The director of a pharma association posted on LinkedIn that she completed the first course for her executive certificate in Innovation Strategy from Cornell. A creative director announced on Facebook that she is now a certified Virtual Event & Meeting Manager and off to create the next generation of online engagement for associations. (Learn more about this Event Leadership Institute offering here.) A client services professional who happens to be the mother of two toddlers is sitting for her CTSM exam.
The pandemic-fueled quarantine has created countless problems for everyone, but it has also created an environment where excellent content has never been more available. In addition to programs leading to a diploma or certificate, the internet is offering virtual education like never before. From university-level professional development courses on Coursera and Exhibitor Magazine’s Insight series to HubSpot’s Adapt 2020 and HubSpot Academy, not to mention courses on LinkedIn, the opportunities to learn the new skills that will be necessary when the world reopens are there for the taking. At Access, we have long aligned our company with the Certified Trade Show Marketer (CTSM) program, sponsoring activities and educational opportunities as well as encouraging and supporting our client services people to earn the certification.
We’re Starting With the Next Workforce
We’ve also connected with undergrads who want to get an edge on the job market. At Bryant University in Rhode Island, we assisted students with a global supply chain project by giving insights into the RFP process—and perhaps how to make the process more efficient. At Assumption University in Worcester, MA, we helped students explore digital marketing and how to identify viable prospects. I’m sure many of us wish that, as undergraduates, we had insights into the RFP process as well as lead nurturing; relevant education and new skills are going to be critical in the next decade. Oh, and we finished the projects via Zoom during quarantine!
What Are You Learning?
So, what are some of the new things we learned? During Joe Federbush’s Insight presentation Success Metrics for Online, Hybrid, and In-Person Events, he spoke about ROI, ROO, and ROX. ROX? Return on Experience. As we move exhibits and events forward, the focus will be on the experience. The virtual experience, the in-person experience, the hybrid merger of both. Not that many months ago, we talked about the experience we provided in the exhibit, but the scope of the experience that we need to offer has expanded. We will be reaching more people than ever since the event is available on the screen as well as in the venue. No, nothing can replace networking and peer interaction, but content delivery, like the virtual education opportunities that are ours for the taking, will be better than ever.
You Need a Seat at the Table During Production Discussions
You’ve probably noticed that virtual meetings and conferences have come a long way—and very quickly. The production is better; there is an element of storytelling; there are distinct and usually successful efforts to incorporate dynamic interaction between speakers and between speakers and participants. The best presentations last no longer than an hour. When the meeting merits more than an hour, presentations are spread throughout a day or several days. A well-produced virtual meeting has participants clambering for more.
If you are responsible for speaker preparation, you already know that your role has become much more critical. When the content is delivered virtually, speakers need to bring their A-games. They need to be convinced of the importance of appearing credible on camera. The venerable subject matter expert who is used to standing at the podium and shuffling papers as they read from them needs a heart-to-heart conversation—with you. That style doesn’t cut it anymore.
As you look into the future to assess what skills you need to move forward, you will probably see the need to understand the various platforms for virtual content and determine which will work best for your company. Once you decide, enroll in a platform-specific course to help you make the most of the medium. Major platforms offer virtual education; the field is crowded, and you can take advantage of the competitive race toward adaptation.
What Engagement Tactics Will You Use in a Post-COVID Meeting Environment?
What other new skills will you need? When we return to live meetings, many of the engagement tactics we have used in the past will no longer be acceptable. Anything with a touchscreen, for instance, or using goggles that pass from person to person without deep sanitation. Hospitality will still be around, but different. Now is the time to research what types of engagement tactics you can use to replace the old ones. Phone-based apps? Old-school theater presentations? (Don’t scoff at the idea!)Take this period not only to review what you can take from past successes but to delve more deeply into the tech realm to envision what’s possible. You’re the go-to engagement person. Got an idea? Don’t be afraid to bring it to the table; you’re not alone in searching for what will work. With a heightened skillset, your input will be more valuable than ever.
As we move into the fall and quarantine is still upon us, studies have indicated that not only do people miss business events, but businesses miss business events. Bolstering customer loyalty, engaging with potential customers, gathering competitive intelligence and actionable data in real-time give companies with a robust event program a decided edge. And savvy sales and marketing people are keenly aware of the void.
While tech has been producing some fantastic video and streaming content, surveys indicate healthcare professionals (HCPs) are experiencing apathy when it comes to sitting in front of their computers and absorbing material. Obviously, the demands of their jobs are different and influence behaviors. As we learn more about preferences, attitudes, and viewing habits, we’ll be able to tailor offerings to meet the unique character of each market. But we won’t learn about those nuances unless we’re learning.