The impact of the coronavirus will have a long-lasting effect on the events market. At GovEvents we saw 22% of events listed on the site canceled with no plans to reschedule in 2020 and another 26% of live, in-person events scheduled for March 16 or later moved to virtual. The Federal events market was quick to adapt to ensure learning and professional development has continued while we've all been quarantining, but as conditions allow how and when will the government community be ready to meet again?
Market Connections recently released findings of a survey to gauge how the federal workplace environments have been affected by COVID-19 and how federal employees are adapting. Among the findings, the report painted a picture of what the reception for in-person events will be in the coming year and a half. The results were presented in a webinar along with results from a similar study of the contractor market conducted by the Professional Services Council (PSC).
Webinars and online events have been the only source of learning for the Federal market since mid-March. While 80% of respondents reported attending in-person events prior to March 2020, that number fell to near zero for March onward. 63% of respondents are using webinars more than they have in the past. Despite the novelty of video wearing off, usage is staying steady as the pandemic wears on. Continue reading
We've written quite a bit about virtual events and webinars. With our new COVID reality, we thought it was an important topic to revisit.
While virtual and online events may be the only option in the short term, event organizers can benefit from a virtual mindset when they approach all events going forward. Integrating a plan to host your event virtually if circumstances demand it should be a mandatory part of the overall planning process. Organizers should have the technology in place so they can easily "turn it on" when needed. Even if the event does go off as planned, live and in-person, consider adding online aspects to increase engagement. The option to create streaming video should become an essential event utility like electricity or WiFi.
While social distancing may have accelerated the acceptance of online events, webinars, in particular, are not a new concept in the federal market. Market Connections' Federal Media & Marketing Study (FMMS) found that three-quarters of federal workers reported watching live webinars during the workday and at least one in five were watching recorded webinars on their own time (weeknights and weekends). Webinars tend to be mainly one-way communication - with a speaker presenting and time for questions at the end. Frequently, the Q&A is not done "live," rather questions are gathered via messaging, vetted, and asked by the host. However, as our collective comfort with platforms like Zoom, WebEx, and Skype grow, future webinars could become more interactive, allowing for video participation and interaction between speakers and participants.
On April 8, GovEvents' Director of Client Relations, Stephanie Gravel, was invited to speak on Government Marketing University's (GMarkU) daily IDEATION virtual call.
Stephanie discussed the current government events climate and the latest event marketing trends during the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- Data on cancellations, rescheduled events and the transition to virtual and online
- Competing in the growing virtual events market
- Best practices for rescheduling events and digital event promotion
- And more!
Couldn't make the meeting? No problem! You can listen to the recording and follow along with these slides.
You can also sign up to join the daily IDEATION calls for insightful discussion, innovative ideas, and practical strategies to support your government marketing efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond
Personalization is a hot trend in events, but what does it really mean? Personalization focuses on tailoring the event experience for each attendee. This can seem daunting when planning events with thousands of people. But even with the biggest events, breaking it down to one-on-one communication can help make it more manageable. From including first names on email correspondence to monogrammed bags at check-in, carefully curated refreshments, targeted sessions recommendations, and post-event engagement, personalization options abound.
To do any of this, you need one critical element--data.
Gather information on your attendees. What is their preferred name (Jennifer vs Jenny)? What is their job title, buying authority, departments they oversee? Do they have dietary restrictions or preferences? However, be careful not to over ask or overwhelm attendees with questions. The registration form should not ask every piece of information you are looking for. Get the basics, then follow-up with a pre-event questionnaire for more in-depth questions.
We've talked about the impact Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are having in government work, but the technologies also stand to make a huge difference in the events world. This opens up new possibilities for learning and interaction. Currently, VR is being introduced into events as entertainment -- an add-on experience to networking and gala dinners. AI is being used behind the scenes to expedite event logistics. Soon, both technologies will make their way further into events and change how attendees interact with the event and each other.
- International Collaboration - Google is testing a new speech-to-speech translation technology, Translatotron, which would enable real-time translation at events. Through headsets, attendees would hear a close approximation of the speaker's voice in their selected language in near real-time. The AI translation can run as long as people are willing to talk and listen. Events could use this two-way communication technology for general session Q&A as well as one-on-one networking.
- Accessibility - AI and VR are reimagining sign language interpretation. HoloHear uses Microsoft HoloLens goggles to show a signing virtual reality figure. This augmented reality helps the deaf maintain focus on the speaker, on-stage visuals, and the translator.
- Training - While face-to-face interaction will continue to be a huge part of events and training, VR-led training is being introduced to tackle a number of more "challenging interpersonal scenarios" where in-person training might be uncomfortable.
- More realistic experience - An event is a great place to get hands-on with a product, but it may not be the best place to truly experience a product. This article illustrates how using VR can put people in the ideal atmosphere. For example, the reaction someone may have to drinking an expensive champagne may be different if they are looking around a noisy tradeshow floor versus being immersed in a VR experience at a five-star restaurant. Building the right atmosphere for the initial product experience may lead to a better reception and reaction.
We'd love to hear from you! What are some applications of VR and AI you've seen at events? Share your thoughts in the comments. Visit GovEvents for more government events worldwide.