We had physical and hybrid events on 6 continents planned, pre-work underway, a team in place and were working with the best-known names in the healthcare and financial services industries.
Plus, we had a plan to deliver even better, smarter and more feature-rich audience engagement solutions built in collaboration with some brilliant clients.
Then it happened! Covid-19. It goes without saying that the impact on our team, as on many people those reading this, changed everything. Postponements initially, then cancellations and then silence as each event, conference, congress, and meeting went into ‘lockdown’ as teams battled with the known and largely unknown consequences of the virus.
To us it was like our barn, that we had lovingly planned and built, had burned to the ground.
What on earth should we do? Furlough, hide, worry (yes, we did a bit!), panic (just a little!) or give up? In the end we took stock of what we were good at, how we were used to working as a virtual team, and how we were positive about collaborating with many clients and supportive agencies, and then though through how we would keep ourselves, our families and the business we had lovingly built safe.
Then we started reaching out. Finding out what we could do to support our agency partners and corporate clients. Trying to understand what pressures they were facing to ‘keep the lights on’ and still deliver positive business outcomes. Then we collaborated, found teams who were expert in what they do, found individuals who were specialist in delivering things that we weren’t, and then we repurposed and re-tooled and set out to be busy and positive!
It’s not ‘rocket science’ to re-engineer your business in the face of a global crisis in the events industry but you do need a great team who can be adaptable and demonstrate a bunch of skills that you may not have originally recruited them for!
We were and still are the audience engagement experts. We just did not appreciate how transferrable our skillsets were until we began to change from delivering mainly physical and hybrid events to fully virtual events.
From travelling the world physically, we are now travelling the world virtually (46 countries and counting), turning passive delegates into active participants across a broad range of virtual events, with new meeting formats, new clients and new technologies to embrace. Who does not like a fully tooled and high production value Zoom meeting with some smart plug-ins?!
We have not rushed out to buy new platforms, we have not changed our ethos of strong customer-centric support and keeping clients safe, and we haven’t lost the art of adding value to each and every event we support.
What we count as a success is that early on we did recognise that we are not experts in everything! What has been a major positive for us has been the fact that Covid-19 has given us the time and opportunity to talk with many competitors, clients and complementary agencies and teams, who have been generous with their time and support. For this we will be forever grateful.
As we start to dream of the end of lockdown, we are not quite in a financial position to fully rebuild our barn, but the good news is that we can now see the moon!
Leslie Robertson is the Founder of Open Audience, an audience engagement consultancy that specialises in making life sciences meetings more engaging with more positive, successful outcomes – whether in-person or in the virtual space. The Open Audience team helps to strategise and prepare pre- and post-meeting as well as providing real-time support and guidance during the meeting. Open Audience also offers customisable, multilingual engagement platforms that include interactive polling, surveys, and ideas exchange.
These are challenging times for everyone, and if you are struggling with adapting to running virtual events, we can help.