The pandemic disrupted daily routines, stunned business operations and challenged our traditional approach to how we connect and collaborate with one another. As many companies transitioned to virtual work, event and conference organizers were forced to do the same. After initial cancellations, postponements and many trials, conference planners adapted to the digital landscape.
Now with over two years of experimenting with virtual and, more recently, hybrid (a combo of virtual and in-person) events, conferences are transitioning back to in-person experiences. While organizers work to recover in-person attendance and balance a hybrid expectation, how has the approach to conference relations changed?
The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a rapid digital shift that opened the door to new presentation tools, audiences and speakers. No longer limited by schedules and travel costs, participants and speakers have more flexibility to attend virtual events that previously would have been out of reach.
While virtual conferences may not replace the human connection experienced in person, they offer valuable opportunities for thought leaders to expand their speaking engagements and slowly build a tight connection with their key audience. If you’re looking to reach an audience in another country, consider virtual conferences that allow you to explore the territory without traveling to it.
Redefined Planning Cycles
In-person conferences have traditionally had long lead times that require several months of detailed planning and logistics. On the other hand, virtual events offer a more flexible, often shorter, timeline. With a mix of in-person, virtual and hybrid events, it’s more important than ever to maintain a connection to conference organizers leading up to and following events to explore opportunities that may not be promoted on their website.
Though the landscape may look different than it did three years ago, there is one element of conference outreach that remains the same: strategy. A well-defined strategy should always be at the forefront of your decision-making and planning. As you develop your plan and consider platforms to target, ask yourself:
- Who am I trying to reach and impact?
- How does speaking play into the larger communications strategy?
- Do I have video and a body of work (e.g. media, research, a book) to support my viability and marketability as a speaker? Should I prioritize less competitive and virtual opportunities initially to build these assets?
- What opportunities exist to network with relevant industry leaders? For virtual events, are there live chat sessions to connect with others?
Over the past few months, it’s been refreshing to hear conference organizers talk about planning for pre-pandemic audiences. But even if events never return to where they were, we shouldn’t overlook the value of conferences as part of an integrated communications plan. It’s an exciting time for speakers to build meaningful connections with audiences through this evolving landscape. Are you ready?