For event professionals, COVID19 is making 2008 look like a walk in the park. The virus crashed over the world like a tsunami and the events industry was the first to be swept out to sea. With little to no time to react, many of us planners are still searching for life jackets. With so many uncertainties, one thing will be true. When events do come back, budgets will be smaller and the need for technology will never be greater.
Based on what history tells us, it will take years to get to the same scale we saw in events before coronavirus arrived. Where every year, 150,000 techies pour into San Francisco to attend Salesforce’s annual mega-conference, Dreamforce, which boasts a whopping $50M budget. Or take the star studded SXSW which has an annual $400M impact on Austin’s economy. After the 2008 crisis, many of the smaller events just didn’t come back and the larger ones took time to get to the same sizes and budgets they had before. I expect this time around to be no different so as event planners, we should anticipate reduced budgets and the need to be more efficient than ever before. Here are a few simple areas we can use technology to reduce our costs and save us time in planning our events:
Switch to Better and Cheaper Software:
Many planners renew with the same software providers year over year because they don’t want to learn a new system or take the time to shop for new vendors. Given changing budgets and the current downtime we have in events, this creates a perfect opportunity to source better systems at a more affordable price. For example, A2Z has been a leading software provider for exhibitor management and interactive floor plans since 1998. They offer a legacy platform that planners are familiar with however have recently begun raising rates sharply after they were purchased by Personify.
Over the past 5-10 years, new exhibitor software players like ExpoGenie have entered the space providing easier to use applications with more features and at a much more affordable price. Some, like ExpoGenie, are offering best-in-class event platforms available at lower prices because they use cloud based services and distributed workforces to keep costs much lower than traditional providers like A2Z. While events are still on pause, there has never been a better time to evaluate newer applications that are likely to save you more time and more money.
Automate Your Processes
In a time when many planners are barely hanging onto their jobs, you need to be thinking about one thing: how can I provide even more value to my company & clients? What can I bring to the table while I’m not planning my event that would be valuable to the company as soon as events do come back online?
Look at current software systems that your company has already purchased and think about ways you can better utilize them to save your company money. For example, maybe you currently have an old-school exhibitor sales process that usually takes 1-2 phone calls, 2-3 emails, an exhibitor sending a signed PDF, a planner inputting that data into a database and a finance person chasing an invoice. Why not keep this process for select sponsors (usually 10%), then automate the process for the other 90%. Use an online exhibitor platform like ExpoGenie to allow exhibitors to pick their booth and pay online. What used to take 1 or 2 hours per exhibitor, could now take no time at all. It’s equally as important to measure the impact this will have on the business so you can continue to justify your worth during this slow time for events. If you’re able to save 2 hours per exhibitor and you have 100 exhibitors, you’ve just saved your company more than $10K+. These small changes add up to a significant amount especially when budgets are under high scrutiny.
Find Value in Free and Already Purchased Platforms
When was the last time you actually used that MailChimp or ConstantContact account to send out an email? And when you did send it out, how was the response rate. Consider “cutting the cord” on your newsletter software and instead pushing out more content on Facebook or Instagram. These platforms are free and you are 10X-20X more likely to get a response from a direct message on Instagram than a cold email sent through MailChimp. You can also think of creative ways to use systems that you already own that will double as an email marketing platform. For example, ExpoGenie is a platform designed for exhibitors sales & fulfilment however it has built-in mass email capability very similar to MailChimp that could easily be used to run email campaigns. Look for systems that you can remove and replace with something free or systems that can double to serve multiple functions.
Virtual Site Visits:
How many times do I really need to walk the space at the same venue I’ve done an event at for the past 5 years? Site visits are expensive and the value will be harder to justify especially when many team members have already seen the space. Consider incorporating a virtual aspect so that some folks can stay home and join virtually. Use Zoom to keep a remote team engaged the entire day while only critical staff are onsite. Create a schedule so various team members are responsible for streaming while onsite.
As with everything in life, these times will pass. Live events have been around for thousands of years and will continue to thrive in a post-COVID19 world. Rather than waiting around, stressing about what might happen, now is the time to take action and prove your worth. Show your company how a leader steps up when times are tough by having the foresight to plan through this mess. Leverage your arsenal of event technology to systematize and streamline your logistics & processes to ensure that when the dust settles, your events have never run more efficiently. Stay safe and happy planning!