Coronavirus era.
If there is one thing that this pandemic taught us, it is that humans are social beings. With due differences, the need to get together, to share, to discuss is inherent in our nature and finds wide application both in our private and working life.
Events represent one of the most propitious occasions to satisfy these needs and for this reason they were among the first victims of the pandemic, which has precluded most social interactions.
We do not know what the future holds. But we know the importance of being able not only to choose the right type of event for our business goals and to set up an effective communication strategy before, during and after our event, but also to properly organize them in light of this new situation.
Here is a guide to the types of corporate events, to digital and non-digital communication techniques andto how we can prepare to face a Coronavirus-proof future.
The types of corporate events
The world of events is multifaceted and full of different options based on the purpose, target, location and resources available for our event.
However, there are categories within which it is possible to frame most corporate events. However, these are not closed categories: very often features of one and the other are found in a single event and collaborate to make it unique.
Knowing these categories can come in handy in the planning phase, to define and guide our actions.
Here are the main categories of corporate events:
Seminar and convention
Seminars and conventions are events to share knowledge, educate and professionally train participants on specific topics. Usually they are held by one or more specialists. Seminars can also be held online, where they take the name of webinars, as well as in specific locations or in the company headquarters, depending on the number of participants and the duration of the event.
Congresses promote discussion, debate and updates on specific topics of common interest among the participants, who therefore belong to a specific sector, professional order, association, territory, etc. Usually these are recurring events, which last a few days and include several speakers, discussion panels or round tables, creating “events within the event”.
Press conferences are widely used in politics and entertainment to promote a meeting with the press. However, it is possible to organize a press conference also in the corporate world to announce important events, decisions or initiatives of common interest.
Round tables are intended to promote discussion and the exchange of knowledge but, unlike larger events such as conventions and congresses, participation is usually limited to just a handful of people who exchange viewpoints and opinions in an open debate.
Workshops are a highly creative event, a learning laboratory during which participants are invited to put their knowledge into practice to develop projects, and to share ideas and know-how.
Fairs are recurring events of national or international scope that bring together the actors of a given sector. During a fair, which usually lasts a few days, companies exhibit services, products, new technologies with the aim of selling and networking.
As the name suggests, roadshows are a travelling event consisting of a series of meetings to promote a company’s brand or products in a highly interactive format and in well-defined geographical areas.
Product launches are events designed to reveal a new product to the market for the first time and to attract public attention to it, generating a sense of expectation and playing with the concept of exclusivity.
Educational events open the doors of a company to show customers, partners, stakeholders but also the press, bloggers and influencers the production process, the services and how life takes place within the company. This type of event aims at offering first-hand experience of products and services, promoting brand awareness.
Incentive events are intended to motivate and pamper customers and employees. These events are experiences, very often travels, granted to employees who achieve certain goals, or to strengthen customer loyalty.
These events are intended to celebrate an important corporate milestone. It is the right opportunity to bring together employees, customers, suppliers and all those who played a role in helping achieving these goals to thank them. With these events we can also promote solidity, credibility and the intention to continue on the growth path undertaken.
Team building is an event that entails a series of educational and recreational activities aimed at promoting teamwork, cooperation and communication between employees. It is an opportunity to get to know colleagues and interact with them in a less formal business context.
The corporate family day is a day dedicated to employees and their families. Similar to team building, this event aims at promoting a sense of belonging to corporate values and culture, and improving interpersonal relationships. It usually involves both employees and their families in creative activities.
Non-profit events are organized with the aim of raising funds for charitable purposes. During the event, activities such as auctions and competitions are organized. The proceeds are then donated to specific associations or projects.
How to successfully communicate before, during and after the event
Whether it’s smaller events or big ones, clear and effective communication is essential. Today we can count on several communication tools, which we can select according to the type of event.
For internal events, i.e. those events involving only company staff, we can send newsletters or personal invitations. The important thing is to do it in advance to allow people (and possibly their families) to organize themselves to participate in the event.
When it comes to external events, which involve both employees and customers, it may be necessary to use multiple tools.
Invitations can be both paper, in case of more formal occasions, and digital, via dedicated newsletters to highly profiled mailing lists.
One of the most important tools to communicate an event is definitely the press release. A good press release must comply with the 5 Ws rule: Who, What, Where, When, Why. It must therefore explain who we are, what type of event we are organizing and why, where and when it will be held. For an even more complete press release we can add a further question, how, thus explaining how the event will take place, its various stages and planned activities.
For an effective communication of the event, it is good practice to create a coordinated image for the invitations, graphics and all the platforms and pages dedicated to it. In fact, to facilitate ticketing and registration, we can create a landing page where guests will find all the information related to the event and through which they can redeem their tickets and any possible free ticket.
Social networks are another important tool for promotion before, during and after our event. Through social channels we can enhance expectation in the period preceding the event, and exploit them during the event to post real time updates. In addition, we can launch a hashtag dedicated to the event inviting our guests to share their moments and emotions.
