The need for interpersonal connection is natural for humans. In the words of bestselling author and marketing strategist David Meerman Scott, people crave the opportunity to be “part of a tribe of other humans.” Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited this ability.
For many companies and customers, the pandemic has tested the durability of our relationships and spotlighted our basic need for human interaction. We’ve seen weddings canceled or postponed, seminars go virtual, and routine greetings like handshakes and hugs pushed aside. All the while, we’ve had no clue when those everyday interactions — and large in-person events — will return.
That said, corporate relationships need to be nurtured now more than ever. Companies can build those relationships by hosting meaningful and interactive virtual events that strengthen and maintain professional connections now to ensure your network will return to support your business and your mission in the months and years to come.
How to Stay Connected With Customers Right Now
We can take comfort in the fact that in-person events stand somewhere on the horizon, but companies still need to explore what they can do right now to engage current and prospective customers. Here are a few short-term event suggestions that will deepen your connection with audiences in the long term.
- Virtual Networking
When hosting a virtual networking event, prioritize connection and conversation over the number of attendees. Think about the dynamics of in-person events. Participants usually break off into smaller groups to spend quality time with one another and converse, so designing virtual meetings that empower people to break out into smaller sections creates more long-lasting contacts.
Just as you would during an in-person networking event, invite a mixture of current customers, prospects, and experts to participate in a diverse agenda of sessions and discussions. Provide guests with a loose schedule in the range of 60 to 90 minutes that allows them to converse freely. It’s tempting to center the meeting around certain goals, but you must remember that you ultimately want participants to enjoy themselves.
- Hybrid Events
With hybrid events, participants have the choice to attend the meeting either in person or virtually. For example, a seminar using a hybrid format could permit a limited number of live participants while also providing a way for guests to attend virtually.
Pandemic-related restrictions vary across regions, and hybrid events balance newness with old standards. Plus, hybrids let companies increase event attendance while respecting the comfort level of different audience members.
- Drive-In Gatherings
Drive-in events present a unique option for companies that want to offer socially distanced in-person events. The scope of these events has expanded beyond movies and become an increasingly popular option for weddings, music festivals, religious services, and more. According to Eventbrite, drive-in events have increased by 1,200% since last year.
If you are interested in hosting a drive-in event for your network, remember to make safety a top priority. Mandate masks for participants who wish to meet outside of their vehicles. You might also consider prohibiting group gatherings while making sure that restrooms and common areas are cleaned thoroughly.
While it’s difficult to predict precisely when in-person events will return, corporate events can’t fall by the wayside. Maintain those meaningful interactions by incorporating nontraditional events into your outreach strategy. You’ll ultimately build an engaged and excited network that will be eager to continue connecting with you once some semblance of normalcy returns.