We are all adapting to new norms since the pandemic and one of those in the professional world are conferences and networking. As a PR practitioner, a key area for thought leadership programs focus on submitting speaking opportunities for company spokespeople at prominent and relevant industry conferences.
While these conferences have switched to virtual, many leaders are skeptical of the virtual platforms and either decreasing the amount they participant or opting out of speaking altogether. Feedback from one company president was that listeners are likely to be tuned out and not pay much attention. And since he put a lot of work and energy into his time on panels and presentations, he felt it wasn’t worth his time if its virtual. Another CEO I spoke with thought the virtual format opened up many more opportunities for a broader group of people to be present given the lower fees.
The Benefits. One way to look at it as ‘why not’? Virtual conferences, panels and roundtables can provide just one more way to reach your audience – and given the virtual nature, it is much more affordable when you take out the travel expenses. Plus, the participation alone can provide fresh content to post on your social media channels and by tagging other participants, will allow you to connect with others in your industry or potential prospects. You/your company can also benefit from promotion the conference itself is doing.
Choose Wisely. If you are amongst the group that are liking the virtual format, it might be easy to jump on the virtual train and fill up your calendar with speaking opportunities. But even if virtual, it does take time out of your busy day, so you still want to make sure it’s worth your time. Choose conferences wisely, see who the other participants are, in addition to the number and demographic of expected listeners. Ask yourself, does it align with who I want to reach? Will I have enough time to get my message across? Also, be sure the event organizers know what they are doing, are organized and have dedicated plans to promote the conference.
Consider hosting your own virtual event. While you may have never thought about organizing your own conference or event before, now given the circumstances, it might be something to consider. Hosting a virtual roundtable with other leaders in your industry to discuss trends and/or innovations in a certain sector, or providing virtual ‘mixers’ or ‘happy hours’ for networking may be a great way to bring people together and network, while promoting your company at the same time. There are many companies out there now who assist in the organization of such online events who handle the technology aspect, so you don’t have to.
While we are all adjusting to new norms differently, it is probably best to jump on the virtual event train and make the most of opportunities assuming they help you reach your audience and build your band. We may have to step out of our comfort zones a bit but boosting thought leadership during this time has never been more important.
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