Social networks, as well as search engines, also allow you to create paid advertising campaigns to promote the event to a specific target. This can come in handy if we want to reach a wider audience than the one of our mailing list.
Whichever tool we choose, we should never forget the importance of interacting directly with guests during the event. It’s a given of course, but very often we are so taken by the organization, the program and making sure that everything runs smoothly that we forget to take the right time to chat and entertain our guests.
Finally, let’s thank our guests for attending and ask them for feedback to find out if they had a good time, what they liked, what they didn’t and what they would improve: all the collected information will surely be useful to improve ourselves and create an even more memorable event.
Planning events post-Coronavirus
As we all know, the Coronavirus pandemic has caused an upheaval in the event industry, with many events postponed or cancelled.
Being events, by their very nature, gatherings, we still do not know with certainty the timing and methods for resuming the business, which are difficult to define also due to the variety of types of events. However, sector bodies and associations have drawn up, based on the WHO directives, some guidelines to safely plan our events.
The first advice remains to avoid personal contact by using digital tools as much as possible, for example for registration, contact management or to share catalogues and brochures.
Admission to the event venue or fair grounds must be controlled and allowed only to registered or otherwise identified people, in order to permit tracking if problems related to the virus arise. To put all this into practice, we can use special apps which, in addition to managing the registration and information of the participant, will also allow our guests to check in real time where other people are located, so as to encourage more calculated movements and avoid gatherings.
During the event, it will be necessary to keep social distance of at least one metre between the participants, providing for a number of seats adequate to the number of participants, by virtue of the distance that must be maintained between the seats. This will entail the choice of a bigger venue, designing spaces in such a way as to guarantee social distancing, or a reduced number of participants, as well as the presence of staff on site to ensure compliance with the safety measures.
The use of PPE, the sanitary control at the entrance, the sanitization of the rooms, the availability of sanitizing gel and dedicated bins to collect the PPE, and plexiglass dividers will certainly be features in our lives for quite some time. In addition, it will be necessary to study an emergency plan in the event that a person experiences symptoms from Covid-19 during or in the days following the event, and to consider a possible health insurance policy for the participants and all the staff involved.
Communication-wise, we will have to be clear and precise about the regulations, the behaviours to be followed and the emergency plan, by sending videos and information materials to all participants before the event and by also making them available on site.
The toilets and the venue will have to be sanitized at regular intervals, while the catering services will have to provide table service and pre-packaged meals.
The new frontiers: virtual and hybrid events
Digital tools can also be exploited to create virtual events, i.e. online events, or hybrid events, where the virtual joins the real.
While virtual events are likely to have a limited life, due to the impossibility of recreating the networking opportunities of the real world,hybrid events could open a new frontier in which the virtual and the real world integrate to create a unique event, able to guarantee both meeting opportunities and social distancing. This will also allow us to meet the needs of those who are not comfortable with travelling. With hybrid events, all participants, both those in the room and those who will follow the live streaming, will be able to experience the event in the same way, interacting with the presenters and the other participants.
It is therefore very probable that hybrid events will be largely exploited in the short-medium term, although it will require a significant technological investment. However, this investment may also bear fruit in the long run, once the emergency is over: if with face to face events we can count on a more limited presence, a hybrid event will allow us to further expand our audience.
When to reschedule?
Many of the events scheduled for the first half of 2020 were postponed in the fall or directly to 2021.
However, before rushing to reschedule our event, there are a few factors to consider.
First of all, we have to keep in mind that all the reprogrammed events will add up to those already planned at that time of the year. Therefore, it is likely that the second half of 2020 and much of 2021 will be packed with events. This could entail issues with not only finding available dates and locations but also with booking essential services, such as catering, cleaning, entertainment and so on. In addition, we will have to consider whether the theme and what we had planned for an event that should have been held in the spring or summer will still make sense at a later date.
We shouldn’t underestimate the economic impact that the pandemic has had on companies either, many of which operate on smaller budgets, nor the fact that the pandemic trend is still unpredictable and we have no certainty, at least at the moment I’m writing, that there won’t be another wave in the winter months.
Some sector experts point out that we will return to the same volume and turnover of 2019 only in 2023-24, when the economy will have had the time to recover, companies will have more solid budgets and the pandemic will be but a distant memory (at least that’s what we hope).
Therefore, if your event allows it, do not be afraid to reschedule it at a much later date than predicted: you could avoid limitations not only related to the budget but also to the hygiene and health safety rules that today must be respected, like social distancing, the true enemy of any event where human interaction is of fundamental importance.
In this regard, another factor to consider is the emotional state of the participants. How to deal with an event where it is necessary to enforce rules and regulations that totally redefine the concepts of networking and interpersonal contact and that will actually change how one experiences the event itself? The task of those who are organizing an event in this period is not only that of ensuring the safety of staff and participants but also to provide a positive experience, which does not alienate the guests but infuses unity, cohesion, participation, albeit respecting the rules.
How are you preparing to plan an event in the post-Coronavirus era? Find out more about our event organization services, together we can create the event you want in total safety.