COVID-19 + How DSM Can Adapt to a Work-at-Home World
Since the COVID-19 virus outbreak landed here at home, Greater Des Moines (DSM) has been proactively closing schools and offices and canceling crowd-gathering events. It may feel like life is about to take a standstill, but here at EventBank we see an opportunity to tap into a Digital Des Moines you may not realize exists.
How do we know this? EventBank has offices around the world — supporting clients and their engagement with audiences through events and communication — and we’ve felt the impact of COVID-19 as it has spread throughout the Asia-Pacific. As a software platform that helps with events and membership engagement, you can see how event cancelations and group gatherings being shut down would impact business as usual.
You’ve probably heard of U.S. schools moving their classes online. Webinars, conference calls, online demos and other digital means have become the sole business channel for companies looking to make the best out of the situation, and DSM has this opportunity, too.
We’d like to share our experience dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak by helping you understand the importance of effective communication and how to transform those events into effective online-only alternatives.
The Importance of Communication
Communication is the number one priority action needed to dispel disappointment, inform members and contacts of new, upcoming changes and offer alternatives to anything that’s been impacted. A member may refute renewal of their membership or refuse to attend events in times of emergency, when in fact you may be offering alternatives or reassurance, leaving more control of the situation in your hands, all while keeping your audience safe.
As a case study, EventBank handles clients across the world and crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak have made an impact on these organizations where events and other activities needed to be postponed or canceled as it was no longer advisable to have larger gatherings of people in order to stem the spread of the virus.
In an attempt to lessen the impact this crisis had, organizations made efforts to deliver pertinent information to members and contacts with notifications of canceled events and then provided alternatives to these events so that this would not affect their performance and value-provided services as severely.
In doing so, communication is the prime method of protecting attendees and members in any time of crisis. It also acts as a channel for proper delivery of alternatives like remote webinar events.
When communicating cancelations and news of crisis at your organization or event, remember to follow a few key rules that help to make it easy for your audience to engage online.
Step 1: Turn Off Any Ticketing Systems
Specifically, for events, turn off ticketing immediately. Don’t let people register for an event that’s canceled.
Step 2: Refund Event Tickets/Discount Members for Their Next Renewal
For events, always refund tickets in full. For organizations, it’s optional, but recommended that you offer discounts to current members who are close to renewing as a way to apologize for the lessening or lack of engagement and services provided during the situation.
Step 3: Offer Alternative Events/Services
Offer an alternative event that doesn’t put anyone at risk, like making an ideal event into an online webinar.
Step 4: Give a Timeframe + Point of Contact
Finally, give your audience a way to keep in the loop with what’s going on, such as a schedule of news or events, as well as a point of contact for any and all questions concerning the situation.
Breaking into Digital DSM
If everyone can work from home, then they can attend events from home too. At EventBank, we’ve had the opportunity to work with clients who have already dealt with COVID-19’s effects on their businesses, and we’d like to share some of those lessons so that you can better digitalize your work and tap into a more digital DSM. Here’s how you can get started:
Find a Webinar/Web Conference Host
It’s important to find a webinar host service that can help your business host events and meetings online. Internal business video-conferencing software like Microsoft Teams, Slack or Google Chat are great for internal uses, but they’re limited to internal users who have your business’s email address. What you need is a provider who can host outside attendees, as well as give you control over the webinar with administrator controls, web chat and other tools that can create a professional webinar.
Webex, GoToMeeting and Zoom are some go-to standards, but there are others as well if you shop around for the right match. These tools, however, only really deliver a link that you can send to your contacts so that they can enter the webinar room online. In order to maximize your event’s importance, professional structure and promote your event, you’ll need a website to call home, a good amount of email promotion and social media engagement.
Create a Professional Event Web Page
There’s nothing really needed to change in this aspect. Transforming your event web page to fit a webinar is quite easy, just make sure it’s clear in the home page or event details that the event will take place online and remove any addresses. Event web pages give your events a professional feel and emphasize the importance of the event regardless of the fact that it’s not in-person any longer. Consider taking a look at our post here which details the types of event templates that can help.
Event web pages are a great way to deliver legitimacy to an online event, as well as make it a great place to leave all pertinent information about your event for all to see. Keep it updated. Event web pages give you control over the event’s branding and ticketing instead of relying on tools like Facebook, LinkedIn or Eventbrite where you can end up giving up control in lieu of something that’s simply more familiar to you. In reality, you’re giving up your branding for theirs when you’re hosting events on these platforms.
Glue Yourself to Social Media + Email
With businesses now taking a presence to social media, it’s important that during the COVID-19 situation you’re keeping your social media accounts up to date. These days you’ll no doubt find those who are keen on getting updates from your business will start engaging with you on social media like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. This also gives you the ability to communicate outwardly to the public or directly through email campaigns to your network.
You’ve already seen hundreds of businesses emailing you about the situation, and that’s because they’re using this digital means of communication to keep their audience in the loop, calm and informed about the new way of doing business that they’re likely going in.
Transforming Your Physical Event into a Digital One
It can be difficult to really put together an event for the web when you’re so used to doing it in person. Thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic, mixers are out of the question, cocktail parties are done for and networking sessions are now non-existent ... or are they?
Webinars have come a long way. You’ll find attendees have accrued the necessary devices that help them communicate online including microphones and web cameras. It’s unlikely your webinar will become a one-way street where you present your topic and the audience is just there to listen. They might be speaker slots, but overall webinars have transformed into very audience-engaging events where listeners can speak their mind, give feedback, ask questions and more.
The one caveat is that whichever webinar host you use should have the right controls for your business to control the flow of your new online events. That means your webinar should have the ability to share screens, mute participants who “hot-mic” or leave their microphone on, as well as offer features that best fit your event or meeting’s format.
There are many advantages to hosting digital events. Events where audience members in the back of the room previously felt they had trouble getting their word in will now have the ability to speak since they’re all sharing the same call. Webinars may serve as the only way that DSM residents can attend an event or interact with the outside during quarantine, so you may actually encounter higher registrations for your webinar than even your best-effort at a physical event.
COVID-19 is no doubt a hassle to deal with as a community, but DSM can come together by tapping into their business's digital side. If you haven’t already, try exploring how you can communicate with your favorite businesses now and experience what it’s like to first join an event-turned-webinar.
Stay Safe DSM.
If you’d like to discuss in more detail how EventBank has been helping businesses during COVID-19’s impact, consider giving us a call at our main office here in the U.S. at 1-888-218-1354 or send a message here, and we can show you how our platform has acted as the perfect medium for businesses unable to meet anyone in person.
You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.
Find these tips useful? Find more business tools and information by visiting the Business Resources page.
Eric L. Schmidt
As CEO of EventBank, Eric L. Schmidt is focused on delivering cloud solutions that transform the way professional communities enable and enrich relationships.