resources / August 22, 2022

The Event Professional’s 5-Step Guide to Return to Live

It’s January 2021 — hooray, we made it! 2020 was a tough year for all, and to all of our dismay, the COVID pandemic is still raging…  BUT, we refuse to start the new year on a negative note and have channeled all of our positive thoughts into our Return to Live Guide that’ll get you raring to go in the new year. Although live events are still on hold, there’s so much you can be doing to make a big impact NOW, and your live event comeback better than ever! Our MSM experts in all things events (live and virtual) break it down for you into a manageable 5-step action plan. Ready to get started?

Program Evaluation

1) Evaluate

Often times as event professionals, we move from one event to the next without having time to evaluate what’s working, and what isn’t. YOU FINALLY HAVE THE TIME!

Take a hard look at your program to determine what was a worthwhile spend of resources and budget dollars. Star and strike-through each event to begin redefining your action plan.

Questions to get you started:

    • What have you historically sponsored, hosted, or attended?
    • What was the budget?
    • What goals did you set?
    • Were they met, or exceeded?
    • Are there industries you had particular success with?
    • Are there other opportunities to get in front of those audiences?

Now is the time to re-evaluate, and implement changes that will make big impact in the success of your event marketing program.

Asset Management

2) Manage

Having a full event and trade show program leads to LOTS of properties piling up in your exhibit partners warehouse. When was the last time you did a full inventory review? You may have outdated graphics and properties that are just collecting dust and their disposal could save your company big budget dollars over the long run.

Things you and your event partner should be thinking about:

    • When did you last request an inventory report? Is it up-to-date?
    • Do you have a good idea of how/when your assets were last used?
    • Are there items not being used that could be repurposed or modified to get more use?
    • Could any be upgraded for easier shipping, lighter drayage, etc.?
    • Lastly, clean house! Get rid of anything that isn’t making the cut through either donation or disposal.

Now is the best time to take a hard look at your tradeshow and event properties to make sure the return to live process is smooth and efficient!

Impactful Enhancement3) Enhance

There’s no time like the present to make some enhancements to your event program assets so they work harder for you when live events return. Some things you and your event partner can be working on together:

Think modular: when live events return, they may look different than we remember. Having exhibit assets at the ready that are adjustable and modular will help your team adapt quickly and efficiently for whatever event marketing opportunities lay ahead (at a social distance).

Add flexibility: Focus on higher level branding and aesthetics in the design of new assets, leaving opportunities to incorporate specific audience messaging at a later date.

When in doubt, go digital: As we like to say, Bytes are more flexible than Blocks! Working on digital assets, whether video or interactive, not only helps out with customer engagement in the short term, but also gives you assets that can be more easily updated and repurposed when returning to live.

Virtual Experiences4) Go Virtual

Most industry experts anticipate that large in-person events won’t make a comeback until the 3rd quarter of 2021 at the earliest. When they do, we’re going to see significantly reduced in-person attendees, with a large portion opting to attend remotely. So, if you haven’t already developed a strategy around virtual engagement and how you’ll show up differently for 2021 virtual conferences, you may be behind the eight ball.

Now is the time to engage a virtual experience partner, better yet, a partner who can do both (live + virtual!) to get you set-up with an engagement strategy that goes beyond webinars, beyond the basic virtual sponsorship listing, and beyond zoom calls.

Attendees crave connection and entertainment and it is up to your brand to capture their attention through fresh new experiences that they will continue talking about! Virtual event platforms that are focused on the  experience first, and give you flexibility in how you bring your brand story to life, like MSM’s virtual event solution LiVi (where live meets virtual), is the best way to stand apart from the digital crowd.

Integrated Events5) Integrate

Even when we can return to a mask-less future and do business with handshakes, virtual will have a permanent place and need to work hand in hand with your in person experiences. The reach and flexibility a virtual presence affords is unparalleled.

So, don’t put all your eggs into the in-person event basket, as you’re budget planning and strategizing for your 2021 event program. The trick is going to be creating an integrated experience that gives both your attendees on show floor and your attendees in their home office a consistent, engaging, and effective experience with your brand.

Don’t fret about this blowing your budget though, because when you consider the fact that a good portion of event attendees will now be attending remotely, you can scale back your in person experience to realign budget dollars towards building your virtual presence. This will be the key to success!

So what can you do now? Try and find a partner who can support BOTH virtual and in person events! (😏) This will streamline your workflows, create a uniformed experience, and take the heavy lifting off of your marketing team. Don’t worry, you got this!

We know live events will look vastly different from what we’re used to, but with change comes the opportunity to innovate. Now is your opportunity to do so – the world is your oyster – and we’re here to help! Our event professionals would love to speak with you about your event goals and help you make 2021 your BEST. YEAR. YET.

March 2021 Update: Check out MSM’s GUIDE2LIVE for a comprehensive resource for planning a safe and effective live event this year. We’ve compiled the latest industry insights and best practices to give you all the tools you’ll need for a successful return to live.