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Challenge Accepted: Event Planners and Vendors Look to the Future in a Pandemic

With the COVID-19 pandemic persisting in all regions of the country, it’s next to impossible to gauge when life will return to normal. For event planners and vendors, this means taking a long look at strategies to adapt not just in the present, but to ongoing conditions that make in-person events unsafe.

It’s undeniable that consumer need is shifting. For event vendors, this means recalibrating your approach and preparing for an uncertain future. 2020 may not be at all what we expected, but if we embrace the possibilities, we can develop approaches that will meet the challenges head-on.

Recalibrating Your Brand Identity

Your brand is the cornerstone of your business. To weather the challenges of the market right now, it’s key to have a brand that customers recognize, but also that resonates with them during this crisis. What served you well before might not strike the right tone anymore.

This isn’t to say that everyone needs to rebrand, but event planners and vendors should take a look at their brand identity and evaluate it for current conditions. Ask yourself the following:

  • What is your brand promise?
  • What is your value proposition?
  • Is your brand clearly articulated?
  • Who is your audience? Is it the same as before?

One newly important question to ask: how is your brand meeting the social good?

More than ever, consumers want to know how the brands they do business with are supporting communities and responding to social issues. For event planners and vendors, this can mean many things.

You might work to reduce barriers for attendance by reducing fees. You might support local minority-owned businesses when finding service providers. You could build charitable donations into your promotional swag.

Marketing Strategies

Event planners and vendors have long straddled the virtual and physical worlds. In a way, this serves them well in the current moment. Industry professionals will have a strong sense of in-person expectations but also the virtual tools available to achieve them. (Of course, it’s never quite that simple!)

When it comes to marketing, event planners and vendors should continue to think both virtually and physically. Promoting events through strong social campaigns, email marketing, and websites optimized for digital registration should be part of all marketing strategies. Digital swag is also on the up-and-up, with discount codes, gift cards, and more being an effective marketing tool for event vendors.

virtual event

However, print marketing and promotional products are still on the table. With more time spent at home, direct marketing is as effective as ever when it comes to reaching your audience. And for event attendees, swag bag deliveries are almost as exciting as Amazon packages.

Maintaining Relationships

Event planning is a person-oriented industry. We’re focused on providing experiences, creating opportunities for people to connect. The majority of this has been driven online because of the pandemic. While event planners are adept at navigating the digital world, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been an adjustment. However, with some creativity, maintaining relationships is possible.

“Creating community and connecting is so important, especially right now,” notes Beth Lawrence, chief event officer of Beth Lawrence Meetings & Events in Philadelphia. Lawrence has worked to foster relationships through free virtual networking events, a format that has quickly become a new industry standard.

However, relationships don’t have to just exist in the virtual realm. Even when you have to stay socially distant, you can keep connections healthy through old fashioned methods: the pen and paper or a simple telephone call.

Delivering Value

Last, but definitely not least, your future strategies should focus on delivering ongoing value to your attendees. Value, in general, is a moving target, but you can stay relevant if you focus on the following deliverables:

  • Easy, uncomplicated participation
  • Accessible platforms to ensure anyone can attend
  • Clear communications strategies around events, registration, and opportunities
  • Robust networking for events regardless of in-person or virtual formats

One takeaway from 2020 should be to stay flexible and ready to adapt. We never know what tomorrow may bring, but if we focus on communication and bringing value to our audiences, we’ll always be ready to respond to situations.

How has your organization found ways to meet new needs in the COVID-19 era? We’d love to hear what has worked for you!

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