Month: April 2020

How Live Experiences Will Change in a Post-Pandemic World — And How You Can Prepare Now to Embrace Emerging Trends

How Live Experiences Will Change | Wellington

If ever there was a time for a functioning crystal ball, this would be it.

Here’s one thing we do know: the coronavirus pandemic will prompt permanent changes to our daily lives, both at work and at home — including how we participate in live experiences.

At Wellington, we’ve found long-running success in being proactive regardless of the circumstances. In this moment, that includes considering what changes might be ahead and how to plan for them now.

Allow us to pull back the curtain on what we predict will be the mega trends in live experiences. Good best practices are often created in reaction to times of challenge. Consider this a cheat sheet that you can use for your own planning as we collectively prepare to embrace our new normal when bringing people together.

5 Steps You Can Take Now to Prepare for the Future of Live Experiences

  1. Anticipate new or evolving attendee expectations. We’re each undergoing some degree of change as a result of the pandemic. Attendees will have questions, concerns and even obstacles that they may not have previously expressed.

    One example that we foresee? Attendees wanting to know details about event cleanliness and sanitation, including cleaning procedures, readily available safeguards including gloves and masks, and, if applicable, an on-site medical professional that can provide voluntary temperature checks and other health-related assistance.

    In response to these participant new norms, you’ll find vendors adapting, too, by offering more transparency regarding their own cleanliness procedures and adherence to relevant local, regional or national policies. Adding visible adaptations like frequent hand sanitizing stations, wiping down of all hard surfaces multiple times per day, providing more packaged meal options vs. open buffet lines, etc. If this information isn’t forthcoming from a prospective vendor partner, don’t hesitate to ask for it or, in the event of inadequate communication, find a replacement.

  2. Enable opt-in decision-making. Your attendee population has had to make some difficult decisions in recent weeks. Taking an opt-in approach to near-future live experiences can offer significant relief to attendees who may not have the resources to attend, or are facing other immediate difficulties. Giving options to attend how they feel most comfortable is in our future.

    One of the more effective ways to include both in-person and remote audiences is by introducing a hybrid virtual and live experience. Not only will remote participants still benefit from the knowledge and insights shared during the event, but you’ll also help them feel included in a time when many people are battling isolation and its related physical and mental health effects.

    To host a successful in-person and live broadcast experience, you’ll need planning and resources to deliver optimal value to both audiences. Many of the familiar experience design questions apply, including:

    • What goals do you have for your event attendees?

    • How can those goals be achieved both in person and virtually?

    • How can you minimize or circumvent some of the opportunity costs of virtual attendance vs. live attendance?

    Virtual experiences will be meshed with live experiences or be used between live experiences in the future to continue momentum. The key is to accommodate as much of your audience as possible while also helping your business or organization stay on track with its own goals. Let’s say community building is a high-priority focus, as it is for many industries. Virtual or hybrid events give you the tools to sustain relationships and community. Yet it’s at in-person events where the relationships form amid efficient and effective work. Keep your own attendee population in mind, as well as your strategic business goals, when determining when and how to plan live events and make them as accessible as possible. Virtual events will never replace live in-person convenings, but it can be a bridge during this time to provide access.

  3. Understand your audience and how they will hear your content and message. This is the time to really dial into your audience and understand how the pandemic is affecting them in their role in or relationship to your brand / organization. That way, you can structure your event content and communications to meet people wherever they are on their post-pandemic journey. Affirmation and validation are more important than ever, especially as people continue to navigate daunting challenges like isolation, financial stress, uncertainty and fear of the unknown. This is a time to look at what you are saying and how you are saying it through the lens of your audience. You don’t have to have loads of content about COVID, or mentions of it throughout but neither should it be the same content that would have been presented pre-COVID.

    It’s during this period when actions become just as, if not more important, than words. Sure, there’s comfort in reading phrases like “We’re in this together.” But going forward, it’s imperative that you show people how you’re unified and how you can support them. Content should be in-the-moment and be rooted in story sharing.That feeling of acknowledgment, of being seen and understood, will go a long way to comfort your audience in the near future, and also solidify their support for the long-term.

  4. Prepare to embrace new behaviors. Think about how air travel changed before and after 9/11. That sort of sweeping behavioral change is just as likely in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as people gladly sacrifice some degree of convenience to help protect the greater good.

