Not in the room. But still front of mind

One significant impact of Coronavirus is the number of cancelled events. High profile examples include football matches in Italy being played behind closed doors and the World Bank Group/IMF Spring Meetings – which draw 10,000 government officials, businesspeople and journalists to Washington in April each year – being held as a virtual event for the first time.

Beyond the headlines, many thousands of events and gatherings are being affected as business travellers stay on the ground and workers stay at home. FTSE 100-listed Informa plc, which holds hundreds of events around the world, has seen its shares slump by over a third since January, while airlines and travel companies splutter on in full-on crisis mode.

How can organisations ensure ‘business as usual’ against this backdrop?

For more than 15 years, Bladonmore has been helping clients communicate with people who are not in the room. In many respects, technology has never made it easier to reach people. However, particularly at times like this, it’s never been more important to engage them.

If employees are working from home, you can’t hold a regular ‘Town Hall’ meeting. But you can – as we’ve done for several clients this week – get the CEO to record a video message or host an online Q&A or web-chat session.

Many alternative asset managers hold an Annual Investor Meeting to bring together investors from around the world for an update on firm and fund performance and to learn about new portfolio investments. While some events have been postponed, we’ve seen an uptick in firms opting to hold virtual meetings by recording presentations in advance or webcasting from an empty room. Of course, it’s not the same as being in the room but it’s normally better than nothing at all. And – say it quietly – some investors might even prefer the virtual experience provided it’s an effective one.

Long before Coronavirus took hold, organisations used recorded CEO video messages or shared recordings of their investor events. Rather being something that’s new, this activity – once a ‘nice to have’ or poor alternative to being in the room – becomes more important because it’s now the only means of reaching out or participating.

In many ways, our advice to clients looking for an alternative to an in-person event is largely unchanged. Understand your audience. Have a clear message or story that you want to communicate. Use content to bring your story to life and make the most of the channels and media available to you. Get feedback and improve it next time.

Our work with Airbus in 2017 is a good example of this. The company wanted to transition from a physical to a digital event to mark the release of its annual results. We helped Airbus to develop an innovative ‘panel show’ format that increased engagement with key media stakeholders while dramatically reducing costs.

Clearly, there are very good business reasons for cancelling in-person gatherings. But there are also very good business reasons for investigating alternatives and making them work for you.

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Nick McAlpine

Director, Film

Nick leads Bladonmore’s film team and produces, writes and directs films that bring our clients’ business stories to life.

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