It's no secret in a COVID and eventual post-COVID world that in-person live events will never be the same. Even when people are comfortable enough to get together in large groups face-to-face, many companies and small business owners will have realized through 2020 that many in-person networking events were just complete wastes of time and unnecessary.
As positive of a person as I am, I just don't believe that companies will jump right back into sponsoring in-person events and sending groups of employees to other cities / locations for long periods of time like they did pre-COVID.
In much the same way that remote working has stopped being cliche, virtual meetings and events are now the norm. They're more efficient, cost effective, and productive, period.
If your blood is boiling right now, it's because you think I don't realize that people "miss the in-person networking time" at large events. Well, no, I'm not that naive. I realize that people miss it, but I'm here to tell you that companies that had budgets to send people to large events, pay for hotels and happy hours and expensive dinners simply won't do it as often anymore, regardless of how much their people "miss it."
Now, where do we go next with events?
Well, what I learned from the Nashville Voice Conference in July 2019 in a pre-COVID world, is that live events were (and I emphasize WERE), the best business development strategy of all time. As you can see from NashvilleVoiceConference.com, Data Driven Design was able to solidify relationships with some amazing business people from across the world, as well as create pillar content for months, and do good in the community all at the same time.
But just like everyone else, our sequel was different. While many had to cancel their 2020 versions, we simply went digital.
Visiting TheVoiceEvent.com gives you an idea of exactly what we did, but I'll also describe it here.
We essentially decided that we could deliver MORE great content and learning opportunities in a completely safe environment by going virtual. We used a mix of pre-recorded sessions and live sessions, with live chat to facilitate a six hour conference.
The only thing we couldn't replicate was the in-person networking component. We even had people commenting in the online chat at the beginning of the event that it was sorely missed.
In fact, the video accompanying this post is at the beginning of The Voice Event when my co-host QuHarrison Terry and I read the comment live and tried to figure out what to say. 🙂
The person went on to elaborate that "none of the virtual events they had attended in 2020 had been able to replicate it." When we asked the number of attendees that the virtual events they were referring to had, the answer was "in the thousands."
Well, of course. I personally attended one or two of them. There's no way to have multiple programming tracks and a great online networking experience in a 1-3 day virtual conference.
But here's the deal. TheVoiceEvent.com at any given time had around 50 people online. That's it. And at least 30 of them were on 100% of the day.
The response at the end of the day was to the contrary of the earlier comment. "The Voice Event has succeeded at connecting the attendees!"
The recipe was nothing special. Less is more. That's it. Literally LESS PEOPLE on a virtual event is BETTER!
So, what I learned from running The Voice Event in 2020 in a "COVID world" is that more frequent, but SMALLER virtual conferences definitely is a better play than trying to turn a HUGE (what was meant to be in-person conference) into a HUGE virtual event. Square peg, round hole.
Adjust your expectations on both sides. Event managers need to think "less is more" and employees need to expect to attend virtual events and not get too excited to "get things back to normal."
This is the new normal. Remote.
Paul Hickey, Founder / CEO / Lead Strategist at Data Driven Design, LLC and founder of The Voice Event, and The Voice Designer, has created and grown businesses via digital strategy and internet marketing for more than 15 years. His sweet spot is using analytics to design and build websites and grow the audience and revenue of businesses via SEO/Blogging, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Social Media Content Marketing, Email Marketing and most recently, Voice App Design and Development – Alexa Skills and Google Actions. The part that he’s most passionate about is quantifying next marketing actions based on real data.