    Some of the behavioral changes we anticipate include:

    • Distancing facilitated by wider seating formats and personal space bubbles

    • Voluntary temperature checks for attendees

    • Mask-wearing, both inside and outside

    • Grab-and-go packaged food options, replacing buffets

    • On-site physicians

    • Sanitizing materials on hand for attendee use

    Gatherings moving forward will joyfully embrace the new normal. These new best practices are not scary, or reminders of quarantine — they are signs of reassurance and care. Your colleagues and attendees will likely share suggestions for additional behavioral changes, so it’s important to be more receptive than ever to feedback, both in encouraging input and turning those thoughts into action.

  5. Keep attendees informed and involved. One of the most effective ways to take a lead role in modeling the new normal is with transparency. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to keep your attendees informed and in the loop. That doesn’t mean you need to send constant emails — especially with so many new virtual technologies at hand! What it does mean, however, is that you can begin to put community building in action, if you haven’t already. Give your attendees a chance to lead discussions about what changes they want to see, challenges they’re facing and how your business or organization can help. Have these discussions internally, too, to ensure that colleagues have ample opportunity to share their firsthand insight and experiences.

    As you begin to identify what your upcoming live experiences will look like, communicate these changes — and, if appropriate, why you’re making them — to your attendees. Making them feel like an integral part of the planning process leaves the sort of lasting impression that’s at the core of community building. Again, what better to demonstrate the concept of “we’re in this together” than by giving your audience the power to guide change?

We consider you a valued part of our community, so we’re ready to walk the walk. What questions or concerns do you have about the future of live experiences? What’s keeping you up at night? What can we do to help you find more solid footing amid turbulent times? Reach out to us any time. We’re always here to listen — and to help. After all, we are all in this together.

How to Strategically Replan Your 2020

How to Strategically Replan Your 2020 | Wellington

If your organization or company’s events and communications calendars have all but imploded, you’re not alone.

Conferences, trade shows, annual meetings — many are on temporary hold in conjunction with the social distancing guidelines recommended to help ease the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latter half of 2020 is likely going to look very different from what you originally envisioned. With continued uncertainty swirling, it’s difficult to make concrete plans, especially those regarding events and gatherings.

Before you completely disregard your 2020 calendar and start from scratch, try a different tack: replanning. While your strategic goals will stay relatively consistent, you might find yourself and your team working toward some new, critical priorities, like keeping your audience connected and informed about what’s happening. Having communications and sustaining connections with key audiences is more important than ever.

Gather your calendar, your goals and your strategic marketing plan. Then, follow these 5 tips to build a new approach without reinventing the wheel.

5 Tips to Replan Your Year Without Starting Over

Assess your goals.

Examine what you had planned to accomplish and work toward this year. Then, decide if those goals are still relevant or if there are additional or new priorities that you should fast-track. While there are many unknowns, the need for plans that attack what’s next remains strong.

The good news is that common goals — brand- and community-building, communications and calls to action — are no less important now. You may find that some or all of your goals are more important than ever, given the sudden and stark change in circumstances.

This updated list of goals will serve as the foundation for your strategic planning process, helping you identify what you want to accomplish so that you can now focus on how to do it.

Prioritize events and communications.

With your desired outcomes verified, revisit how you’re going to get there. Look at your existing meeting, marketing and communications plans. Is there anything you need to reprioritize to fit your updated goals?

Many organizations and companies are fast-tracking communications that detail their approach to COVID-19 and the steps they’re taking to refine their operations and pertinent event updates. By understanding your top convening and communication priorities, you can structure a timeline that helps give you confidence and consistency in a time that otherwise feels anything but. One thing to keep in mind: you need to communicate more frequently right now. Adjusting to do so is a good first step.

Look for alternatives.

This is the part of the replanning process where you can start to get creative. Let’s say that your 2020 plan includes one or more major events or meetings. Even if something is taking place later this year, it’s wise to be proactive with a plan B so that you’re not caught off-guard and can also keep your audience in the loop.

How can you still host that essential gathering within our current social distancing parameters? Can you host a virtual version now and the key in-person later? It might not be a full-fledged meeting or trade show, but you could look at the event plan, goals and audience and create a suitable alternative for the now while planning for the need for the whole later.

If your plans to host a mission-critical event or show have been derailed, this is when it’s most tempting to just throw in the towel and start over. Yet it’s worth taking a look at what you had planned and thinking through some modifications. An online event never takes the place and creates the value of an in-person event. But is there a way you can still capture the essence of the experience and what you wanted to accomplish with a virtual video conference, mobile apps and digital communications now and plan for the full value later in the year? This is an important time to maintain stability wherever you can, which will not only help your audience feel reassured and engaged; it will also help position your business or organization to hit the ground running as conditions rebound. Then be ready to have critical recentering conversations when we all come out of the current situation.

