South by Southwest (SXSW) made headlines for canceling their festival slated for 13 March, 2020. COVID-19 was still early days when the Mayor of Austin called off the event that thousands of exhibitors, speakers, performers, and more than 280,000 participants from around the world were planning to attend. An event that, with an economic impact of $355.9 million in 2019, the whole city was depending upon.
SXSW was just the first of what has been a cascade of event cancellations and postponements related to COVID-19. It’s going to take some real time for us to catch up and find a way forward. But it also means there’s never been a better time to experiment with new event formats, rethink our event goals, and do our best to put on a memorable event (even if it looks nothing like the event we first imagined).
Are you working on an event affected by COVID-19? Here’s what you need to consider about taking your event online.
WERDER LAB is the incubation program powered by Werder Bremen and our own betahausX. After five months of recruiting, WERDER LAB Pitch Day fell right at the beginning of all of this. Due to travel restrictions, only four of nine teams were able to fly in for the in-person event and we had to figure out how to take our event online with just a few days notice. The advice in this article is based around what we learned, what worked well, and what we’d do differently next time.
Assuming your event started out as a live event, the first step is figuring out what virtual event format works best. Take into consideration what you can realistically pull off with short notice and what will be the best overall experience.
Your virtual event format options are…
At present, there is a lot of stress surrounding event cancellations. People are wondering what’s been called off, what’s still happening, and whether their investment in the event is lost for good.
Communication is key here. You’ll want all of your key stakeholders to understand exactly what is happening and how their stake in your event is changing. Some of the best ways to do this are...
With a virtual event, all the energy you’d normally dedicate to in-person logistics should shift towards creating a virtual experience. There are tons of livestream and virtual event platforms to choose from depending on the complexity of your event. Some things you’ll want to keep in mind are what your event requires in terms of privacy, authentication, authorization, and customization. A few tools to look into are...
All events include some level of scheduled content. The benefit of a virtual event is that you can build more of this into the program so you have less to do on the day of your event. Some examples of this are...
One of the most valuable takeaways from events and conferences can be the networking opportunities. Taking your event online should not prohibit you from creating opportunities for participants to engage and socialize. Some of the best options we’ve seen are…
There are a lot of things you won’t need to worry about when you move your event online, but you might need reinforcement in other areas. A few things to consider are...
Once your event has wrapped up, you will have some of the heavy lifting done for you. Since everything was filmed and recorded, it should be much easier to repackage recordings.
Use this to your advantage and get more mileage out of your content after the event has finished. Leverage the videos as a lead magnet. Make your event highlights into short videos that you can use in your ad campaigns. It could even be possible to give people digital access to the full event.
And, look. All this goes to say that this is not an easy undertaking, but one that is completely possible. The bright sides of hosting a virtual event are that you’ll be effortlessly building your digital library, gaining analytics and ROI data that you wouldn't have access to for an in-person format, and finally, you’ll be in a really good place to do a virtual event again in the future.
Have you had an event impacted by COVID-19? Share how you're handling it with us on Twitter.
And if you want help getting your event online, we'd love to help you out! Get in touch with us with more information on your event format, budget, and timeline and someone from our team can help.
This year couldn’t end without us having our favourite events - the end-of-the-year holiday party and the BETAPITCH Global Finals. On the 6th of December we saw the 9 finalists of the regional BETAPITCH competitions pitching in front of our jury. Congrats to Troy from Hamburg for winning the big prize.
We finished the year at our Holiday Party celebrating anything and everything at betahaus | Neukölln together with our members, friends of friends and our favourite artists from Passiflora LIVE, Tapete and Kotoe.
Thank you for being with us in 2019. It's been a crazy big year for us and it wouldn't been possible without your support, trust and the hard work of our amazing team. Have an amazing holiday time and we'll see you again in 2020.