Event planners are gathering session topic proposals for their events to stay top-of-mind during the coronavirus lockdown.
Lockdowns and social distancing measures due to COVID-19 are creating huge uncertainty for the events world at the moment. Uncertain income and cashflow are obviously major challenges for the whole industry, but uncertainty creates particular headaches for event planners: how much planning should you do if you’re not sure if or when your event will take place?
There is a risk of doing a lot of planning work — and spending money — now, that could ultimately be wasted if the event is cancelled/postponed. On the other hand, with long lead-in times and planning cycles, there’s a risk of doing insufficient planning now and having to suddenly play catch-up when restrictions are eased.
Another emerging challenge for event organisers is how to maintain brand presence if this year’s event is cancelled or postponed until next year. Especially if their events can’t make an easy transition to online, which is particularly the case for large exhibitions, conferences and festivals.
Call for speakers as a promotional tool
One approach being used by some event planners is to use their events’ call for speakers as mini communications campaigns. They remind their audience that they’re still there, and indicate confidence that the event will take place when things get back to normal — even if the event dates ultimately change.
This doesn’t necessarily need to be a full call for papers asking for detailed proposals. You could do a multi-stage call, with a general shout-out for topic ideas first, which can then be followed up by a second round, or inviting submissions from the best ones. Indeed, doing this gives you multiple opportunities to engage your audience and maintain brand presence.
The messaging around the first call for topics might be something like: “We know there’s uncertainty about when the event will go ahead, but we are still planning for it. As part of that we’d like to invite potential speakers to suggest topics that they’d like to cover.”
Once you have some suggestions from potential speakers, you can ask them to commit to delivering something and then use that as a news story to promote the event: “John Doe will be speaking about Topic X”. Each speaker who commits (even if they ultimately can’t make the show) is an opportunity to drip feed news into your comms channels.
Preparing for the lifting of restrictions
As restrictions begin to be lifted, and your event dates are confirmed, the chances are that there will be a LOT of promotional noise as every other event (and venue, hotel, restaurant, cafe, bar, club, non-essential shop...) reopens and tries to win back customers. So you’re going to need plenty of material to push out.
At this point you can go back to your speakers and get biographies and detailed session descriptions from them. This will give you more material to push out through your comms channels and compete with the background noise.
It’s also worth noting that, if any of your speakers are professional keynote speakers who are out there on the speaking circuit, if you wait until restrictions are lifted before trying to book them, you risk doing so in a much more competitive environment, as all the other postponed events try to book the same speakers. Doing it ahead of time - even provisionally - secures some degree of commitment from them. This will make it harder for them to then say no to you, even if they get a better offer later.
Lineup Ninja provides software that helps event planners automate many routine tasks involved in organising their event's speaker lineup. This saves them time, money and reduces the risk of embarrassing mistakes.