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#VirtualEventsFromHome: Evolving to Move Forward

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The world of PR is ingrained with change. This two-part series would tackle how events professionals pivoted and are navigating the changing terrain and how to execute your next event.

The catchphrase of 2020 — unprecedented times — may be passe as we’ve been living in the new strange for almost two years now and have grown accustomed to working remotely and seeing colleagues exclusively through a screen.

But in a fast-paced world such as PR, does adjusting to changes ever stop?

Cancellations, reschedules and last-minute adjustments are all part of the routine. For those in the events spectrum, up to the last minutes and indeed, even during the activity itself, the whole team is prepared and in fact anticipates sudden changes in plans and adjusts accordingly. Still, no one could have foreseen the live events hiatus to last this long. For many in the events sector, this meant not just event cancellations but lost income and uncertainty for their career and future.

More than fear, there was hope

“It didn’t initially bother us so much during the first few weeks because we believed that the restrictions will be lifted eventually and the industry will go back to normal. It didn’t cross our minds that the pandemic will drag on this long,” says Glydel Lumauan, senior events manager at Ardent Communications.

Most conversations were about rescheduling events and making sure everyone involved are still available on the new date. “But seeing the number of cases increase every day, we were forced to wake up and accept that this isn’t normal anymore. The industry that used to be so loud was silenced. This was when we started to panic for the events industry, our passion and livelihood,” she added.

Photo by BreizhAtao on Shutterstock.com

With venues closing, colleagues losing jobs and projects getting cancelled came concerns regarding job and financial security. For event managers, the burden of telling suppliers and other coworkers of another cancelled event is like sending memorial cards, knowing that these people are breadwinners.

But even if it was like the sector was hitting rock bottom, many responded with “then the only way is up.” As events professionals would agree: The main goal is to adapt.

“A lot of our suppliers started scheduling briefings with us to introduce their new virtual event solutions. Inquiries for digital events started coming in. The industry was hopeful again,” said Glydel.

Not just changing event venues

For the people on the other side of the screen — the attendees — a successful virtual event may look easy: Just connect to the internet and turn on a videoconference app. But for the people planning and mounting these events, it’s a different story.

Photo by fizkes on Shutterstock.com

Multiple meetings, brainstorming sessions and back-to-back coordination with suppliers, team members, internet provider and event platform specialists are tedious and taxing enough. But having to do all these remotely — through emails, chats or calls — where misunderstandings and lapses are more likely to happen adds a whole new level of complexity and potential frustration.

It’s not simply about changing the venue or medium. It’s overhauling the entire process top to bottom.

For starters, deciding on the event platform alone involves a lot of considerations — Can it imitate the live event experience? How close can it do so? What interactive features are there to engage audiences better? How easy or complicated are these features? What training might be needed to use the platform? These are only some of the questions to be answered. Doing ocular visits suddenly seemed a much more favorable option.

Timelines are much tighter and have to be followed more strictly to give way for virtually communicating with team members and other stakeholders. With face-to-face meetings limited and team members unable to update or signal to one another to ensure everyone is on the same page, events peoples must optimize chat messages, emails and video calls, all of which can take much longer to set up and need to consider additional factors such as internet capabilities, not to mention delays in reaction over virtual meetings.

A plan C or even D is no longer just an option but a requirement. If in live events there must always be a backup plan, all the more so with virtual events. “For the 27th National PR Congress – Transcend last February, we had to create a YouTube Live backup in case the event platform encounters problems once attendees start logging in and overwhelming the microsite,” Glydel shared.

But keeping the core intact

Even with the medium or platform changing and the process evolving, the core of events planning and execution remain the same — connect with the audiences and create a sense of inclusivity and community in line with the brand’s message. Creating experiences that become part of someone’s memory, providing a slice of normalcy amid the changes of the past months and developing team camaraderie — no matter how different the ways of achieving these — continue to drive events professionals to stay true to their passion.

Digital events are only beginning to unfold. Their potential and the opportunities they present to both brands and audiences have yet to be fully explored. With more innovations happening, virtual events will continue to evolve to cater to company and audience needs and preferences.

Watch out for the second installment of this series.

Featured photo: Evgeny Drablenkov/Shutterstock.com

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