‘Communicate, engage, motivate, reward’ to boost confidence, says Juliet Price

Juliet Price, consultant executive director at the HBAA  explains why an event isn’t just for Christmas, but ongoing engagement continues to be a priority regardless of the delivery.

Throughout this pandemic and beyond, businesses must continue to communicate, engage, motivate, reward and thank their team and customers, and boost confidence and morale all round.

Our people really are our biggest assets and, after such a tumultuous and transformational year, the Christmas season this year is not like any other; no traditional in-person end of year parties and celebrations. Instead, many virtual Christmas events are taking place. There has been a huge demand for this activity in 2020, as we draw a line under this year and get together.

Juliet Price

However, events are not just for Christmas either. The New Year naturally presents an opportunity for business kick-offs or strategy re-launch events with the objective of re-focusing, re-connecting and re-invigorating team members, as well as outlining expectations for the year ahead. With so many workforces still fragmented by work-from-home policies, businesses simply cannot afford not to communicate with their teams effectively. That hard-won company culture must be kept alive and embraced. If you are not investing in your teams and helping them to see you are fighting to be future fit on the other side of this pandemic, and value their contribution and commitment, you may lose them.

While event planners wait to hold large-scale physical events again, corporates must not miss opportunities to grow and connect with their communities and must embrace virtual event solutions and strategies if they are to survive and thrive.

An important first step is to pinpoint the purpose and objectives of your event and reimagine how this may translate for an online experience – simply replicating an in-person event in a virtual environment will not work. Beckie Towle, HBAA marketing chair and founder of agency The Events Raccoon, advises: “Don’t let your vision be dampened by the thought of a virtual event – most things can be achieved if you think outside the box. Whatever you’re looking to achieve from your event, everyone should be inspired, engaged and feel a sense of belonging. The purpose of the gathering should leave a lasting impression on your delegates, too.”

Other members from the HBAA community recommend using professional hosts with experience of live TV presenting for virtual events or a notable guest speaker who can act as an icebreaker. Compelling content is key to audience engagement, which can be enhanced with gamification, quizzes, live chat, polls and Q&A sessions. Bespoke 3D virtual environments, augmented reality, holograms, virtual projection mapping can help to deepen engagement and create wow-moments, memorability and talkability, too.

Many venues throughout the industry have pioneered new virtual and hybrid offerings this year, including luxury conference hotel, The Belfry Hotel & Resort. Katie Niland, sales director of The Belfry, says: “Virtual meetings have played an important role during the pandemic to enable everyone to stay connected and this will continue even as physical meetings and events start up again. To help our clients navigate this new virtual world, we have developed new hybrid event options to enable organisations to connect live with audiences across the globe through video, voice, virtual content sharing and through a high-quality filming and production service.

“These platforms ensure conferences, meetings, corporate events, product launches and award ceremonies can take place safely in line with government guidelines. It is also a cost-effective way to communicate and connect with a larger audience. However, we know that many people, including our clients, are missing face-to-face contact and still want to arrange meetings, events, and conferences in person but virtual events offer a great alternative when this isn’t possible.”

Many event agencies have developed virtual and hybrid event platforms and packages this year, too. One example is Conference Care. Founder Chris Peacock explains: “Developing our virtual and hybrid solutions has helped to ensure that we keep in front of our customers, to provide deeper engagement and team inclusiveness. More than ever this year, getting your employees together and enabling your team to connect in a social environment will lift spirits and help to build and maintain strong working relationships.”

Fun virtual event ideas include a festive chef cook-a-long with a Michelin star chef, an escape room or murder mystery activity, quizzes with celebrity quiz masters, musical bingo, a cocktail masterclass or a charity build initiative. Inject some excitement with a musical performance or boost attendees’ wellbeing with a workout break. To build engagement pre-event, or even during, surprise and delight delegates with a bespoke goodies package or gift direct to their door.

Of course, these ideas are just a starting point. Event planners are masters of creativity and engagement and should not shy away from experimenting with new ideas and new methods of delivery and until full scale live events can start once more, creatively designed and staged hybrid and virtual events are the essential alternative. Ultimately, the companies capable of powering on through 2021 and beyond will be those who connect and harness the power of their communities today.