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How do we move forward as event organisers?

When will the nightmare end, when will people be able to meet again? How will we adjust to these new conditions? Should we move our events into the virtual space or do we postpone them? These are the questions that keep haunting meeting planners at night. Not a day goes by without us thinking about the future of our industry. Unfortunately, there is no single answer. For the last two weeks, we have been talking to meetings industry opinion-makers and experts to pick their brains on the situation. Some of the most important findings are presented below.

When will things go back to normal?

Eric Bakermans from the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions, who very accurately summed up the situation, mentioned three scenarios:

  • Short-term (June)
  • Mid-term (September)
  • Long-term (December)

Many colleagues think that the situation will go back to normal by the end of May/beginning of June; an opinion mostly prevalent in northern Europe (Baltic countries and Scandinavia). Nina Erneker, the head of Bratislava Convention Bureau was less optimistic, predicting the situation to normalise by next year.

Angeles Moreno’s answer was also interesting: “We will never return to normal. We are in a historical moment that has changed the future. The world as we know it is dissolving. But behind it comes a new world. Back to normal? Who knows… meanwhile, try to find the space to get ready for the new world.”

Many colleagues are warning about the jam-packed autumn season which could result in problems of attracting enough participants. Speakers will also be a very valuable asset.

What is your opinion on virtual meetings?

Surprisingly, the opinion on virtual meetings is very unified. Everybody agrees that they can only partially replace live events, but never take over. As Christian Woronka from the Vienna Convention Bureau mentioned; ”Many great tools have surfaced, However, I do not believe that they will replace live events in the long run. To the contrary, I think that after weeks or maybe even months of physical distancing people will be very eager to meet again and exchange ideas and knowledge.”

Sigurjóna Sverrisdóttir, Managing Director of Reykjavík Convention Bureau is of a similar opinion. She said: “Virtual meetings will never replace personal interaction. What business events are all about is the engagement and physical interaction between all the delegates. That is what companies and associations are looking for when they host an event.”.

The inbox of our editorial board has been flooded with different online conferencing tools and webinars lately. The quality of such tools is often questionable and going 100% virtual requires some consideration. If you are planning on transferring a “classical-format” event to the online world, think about who your participants are first. Elements of gamification, interactivity and fun have to be implemented into these platforms. This way, the results of online events can slowly become comparable. Don’t forget about online tools that have been around for years. Podcasts, blogs or social posts are tools, which help you share your ORIGINAL CONTENT to attract people.

How will you (re)start your marketing activities?

This question brought about quite a few interesting answers. The most direct answer came from Padraic Gilligan from Soolnua. He told us: “More than ever, digital marketing must follow the protocols of content marketing and set out to inform, give, provide, add to, entertain, delight etc. but NEVER to sell. “

Most interviewees agree that the customer journey has drastically changed over the years. Sales messages that used to work back in the day, might not generate any leads today. Many colleagues have said that they are monitoring the trends and what the competition is doing in order to react accordingly.

One thing is clear; this is the time to jump-start your content marketing engines and take advantage of digital formats. But be smart about it. Nobody wants to read your sales offers in quarantine. With quality marketing, we can come out of this crisis even stronger.

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If you are looking for more ideas or advice, we invite you to read all the interviews that we conducted with meetings industry experts in the last couple of weeks.

Enjoy the interviews and make sure to share them with your colleagues!

#powertothemeetings #staypositive #meetagain

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