Virtual events have become popular over the past two years due to the pandemic. However, according to a survey by Hubilo, event planners say it can take a newbie to events over a year to plan and execute an event.
As companies battle screen fatigue, event production values have increased dramatically. Organizations have also been scrambled by COVID-19 to set up non-traditional event planners such as internal communications departments, HR groups and DEI councils.
Do-it-yourself events may not be enough, however, and Hubilo’s VP of Corporate Marketing Liesl Leary-Perez (pictured) explains why in this latest episode of In Conversation With.
Listen to the podcast here. This conversation is powered by Hubilo.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Over the past year, we’ve seen many non-traditional event planners, such as internal communications, HR groups, and even DEI boards, learn event skills. What do you think of this change in trend?
Leary-Perez: It happened to me! I started at Hubilo in January 2020 and was in a new industry and in a new role. I had just arrived at the sales kickoff and I also got sick. After I returned, suddenly my internal communications team asked us to collate all communications regarding COVID-19 and the response from over 50,000 employees worldwide.
We realized we couldn’t get email communications up and running fast enough as regulations changed every day and each country had a different set of requirements.
For example, in the Philippines, the government shut down the Metro Manila so you could only go to work if you were within walking distance of your office. We had a lot of employees living in the call center and that obviously required a lot of communication to explain how it was going to work, what was going to happen, what we were doing for them and the health and safety aspects.
We had to have daily conversations with people and it became pretty clear that we also needed to lift our spirits. We used to throw big events and parties, but suddenly that wasn’t something we could do anymore.
So, of course, people asked the internal communications team to hold town hall meetings. But here’s the reality of holding a global town hall for 50,000 employees – our Zoom license can only take 3,500 seats, so who ends up paying for it? There are also different time zones, so you can’t do a global town hall.
There is also different content needed for different regions. Also, a lot of people don’t realize that every time you plan one of these events, you have to do simulations to explain what needs to happen.
Plus, everyone just wants to hear from our CEO and what he wants to do. But now he has to do the same presentation six times for 50,000 employees in six different regions and you only have 3,500 licenses.
So you’re kind of trying to hold an event, all the while hoping that people won’t show up because they were going to find out there weren’t enough licenses for everyone to attend the event. So that was really a challenge because my team didn’t have the resources for that and the internal communications team was used to creating communications for health and safety.
All of a sudden we had to have town halls and we had to do six a month just to get everyone together. I think a lot of people have found themselves in this situation.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: A virtual event isn’t just about getting in front of the camera and telling the tale, you also have to be really engaging. And it’s getting harder and harder as people all over the world are suffering from virtual fatigue. What are some of the ways you see brands trying to engage their audience?
Leary-Perez: I don’t think people really get tired from staring at screens. No one is saying they’re tired of Netflix because people brag about their binge marathons. It’s not because of the screens that people get tired. I think what ends up happening is that when you’re kind of stuck on a boring storyline, you’re going to switch channels.
And we have to think about changing the channel every time we produce a virtual event, because it’s more like a show. It has to have a great storyline, great content, and lots of different types of things that participants can do.
We also have to accept the fact that people are multitaskers. It is therefore very important to ask them to do something and give them added value by doing this activity.
What I’ve seen to be really valuable to people is when they can win a contest and then receive a prize in the mail, or receive a nice dedication from the host. I think that’s the kind of stuff that really engages people and drives your audience; it is also a costly investment.
INTERACTIVE-MARKETING: It is often thought that once an event is over, the job is done. But that’s clearly not the case, because that’s when data mining really starts to understand your audience. Do you think we give enough importance to this?
Leary-Perez: No, I don’t think that’s given enough importance. There are a lot of things event planners can do because when you think about it, events are really just another great avenue for content.
What we’ve started doing is taking event content and running it through AI transcription services. We then turn these event presentations into blogs.
There’s actually a lot you can do with the event content itself. You can then go into analytics and see how many interactions there were, how many meetings were held, how many comments were made, and that’s pretty interesting too. It’s really interesting for me to know which sessions were rated the best and which topics are the most interesting.
We had a client called “Notre Afrique” and the event lasted two weeks because it is a travel fair. This event alone had over 200,000 interactions, which was amazing. We tend to think that events are one day, but they don’t have to be anymore.
The fact that some people keep their events open longer actually works to their advantage because people don’t necessarily want to be tied to a day or time. Some just want to watch certain parts of the event. They don’t necessarily want to watch everything and we should accept that.
As long as the content is relevant to these people and you empower them to engage even after the event is over, I think you will reap a lot of benefits. So the post-event actually becomes much more critical than it was before.