How Events Are Leveraging Creativity As They Go Virtual

From creating virtual tradeshows to turning a three-day event into a multi-week offering, event planners are getting experimental as they go virtual.

The current time requires more than a little improvisation just to keep things moving.

And sometimes, that improvisation can turn out to be something of a creative shot in the arm. In the case of their events, organizations have been willing to try lots of new things in an experimental form to help ensure that their members can benefit, even if it’s not the same thing as a person-to-person experience.

A few notable experiments have managed to stick in recent weeks. Among them:

Building a virtual expo hall. The Toy Association, which puts on two Toy Fair marketplaces annually, has taken those events virtual by putting on a series of digital “seven-day market weeks” that will help toymakers show off their wares through a number of virtual events. In a recent news release, the association noted that the structure would allow virtual attendees to browse exhibitors by category, take part in educational sessions, and take appointments with vendors—just like at any traditional tradeshow. (The group says the virtual shows will supplement, not replace, its existing events.) “Our aim is that Toy Fair Everywhere provides the industry with the much-needed opportunity to connect and engage from afar while continuing to make essential headway for their businesses to forge ahead in the current climate,” explained Marian Bossard, the association’s executive vice president of global market events. The first virtual event will take place starting July 13.

Boosting engagement with news customers. In recent years, news publishers have found success by building events businesses that help expand on their coverage. Why can’t that work online? As Digiday notes, many of these publishers, such as the Texas Tribune, have taken steps to set these events up virtually. The Tribune’s CEO, Evan Smith, noted that the nonprofit had already incorporated livestreaming elements into its approach and was expanding on those elements. “We’ve seen no disruption in revenue to this point,” Smith told the outlet. “It’s early, so I’m not foreclosing on the option for disruption, but it’s looking good.”

Stretching out the event digitally. The Brewers Association’s Craft Brewers Conference was supposed to be a three-day event in San Antonio, Texas, this month. Instead, it’s now a five-week program with offerings throughout the month—40 total seminars over five workweeks. Notably, the virtual event has been made free by the association. “Since we’re all social distancing and getting our share of screen time, CBC Online is an opportunity to invest in your education, so that when the dust finally settles, you will emerge stronger and smarter than ever before,” the conference website states. “We promise you’ll leave with some great new ideas to bring to your job.”

Developing educational opportunities, even for nonmembers. Around the country, the Girl Scouts are taking steps to help students remain active and earn badges. And if you don’t have a membership? No big deal. The Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan, for example, is offering its services to members and nonmembers alike, including by offering a virtual patch program to nonregistered scouts. “We want them to know that in the midst of all that’s going on, they can still learn and grow, and have fun at home while doing it,” said Tiffiny Griffin, the group’s vice president of programs, to The News-Herald.

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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