Hosting Events During Covid – The 2020 Challenge – Part 1

Hosting Events During Covid
Part One: Should I Cancel My Event or Host It Online?

So, you are looking at hosting events during Covid.  Events mean a lot to all of us. From launching new products to connecting with fans to fundraising for nonprofits, events help bring people together, deliver vital messaging, and create memorable brand experiences.

I’m an event junkie, so when Covid-19 hit, I was holding onto tickets for a whole season of University of Nevada football, Aces baseball games, theater shows, orchestra pops concerts, two Pearl Jam shows, and a couple of fundraisers. And while some of these events have been outright canceled, others are trying to transition online.

The problem right now is that now every artist, product and nonprofit has jumped into the same pool, and there isn’t a whole lot of swimming room yet. It is very rare that an organization can just recreate an online “Zoom” version of their regular in-person event and find equal success.   Planning ahead and realizing you may have to totally recreate your event for 2020 and potentially 2021 will help create more reasonable expectations and lower potential disappointments.

The Problem with Online Events

A lot of what we do at Swizzle revolves around events. First, a large part of our business is providing clients with expertly chosen, branded merchandise for their events. Second, ever since we started Swizzle, it’s been a major goal of ours to participate in our local community. In month one of our operations we had already identified 20 nonprofits we wanted to support. And a large part of supporting nonprofits is supporting their events.

It was easy in 2019. But 2020 has been brutal for organizations used to raising their money through golf tournaments, galas and wine tastings. Now that they’re all moving online and they’re all fishing in the same pond, most events are generating far less interest — and revenue.

This made us curious. Why are so many online events failing? What can we do to throw a successful event in a way that isn’t already being copied by every other organization in town? And what does an organization have to do in order to receive acceptable returns on their time and investment? We’ll go even deeper into this topic in Part Two.  https://swizzlestory.com/successful-online-events/

Planning Your Event? Here’s What to Avoid at All Costs

If you want to move your event online, do NOT try to keep it the same as your live event. Your pricing, presentation, structure, timeline, reward system, and even the event size should all be reconsidered in light of an online experience. You want participants to feel motivated to attend, engaged during the event, and rewarded for their support and participation.

Certain event traditions aren’t going to translate to a digital experience, so cut and restructure as needed. Do whatever needs to be done to drive participation and engagement. For example, let’s say your event is typically a dinner and an auction. You sell tickets to the event to cover the cost of food, beverages and the venue. Then, the money from all of the donated items you sell is your take-home revenue. In this instance, you might want to slash your entrance fee or do away with it entirely. Otherwise, who would be willing to pay the same amount for a ticket, only to sit at home?

If you’re one of many who are wondering “Are trade shows dead?” we have to be honest. They aren’t dead per se, but if you expect to invite 3,000 people to an online event and generate the same impact and revenue you did in-person in 2019, you’re going to be disappointed.

If your event can’t be restructured, you may need to wait out the current situation entirely. Organizations like nonprofits, however, have no alternative — if they don’t host fundraising events, they won’t be able to operate.

What to Do If You Cannot Hold Your Event in 2020

So, you are still looking at hosting events during Covid? Maybe 2020 isn’t the year for you to host an event, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still make money for your organization. While bigger organizations can often survive a wave of refunds and a cut in profits, smaller organizations tend to have a harder time.

If your organization is struggling, the best thing you can do is cut straight to the chase with your supporters. Everyone knows that most businesses aren’t doing well right now, so if you want to grab attention in this climate, you’ll need to ask directly.

When you cancel your event, use messaging along the lines of: “We will not be holding our event this year. This event generates our sole annual revenue, so we would love to roll your ticket purchase over to next year’s event. In addition, we also ask that if you can donate anything, it would really be appreciated during these difficult times. However, we also understand that Covid-19 has hurt us all. If you request it, we can provide you with a full refund for your ticket.”

This type of message is honest, direct, and provides participants with options, including multiple ways to support the organization financially. When I get messages like this, I spend more on those donations than I did the event tickets. Even though I might not want to attend another event on Zoom, I do want to support the organizations I care about, and all they have to do is ask.

Do you have additional questions about hosting events during Covid? Part Two of this series will cover how to host an online event that’s actually successful. Stay tuned and don’t hesitate to contact Swizzle for advice on your organization’s next event.


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