Fill in the gaps.

Now that you’ve got an updated list of goals and how you’re going to accomplish them, you may realize you have some communications and other gaps to fill. What assets and content do you need to create in the coming days and weeks to support your strategic plan? Do you need to source virtual tools or other resources to implement your modified event plan? Plug these needs into the timeline you created for your upcoming strategic, events and communication priorities, then share that information with your team to delegate tasks and stay on track.

Revisit frequently and adjust accordingly.

If there’s one thing we’re all learning this year, it’s how to deal with big and sudden changes. We likely haven’t seen the last of a departure from “business as normal.” But there will be a new normal that comes out. That’s why it’s important to be ready to pivot as needed.

If you don’t already, you might also want to take a quarterly approach to your strategic planning. That way, you’ll be well-positioned to operate under any current restrictions or guidance. And if things do significantly change again, you won’t necessarily need to overhaul your new plan for the year. Revisit your plan on a monthly basis, so that you have more time to react with minimal scrambling.

And remember this: you and your business or organization aren’t alone. So many people are dealing with the same challenges now — including all of us at Wellington. If there’s anything we can do to help you, reach out at any time. We would love to have a no-obligation strategic brainstorm with you if it will help. We’re all in this together. And we’ll get to the other side.

Over 20 Gifting Ideas for Right Now

Over 20 Gifting Ideas for Right Now | Wellington

We know the experience of gifting can do wonders: helping someone feel seen and heard, creating a sense of calm, and reminding someone they’re supported and valued. Knowing the powers of gifting is one thing, but finding the right gifts for the right people might feel overwhelming right now. That’s why we’ve put together some ideas that will resonate with a variety of recipients.

Cabin Fever Relief Gifts

If your employees, members, or clients are struggling with remaining indoors – especially if they have children who need to be entertained – focus on gifts that can take people’s minds off of their current physical space and focus it on something else:

  • Trivia games, puzzles, and board games (as an added special touch, these can be customized and branded)

  • Virtual art and music lessons

  • Subscriptions to digital libraries and museums

Looking for something even more transportive? Virtual reality headsets offer a break from the norm and can help people feel like they’ve left their home without actually going anywhere.

Working from Home Gifts

Turning a routine office item into a gift helps people feel like their everyday routine is special. While you’re making sure someone has what they need to work from home, why not elevate that need into a gift? Consider things like:

  • Well-made journals with high-quality paper

  • Elegant pens and pencils

  • Earbuds and headphones

  • A tablet and stylus

  • A designer task lamp

Video conferencing is rapidly becoming the new norm for meetings, but it can cause some people to worry about the video-readiness of their space. Help them feel less anxious by creating a custom pop-up backdrop that they can put in place during calls and store easily when not in use.

Peace of Mind Gifts

What people might need the most right now is the gift of calm. Think about things that help shift mindsets from rumination and worry to calm and hope:

  • Daily inspiration cards.

  • Succulents or an easy home-growing plant kit.

  • An essential oil diffuser with a variety of calming and uplifting oils.

  • A door hang tag or coffee mug with clever text.

  • An object whose primary function is beauty: a unique valet tray, a small vase, or a pretty photograph in a small frame.

Items that help people deal with anxiety and plan for the future can also be valued gifts. Journals, daily planners, decks of brainstorming cards, and even books can be instrumental in keeping people you care about focused on the future instead of scared by the present.

Postponed Trip Gifts

If you’ve rescheduled an event for your employees, or members, or clients, gifting can help alleviate some of the disappointment and give everyone something to look forward to. Imagine what the scheduled event would look like or feel like if you distilled it down to its essence, and use that to guide your gift selections.

If you’ve postponed a meeting or conference, create a branded box that contains on-theme items, like branded mind puzzles for entrepreneurial conference attendees. Couple this with a well-designed booklet that features profiles of each of the speakers and the “elevator pitch” of their presentation. For added delight, include a bag of gourmet coffee or special snacks.

For guests who’ve had an incentive trip postponed, create a branded package that brings the trip to them. Depending on your audience, you can be more literal (destination-themed food items, drink mixes, or crafts from local artisans), or more tongue-in-cheek, with items like inflatable pools, sun lamps, or beachwear.

Gifting doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’d like to brighten someone’s day but don’t know where to start, we can help.