This week’s episode of Peak Ace on Air was all about events. The hybrid version of SMX Munich took place last week. Meanwhile, events expert Aleksanda Panyukhina joined Bastian and Domi as a special guest to discuss the wildest year in events since… well, it’s probably been the wildest year in events ever. Aleksandra has worked in the events sector since 2014 and started at SEMrush before joining the Munich-based startup ParcelLab as Head of Events and Experiences. If you want to learn how to ace events during and after Corona, she is your go-to expert!
How did Alexandra adjust to the changes and challenges of Corona?
The events sector, alongside the hospitality and travel industries, has been one of the sectors worst affected by the pandemic and its restrictions. For Aleksandra, the coronavirus outbreak meant having to take new steps into the world of podcasts and getting to know the Top-30 best pieces of software for online events by heart. However, the change wasn’t an entirely unwelcome one, as it provided a new challenge and change of pace. Previously her work had mostly been about executing one event after another.
She also talked about a big change in the events community: that it now feels, in her opinion, like the members of the community have become closer than they were before. She explained that in the past there was a lot of competition among the different professionals. Now, in contrast, there is a 1,000-member Slack group where event experts give and receive advice and share tips with one another. This is a bit of light in a dark time; proof that a shocking experience can truly bring people together, enhancing cooperation. Hopefully this impact will remain even after the end of the pandemic.
Ways to avoid feeling like an outsider in a virtual audience
SMX Munich was a hybrid event, meaning that it was organised for both virtual and on-site audiences. Of course, strict hygiene measures were in place for those who attended in person. However, as Bastian explained, the issue with hybrid events is often that the experience is much more geared towards those who are there in person, while those who attend online mostly just watch the speeches.
Aleksandra made a good point by pointing out that a hybrid event is actually two events in one. One event is for the audience on site, while the other is for an online audience through a live stream. This means that it’s necessary to organise two different events, one for each audience, in order to give both groups a great experience. A great experience for the online audience is, after all, a little more than a functioning live stream. Bastian mentioned a great example of this: Tomorrowland, where the DJs were streamed into a virtual world, creating a complete online experience.
Virtual events are not that different from in-person events
It doesn’t really matter what you think of virtual events, as they are most likely here to stay. And why not? There are plenty of benefits. Companies can save a lot on travel and booth costs, as well as on ordering physical incentives to draw attendees in.
But, as Aleksandra stated, the basics remain the same with virtual events. You have to consider whether it makes sense to participate in a virtual event, what your company can get out of it, and more. And, as afore mentioned, it’s also still crucial that you offer everyone a great experience, be it online or in-person.
It’s also more important than ever to plan and market your event – or your participation in an event – early on. There are hundreds of virtual events and webinars on offer every week, so it’s crucial that you put a lot of thought into your promotional strategy in order to stand out.
Examples of virtual event platforms
Aleksandra gave quite a few examples of virtual event platforms for events of all sizes. We’ve included them in a list below, so all you need to do is go through them to find some great solutions for your next events!
The issue of networking at virtual events
For a lot of people, the point behind attending an event is networking (and hopefully getting some new customers in the process). However, this made harder at virtual events, where, for example, a drop-in networking session with 1,000 participants is logistically difficult – or even impossible. Aleksandra posited the possibility of small groups, with a minimum of three people, having the opportunity to access virtual rooms for networking purposes. For certain events it could also be possible for a moderator to facilitate networking among participants.
Gamification on the event platform could also be used to encourage the audience to engage with one another, and to try everything the event platform has to offer.
The best ways of promoting events
According to Aleksandra, social channels and word of mouth are two of the best ways to promote an event, or your participation in one. The main thing you can do is to be where your audience is (whether that be Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn), remain active online, and continue to build communities. As Aleksandra pointed out, an event is a one-off, but the promotion of an event needs to happen all year round. Essentially, events organisers must continuously build faith in their expertise and trust among their audience across the different available channels, so that when the time comes to promote a company’s event or their attendance in one, the audience is more open to and excited for the promotion.
A look into the future of events, podcasts and webinars
At the moment we are experiencing a real surge in webinars, podcasts and Clubhouse groups of all kinds, but as with everything in life it’s a matter of the survival of the fittest. Only the best and most interesting concepts have staying power.
Aleksandra talked about how the move online has caused events to become more integrated in digital marketing, as they’re easier to track than in-person events. One exciting new task for marketers is repurposing event content in other forms – for example, using it for blog posts, podcasts, or even webinars. Events should no longer be seen as separate entities or one-offs, but rather as working parts of your marketing machine.
In conclusion, virtual events are definitely here to stay. They enable cost savings and give organisers and attendees a wider reach than ever before. Aleksandra, however, believes that a couple of in-person events are still essential for industry experts. Meeting people and networking are the key benefits for in-person attendance, while virtual events are incredibly useful for learning about different topics.
So, that’s a wrap on our events episode! Next week is a very special episode, because we will be celebrating one year of Peak Ace on Air! This is, of course, a virtual event, but in the great company of experts spread all across the globe. See you there!