If I had to describe myself in three words, they would be: planner, optimistic and persistent. They also happen to be three essential qualities to be a successful event organizer, especially in light of recent challenges our area of the business is facing.
The word planner defines a large part of what I do in life – both for my profession and in my personal time. For work, I plan strategic and engaging events for our company, our customers, our employees and our partners. In my personal life, I organize activities to bring friends together, plan my exercise schedule and heck, these days I’m even planning dinners.
Optimism, fortunately, is something that comes naturally to me. I give my mom, Nancy, full credit for this one as she’s the most optimistic person I know and instilled this quality in me at a young age. Optimism is not only a mental attitude about believing in what you’re doing but it’s also about looking at every challenge as an opportunity, rather than a problem. It’s about knowing that there is always something in the world to be thankful for.
I remember the first time I was called “persistent.” It was when I was an intern at an entertainment PR firm in Los Angeles during college. At first, I was offended and angry because I associated persistent with being a nag. Then, queue optimism, I thought about the brighter attributes of being persistent, the benefits of being determined and never giving up and how this could help me in my career and in life and chose to ride on that wave instead.
It’s funny how these three words that I just used to describe myself can be mirrored to describe the way events professionals have to look at the challenge of a COVID-19 world.
We are event planners, people whose job it is to bring groups of people together to deliver a message and create memorable experiences. We were definitely thrown a curve-ball in mid-March when states started issuing stay-at-home orders and spring events started getting postponed. Throughout the end of March and all of April, as the effects and deaths of COVID-19 shook the world, those spring events that were originally postponed were now being canceled, along with events in the summer as well. So, now what?
Well, we’ve seen a shift in technology implementation at live events for the past few years now. It started out with radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips in attendee name badges. RFID reader devices were then set up throughout a conference space to enable the organizer to track the movement of attendees throughout that conference. This data could help the organizer build a profile for each specific attendee so that they could cater to their interests and preferences at future events. This was a huge milestone in the events world, as the main focus of every event planner is curating a successful event that focuses on the customer experience.
Technology has always played an important role in the events world. It’s used to excite attendees as they register for an event through a branded on-line experience, it enhances networking opportunities via a conference mobile app, it allows for facial recognition as a way to check into an event on-site, and more recently we’ve even seen halogrammed keynote speakers! Technology has allowed for increased creativity, and is going to spark even more of it as we look at continuing to host events in the current and post-COVID-19 world. Maybe it’s my optimism talking but I think that technology makes the opportunities endless when we think about the future of events in the world we live in today.
I’m looking forward to being persistent in finding solutions that work for our company and our customers. There are many benefits from in-person events that can translate into the digital/hybrid events world and possibly even make the experience better for the attendee. I’m eager to find out if digital events will allow attendees to be more productive during their time spent with us because of the breadth of activities and content that we can make into a holistic digital experience geared towards many types of audiences. This was actually something that we were working on with our in-person events – allowing the attendee to choose workshops of interest to them and their needs rather than sitting in on sessions that might not pertain to their business objectives – so we’ll continue to work on that via digital platforms.
We know that large in-person events will definitely not be taking place for the next few months, and quite possibly for the remainder of the year. With this in mind, we are being forced to pivot our event strategy and look at virtual, or hybrid, events. Hosting a virtual, or hybrid, event is something that we have not done in the past. At Konica Minolta, we are extremely successful at hosting in-person events, connecting face to face and relying on our company culture to make our events truly unique and one-of-a-kind. Does the thought of planning a virtual/hybrid event scare me? Absolutely. It scares me because it’s unknown. But it also excites me. We also know that events are necessary. They maintain customer loyalty, they’re great brand exposure and they build trust. We need to remember this as we move forward and continue hosting events. We now have a blank whiteboard that needs some color and we get to decide how to draw and what colors to use.
In fact, we have already started doodling. We’ve hosted a Virtual Events Series throughout April and May called “We’ve Got You All Covered.” These virtual events demonstrate, discuss and address business professionals’ questions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. We are supporting our customers with tools to help them embrace the “new normal” and keep business top of mind for their customers. This is one of the more immediate actions we’ve taken to reinforce our brand and build trust with our customers.
This is an exciting, pivotal and developmental time for events! Right now, I don’t think that it is a choice between online or offline, I think that it’s a matter of creating solutions that best support our customer’s journey, regardless of the situations we face as we move forward.