Coronavirus is accelerating the shift to digital content. Now is the time for events to step up and adapt.

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The current coronavirus pandemic is causing serious disruption for event organisers, with most industry events now facing an uncertain future. But digital content can help them to regain control and deliver useful and entertaining audience experiences.

The majority of industry events face cancellation following worldwide health advice. And for those events that haven’t been cancelled, flights and travel options have. Fortunately, digital technology is helping soften the blow by providing alternative ways to engage delegates during the international lockdown.

Informa, the world’s biggest B2B event organisers, have cancelled 130 events. Whilst Predict HQ have seen a 500% increase in cancellations and estimate that businesses will lose $500m from the current crisis. To mitigate against these financial losses and missed opportunities, event organisers and marketing teams now face the challenge of pivoting to online touchpoints to meet their brand and lead generation objectives.

Whilst this requires agility and imagination, businesses that do invest energy in digital engagement now stand to gain a significant competitive advantage over those that don’t. And, with Forrester Research reporting that event spend could account for as much as 40% of marketing budgets, cancellations could free up financial resources to enable this increased investment in digital.

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If you want to reboot your physical events as online experiences instead, the key is to strike a balance between providing delegates with access to the information and opportunities that physical events would normally provide and minimising the losses from the current event-averse climate.

One example is IBM Think 2020 event which has shifted to become a global, digital-first event. Promising an exciting combination of live streamed content, interactive sessions and certifications, and locally hosted events. Similarly, Domo’s flagship event, Domopalooza, is moving from an in-person event for 3,000 people to a 100% digital event.

How can event organisers create an engaging experience online?

Whether you’re ready to go fully digital and on-demand, or just want to supplement your future physical events with online access, you need the right technology and a solid content strategy that enables you to stay true to the original aims of the event. This could be lead generation, building awareness or authority, advertising revenue, or a mix of them all.

A content strategy with the technology to deliver

To host video content online, event organisers need the ability to store, publish, search and monetise video efficiently. Imagen’s intuitive video platform provides a valuable solution to create great online experiences to delight your audience.

Here are some of the key elements to consider:

  • Live streaming to online audiences

Providing a live video stream is a key substitute for physical event agendas as it enables event organisers to maintain a schedule and encourage a community of people to watch and engage at the same time. These will most likely be presentations, product launches, interviews or award ceremonies. Whether you have access to formal recording equipment or just a laptop or smartphone, you can share high quality material around the world instantaneously.

Hosting streams in Imagen ensures that the live recording is filed for on-demand access once it completes. It is then incredibly quick and easy to make short clips and post them to social media all within the platform.

  • On demand video with smarts

Creating a public-facing video website that is fully branded to match your visual identity, provides an online event space for attendees and wider audiences to converge and consume content. Now you can share product launches and demonstrations, behind the scenes content, and interviews, all in one place that you completely control.

Visitors can find, browse and watch video content online quickly and easily using Imagen’s intuitive platform that fully immerses them in your brand experience. Video analytics tools give you key insights into user and content activity to help inform future content creation and sharing.

  • Revenue generation built-in

Cancelled events don’t have to mean missed opportunities to generate revenue. Imagen allows events to tailor how their audience accesses content. You may choose to make all online content freely available or provide some content that is protected by a login or paywall.

Monetising content can provide a great way for event teams to generate new revenue. Imagen lets you easily manage and customise a range of business models from within the platform, such as:

  • Individual content purchases
  • Subscriptions to specific content
  • Monthly or annual subscriptions

Additionally, the platform can include sponsor logos and host adverts for an additional source of income as the international reach of video makes it an attractive opportunity for businesses.

  • Easy media management and sharing

For event teams that aren’t used to creating and sharing video at scale, Imagen’s key features make it easy to store, share and find content quickly so you can make the most of content:

  • tag media assets with relevant metadata and keywords
  • browse and search content within the system
  • clip and publish content easily

Are online events the future?

Looking ahead to the post-corona landscape, some experts predict that the current shift to online events could lead to a longer term move away from physical events in favour of digital engagement. By turning a one-off event that’s only accessible to attendees, into an ongoing online experience accessible to anyone, event organisers could provide a viable and attractive alternative to physical events.

There are 3 key reasons why it is advantageous to offer online access to events. Beyond the obvious current crisis, the signs have been pointing towards digital for some time.

  1. Enhanced access

Providing digital access to your events enables engagement for people who can benefit from your offer but don’t have the capacity or appetite to travel. The increasing focus on efficiency at work leaves less time for busy executives to attend industry events, and the consumer and business world are both increasingly accustomed to online learning and networking.

Online access opens up new international markets for your event, especially since the falling cost of communication technology makes high-speed internet accessible to more of the world.

  1. Longevity

Digital events activity can live long beyond the lifespan of your physical event. By providing access to event recordings and assets online, you can share content that continues to drive engagement and brand awareness all year round.

Furthermore, the opportunity for subscription and paid access to content creates a potential evergreen income stream.

  1. Environmental concerns

The public are increasingly conscious about the environmental impact of both travel and business activity, so conferences have become a target for criticism.

Providing online access to previously in-person-only activity can provide alternative opportunities to participate, reducing your event’s carbon footprint whilst also extending your reach. Add in the boost to your eco-credentials and it is a winner all-round.

All these benefits combine to deliver higher ROI, a larger audience and an enhanced reputation for innovation and CSR.

The show must go on(line)

Now is the time for event teams to embrace online content opportunities to continue to reach their audience during this global crisis, to extend the lifecycle of future events and to generate new revenue streams. Thankfully, platforms like Imagen could have you set up in no time and can make the shift much easier than you might think.

In addition, during the Coronavirus outbreak, Imagen is offering discounted solutions to help event organisers deliver content to their audience online. Find out more and get in touch here.

For more tips on upgrading your content strategy now and beyond this crisis, download the Event Manager’s Guide to Exploiting Demand for Video.

Adam is the co-founder and editor of www.eventindustrynews.com Adam, a technology evangelist also organises Event Tech Live, Europe’s only show dedicated to event technology and the Event Technology Awards. Both events take place in November, London.