COVID-19 has a dramatic impact on the travel, tourism, and conference industries. Coupled with shelter-in-place orders, there is a dramatic increase in video meetings to support work from home. This increased adoption of video collaboration facilitates physical conferences and events moving online and become virtual events.
“One of the most important aspects of any event is to create a connection between the attendee and the brand, organization, or cause at the center of the event.“
Achieving this connection is difficult with a digital event. The Sprout Social events team’s solution was creating a physical event kit to increase the connection between attendees and the Sprout Sessions Digital 2020 virtual conference. Braud explains:
“We knew to achieve that sense of belonging and attachment to a digital event we would have to bring it to life in some way. This is where the idea of having a physical event kit came into play.”
Event Kits Help Meet Event Goals
An event kit can help virtual events meet their goals in many ways.
Create Awareness and Interest
Influencer marketing kits are commonly used in cosmetics, fashion, and other industries. People share innovative or surprising packages they receive on social media. Influencers and attendees are now sharing event kits they receive social media, which helps promote the event. Here are two examples of event kits being shared to promote virtual conferences.
I am attending an @EventGeek virtual conference tomorrow.
Today, some conference swag showed up at my door 👏👏
— Dennis Shiao (he/him) ✍️ (@dshiao) April 14, 2020
Just got a "kit" in the mail from the lovely humans at @SproutSocial ahead of a two-day virtual event. Thinking about these as experiences vs. events opens up a bunch of possibilities. How can we create tokens or touchstones that bring back the good vibes again and again? 🤔 https://t.co/3ZMOxFX4Fy
— Karri Carlson (@heykarri) May 12, 2020
One way to drive action is to create a sense of urgency. Therefore, Sprout Social limited kit availability to the first 500 registrants. This created an incentive to register early.
Increase Connection and Engagement
Create a physical connection to a virtual event to drive connection and engagement. According to Braud: “We wanted our attendees to still feel the joy of attending an event where you have your essentials with you, such as an agenda, notepad, and branded swag item. We also provided some surprise and delight moments with snacks and other treats. These packages encouraged attendees to set up their space and feel part of the experience as opposed to participating more passively by simply tuning in in the background.”
This year the WNBA draft was conducted as a virtual event. The WNBA sent event kits to the top draftees to make them feel more connected to the event. Here is one result:
In an unprecedented year, the @WNBA is innovating to make the players feel special and connected with Commissioner @CathyEngelbert This is NEXT level WELCOME package. The players also received all 12 team hats so they will be ready when they are selected! SO CREATIVE. pic.twitter.com/7kjXd9nWwY
— Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) April 17, 2020
Raffles drawings can be done throughout a virtual event to increase engagement. Drawing tickets or codes included in the kit can support contests throughout the event. You can also create surprise by including virtual reality experiences that are revealed during the event.
Event marketing shouldn’t end when the event ends. Post-event goals may include creating new customers or to get attendees back next year. Follow up an event with direct mail or a post-event package to keep the buzz going, keep your brand top-of-mind, and increase conversions.
Types of Virtual Events
Many types of events have moved online:
- Fundraiser galas
- College commencements and welcome events
- Wine tasting
Rewarding past donors with a pre-event kit provides an incentive to attend the event. A post-event thank you package helps keep donors engaged.
Now is a good time to start talking to colleges about welcome kits for late summer. This is an especially good opportunity this year as many schools have already announced that Fall term courses will be online.
Virtual wine tasting events are also becoming popular. A package of wines is shipped before the event, and a wine sommelier leads a wine tasting event. If you don’t have wineries in your area the same concept can be used by wine shops, restaurants, and grocery stores.
Physical conferences are not taking place. Conference planners are left with the choice to cancel the conference, postpone it to some undetermined date, or move the conference online. For many organizations, a virtual event is an obvious choice.
How to Build Your Conference Kit Business
Virtual conferences have much shorter planning than physical conferences, which need to be planned months, or even years, in advance. Sprout Social decided to create their event kit only four weeks before their conference start date. This presents short term opportunities for your printing business.
Tips to grow your event kit business include:
- Build a list of virtual events and reach out to the event planners. You can find events on websites like Meetup, Eventbrite, and Google searches.
- Inform the event planners how event kits can help them reach their event goals.
- Be a full solution provider for event kits.
According to Sprout Social’s Becky Braud:
“Our team spearheaded the ideation and design as well as identifying the suppliers for each of the items in the package. There are always challenges in pulling together a physical package as you want to ensure they are uniform, color schemes work together, sizing of the items included making sense for the box being used, and countless other details. We went through numerous conversations and provided detailed instructions so each box was packed correctly. While at times it can feel like a lot of back and forth, ensuring alignment makes the end result worth it.”
A commercial printing company can be a single-source supplier for virtual event kits. You can supply printed event schedules and other collateral and find promotional products that fit the event. Custom packaging represents the brand much better than a brown shipping box. You can also kit and distribute the packages. This wide range of capabilities frees up time for event planners to focus on their event.