We’re back in real life!  Sort of.  While the pandemic put everyone sideways, emerging from the pandemic is an equal challenge, and new rules apply.  Swinging from 100% IRW to 100% virtual corporate events and helping clients navigate during the pandemic brought three core observations, rules really, to the forefront.

1. New Rule #1: Engagement is king IRW, virtually, or hybrid

Earlier this year we hosted our first in-person, face-to-face corporate event since the pandemic began.  The formal opening of SHACK15, San Francisco’s newest hot spot for corporate events and business networking, felt like a reawakening in many ways.  We transformed the new space in the historic San Francisco Ferry Building into a breezy cluster of gathering areas where attendees could meet, share ideas and explore a distinctly San Francisco vibe.  Attendees exuded excitement (and a little relief) as they met colleagues, talked business, explored ideas and discussed the reemergence of life and business as “normal.”  And, in true Trademark fashion, we pulled out all the stops to create a  multi-sensory, engaging and memorable experience that allowed SHACK15 to say absolutely: “We’re Open”.  Check out the photo gallery here.

2. New Rule #2: “Virtual” does not mean “one-way video conference from you-know-where”.

That was June. Now, at the beginning of August, our clients and partners are once again weighing the benefits of physical, virtual and hybrid events. The new Delta variant of COVID-19 represents a renewed challenge for marketing teams to reach and engage their audience while many attendees are likely to be virtual. More than ever, engagement is critical...before, during and after the event.

In the past year, we’ve pulled out all the stops to help clients grab attendee attention with new tactics.  We’ve used pre-event polling that shapes content; gamification and professional entertainment; virtual event gifts and giveaways; interactive quizzes and questions; contests on-demand and live content; and the highest quality audio, video and interactive production that can be consumed across multiple digital channels.  Virtual and hybrid programs are shorter and must be produced to ensure that every minute engages and entertains the audience. Engagement is key now that the end of the conference is only a click away.  Check out some of our virtual engagement techniques here.

3. New Rule #3: The value of the event only begins during the live event.

A silver lining of the pandemic is that we know the value of the long digital tail. Every minute of an event is an opportunity to engage the audience deeply or lose them forever.  This is especially true with virtual events and hybrid events where the actual content (rather than the networking) is the value of the conference.  Regardless of the event format, each session or speaker must stand on its own with compelling information, audience participation, and expert production that is worthy of downloading, sharing and reusing in the future.

Keeping score: IRW 2000, Virtual 19,000

In 2019, before the pandemic, one of our premier clients held its annual user conference.  With over 2000 attendees, a full agenda of speakers and interactive sessions, the conference was considered to be a wild success.  And, while some content lived online post-conference, when the event was over, it was over.

In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, the same conference, held 100% virtually, attracted 19,000 attendees with thousands of content downloads, virtual sessions attended, and content shared and promoted socially to tens of thousands who would have never had an opportunity to attend a live event.  Learn more about Slack Frontiers 2020.

The advent of virtual and hybrid events during the pandemic has opened a floodgate of digital possibilities. Our clients continue to use multi-media, multi-channel tools to reach and inspire audiences to learn more, use products more effectively, and engage with companies more deeply. Covid has shown us the value of an event’s digital tail, which can benefit companies and attendees beyond the event itself.

It’s a New World.

The most important observation, which is more than a new rule, is that corporate events are here to stay. They’re a critical part of the marketing and customer experience mix.  More and more, however, the anatomy of these “events” will continue to change.

We hope that you’re open to trying new things and diving deeper into what will engage your audience in our new world.  We’ve gained a lot of experience in the last 18 months. If you have questions or just want to toss around ideas, reach out by email, LinkedIn, or just give us a call.