It is no secret that the pandemic changed the way we do things. Working-from-home and zoom meetings quickly became the new normal in 2020, and virtually all live events turned strictly virtual for quite some time.
As we head into 2023, things have changed again. Hybrid work models are now common and in-person meetups have rebounded. That means live events are also back in full force and — hopefully — they are here to stay.
The challenge now is remembering how to plan a successful live event, adapt it for a post-COVID world, and pull it off without a hitch. To aid in the effort, here are eight public relations tips to consider when planning a live event in 2023 and beyond:
1. Save the date
Selecting an event date requires some finesse, especially if you hope to draw media attendance and coverage. We recommend avoiding dates that fall:
❌ just before, after, or during a major holiday
❌ just before, after, or during an election
❌ right around the start or end of the school year
Also, try to avoid competing with established events that would appeal to the same pool of attendees and/or reporters. You don’t schedule your first live cloud computing conference to take place on the same days as AWS Re: Invent. Try to pick a date during a quiet period of time to gain attraction and interest from the reporters and journalists.
2. Relationships don’t happen overnight
Don’t wait until a couple of weeks before the event to start alerting your network about it or contacting/inviting reporters. In fact, we recommend checking in with targeted media professionals consistently to build a relationship, which makes it much easier to gauge event interest and potential availability. For both media and attendees, you’ll want to start the invite process in earnest at least two months before the event date, with periodic reminders, and supply plenty of advance notice on the anticipated schedule, venue, theme, speakers, etc. via social media and website updates. What you don’t want is a mad scramble just before showtime.
3. Getting the word out
Promoting the event through direct invites, digital ads, and social media are obviously great publicity efforts — but be sure to also consider whether your event might make for topical community news. Live events can draw interest from local newscasts, radio shows, or podcasts — which can also boost attendance. For example, we recently secured a client appearance on a local radio show to promote their upcoming live event. They were able to record several segments during that engagement, which aired on the show in the days leading up to the event.
4. Hybrid or bust
Some level of virtual convenience is now an essential component of all events — even live ones! According to LinkedIn, “75% of event marketers worldwide say they plan to continue running virtual events over the long term — and a typical event marketer plans to run more virtual events (40%) than in-person ones (34%).” The future of events involves both formats. We’ve noticed that a lot of media who can’t attend live events request virtual access or digital assets after the fact (video, webinar recordings, presentation slide decks, audio transcripts, etc.), so plan accordingly and make sure to have at least some digital material available upon request. And don’t be discouraged if you notice lower RSVP responses than you have had in previous years. Keep in mind live events are “new” again, people remain cautious, and travel budgets may still be tight to nonexistent (especially for media attendees).
5. Accommodate concerns
It is perfectly natural that people are still hesitant to attend large gatherings for fear of getting sick. If you plan on hosting a live event in the near future, accommodate your guests! We recommend ensuring good ventilation, incorporating at least one sanitizing station for guests with plenty of hand sanitizer, and having plenty of masks available for those in attendance.
6. The show must go on(line)
Streaming, live-tweeting, or similarly posting live on other social media channels during the event optimizes audience engagement. It provides those who could not attend in person the opportunity to be a part of the event and supplies a digital venue for onsite participants to share their event experiences. Livestreams also supply journalists with a means to report on your event from a distance, creating an opportunity to secure more coverage.
7. You have a run sheet right?
Take a page from the entertainment industry and use a run sheet — it is extremely helpful to have it in hand during the event. A run sheet should be prepared in advance and list expected timing, the order of activities, and detailed information (including headshots) on speakers, media attendees, special guests, and/or potential clients that will be in attendance. Relevant vendor and venue contact information should also be listed, and everyone on your event team should have a copy of the run sheet so they can engage speakers and important guests with proper context and confidence.
8. Post-event outreach
Don’t stop reaching out to attendees or the media after the live event has taken place. Recapping an event and/or sharing highlights presents an opportunity for relationship building, further conversation, securing follow-on media coverage, and generating interest in your future live events!
Thinking about hosting a live event or interested in learning more about event planning and PR best practices? Reach out to us at email@example.com.
(Image: San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and SVG Ventures CEO John Hartnett answer questions from Sterling Communications’ Kawika Holbrook at the latest THRIVE agrifood tech event.)