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How to Strategically Take Your Event Online Don't cancel your event; make it digital.

By Eliott Maidenberg

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

fizkes | Getty Images

Now that many of us have transitioned to working from home, we are starting to get used to a new kind of normal. Collaborative tools such as Slack, Teams, Zoom and Google Hangouts have become our new best friends. But this new normal is missing the piece that has been the heart and soul of the economy since the Bronze Age: the marketplace.

The event industry has been the first to take a blow because of the pandemic, with most business events being canceled or postponed until further notice. But events set the tempo for product releases, new business relationships and knowledge sharing. Business cannot continue as normal if we can't meet new people and develop relationships. A 2018 Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study shows that organizations host an average of 72 events a year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, they are mostly on hold.

Thankfully, new technologies offer a plethora of innovative ways to hold a digital version of your event.

Related: What Makes Events Like Apple's So Effective?

Get the format right.

Think small. Massive events that gather 5,000 people or more over a period of 3 days won't fly anymore. Break up your event into a number of online sessions, panels and workshops that you can hold in smaller groups over the next few weeks.

Right now is the ideal time to take advantage of formats such as Twitter Q&As, where you set a meeting time with your community and answer their questions for an hour. The theme can be topical (e.g. "How to use our services during the coronavirus") or AMA (Ask Me Anything).

Internal events can become more collaborative with advanced digital brainstorming tools such as Klaxoon, which is fully compatible with Microsoft Teams.

Explore social media features to promote and host your event.

Now more than ever, social networks are an essential component of your marketing efforts to promote digital events. Facebook and YouTube offer live video options with no participant limit.

Send the link in advance to your community by email, and create a Facebook Event or a Facebook Group dedicated to your brand, product or services. Facebook allows you to invite all the members of your Group to your live session in one click.

This creates opportunities for all types of businesses, including those that typically don't invest in event marketing, such as family-owned restaurants. For instance, why not create your own daily cooking show on Facebook Live to boost online orders?

Related: 10 Tips for Hosting a Wildly Successful Event on a Tame Budget

Think outside the box (but inside the mask) with VR.

It is time to order your virtual reality headset if you don't have one already. Venturing into VR is a great way to spend some of your spare time while you are confined at home. Tools like Minsar are quick to set up and let you create your own VR environment without coding. Engage VR goes even one step further since you can host live sessions in virtual reality. (Or if you don't feel like doing it yourself, the Virtuose Reality Studio can also create those VR spaces for you.)

Regularity is key.

No one knows how long the pandemic is going to last, but a report from the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that social distancing measures will need to remain in place for at least 18 months, which is consistent with findings from epidemiologists at Imperial College London. Yikes! No matter what, your digital events will require a regular cadence so that customers, prospects and users can get used to your brand's new way of communication.

Taking your event online is no easy feat, of course. Google, who had initially announced it would hold its Cloud Next conference online, has since decided to delay it until further notice. Nevertheless, there are thankfully plenty of tools offering numerous avenues of experimentation and innovation to help sustain your business during these challenging times.
Eliott Maidenberg

Managing Director and Partner at JIN

Eliott wears two hats. He has 10 years of experience in digital marketing and PR strategy; he currently heads JIN North America, where he lends his creative eye to global brands. Eliott also runs Pitchboy, a Training Tech company which combines VR and Voice to create immersive learning experiences.

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