On September 2, 2020, we had the pleasure of co-hosting our 12th Neuger CO.LAB session with Monica Hendrickson, sponsorship & marketing director of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. This week, we focused on event planning coordination during COVID-19 and how to keep your audiences engaged. We were pleased to see about 40 participants who were all very enthusiastic about learning from Monica’s expertise and sharing their own experiences in coordinating events since COVID-19 hit.
Session 12 Hosts
Monica Hendrickson, Sponsorships & Marketing Director of John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon
Christine Lekatz, Vice President and Senior Communications Counselor at Neuger Communications Group
Key Discussion Points
- The complex process of turning the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon – one of northern Minnesota’s most popular winter events – from in-person to a hybrid virtual including changes to:
- Vendor and funder communications
- Risk management
- Broadcast coordination
- Social media marketing
- Insurance/liability planning
- Content creation
- Promotional tactics
- Event industry and production staff are struggling right now and are eager to help problem-solve for companies hosting events.
- To create an immersive and engaging experience for virtual guests, send them gifts or packages ahead of the event.
- Create an interactive experience for your guests to keep them engaged during a virtual event.This can include breakout sessions, enhancing the visual settings and setting up panels.
- There are several providers that specialize in helping companies take major conferences and tradeshows virtual, however they tend to be very expensive, e.g. 6Connex.
- Consider offering a hybrid event experience, even after COVID-19, as it can extend your audience reach.
- It can be hard to generate revenue from virtual events. Setting up premium attendee options and hiring paid speakers for an event can allow you to create new revenue opportunities.
Key Discussion Questions
Q: From a timeline perspective, when do you want to decide you are going virtual with an event? How long should you allow yourself to plan for a virtual event?
It is wise to give your company at least two months to plan a virtual event, you’ll need much longer for a larger event. Set specific dates for each step of planning the event. Determine weekly, even daily planning objectives. It is important to consider the schedules and preferences of your audience. You can send a survey to your invite list to determine the best date for holding the event. If you’re planning an event for late 2020 or early 2021, plan for both virtual and in-person. No one knows when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available, so hybrid events will be very common moving forward.
Q: How do you meet the requirements of vendors and sponsors and ease their qualms about partnering for a virtual event?
Create custom sponsorship packages and work on creative ways to give sponsors and exposure during the event. Be strategic about when the user/attendees see each ad or sponsorship. Discounted partnerships are useful for building more partnerships for future events. Collaborate with sponsors and vendors to build loyalty and long-lasting, two-sided relationships.
While bedrooms and kitchen tables have become makeshift workspaces for countless individuals, the desire to see and interact with one another, both professionally and personally, has only increased. Hosting a virtual event can serve as an opportunity to satisfy that desire. It is crucial to stay engaged with your audience and continue developing networking strategies.