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Virtual and pivot. Two words communications and marketing professionals across all industries have heard more this year than any other – our Franco team included. We’ve strategically helped clients adjust their marketing, communications and events throughout the pandemic. Our success stems from the integrated communications approach we weave into our client programs, which builds the communications foundation that makes pivoting seamless.

One example is successfully converting an in-person shopping event to an online shopping event for Franco client the Milford Downtown Development Authority.

The event was called Ladies Night Out – a heavily attended event that gathered hundreds of people together in Downtown Milford, and during a pandemic, the exact opposite of what we wanted. The question became: How could we create a fun, Ladies Night Out shopping event in a pandemic? We decided to turn the event from Ladies Night Out to Ladies Night In.

Here’s what we learned from the experience of turning an in-person event into a virtual event:

1. Pick the Right Platform

There are many event platforms to choose from, which can be overwhelming. To pick the best platform for your event, start by outlining your goals. Then, research the event platforms and all the features offered. Based on what you’re aiming to accomplish with your event, and your budget, you can then select a platform.

In our example with the Milford DDA, Facebook Events was the platform that made the most sense for our event goals – two-way engagement, online sales and centralizing the content.

2. Centralize Your Communications

When creating an online shopping event, it’s incredibly important to keep your audience in one place and build from your existing marketing tools. We had 17 businesses participating and needed to keep the audience and all parts of the event in one place to create a great user experience.

Facebook Events has a feature that allows people to go live into an event from their own Facebook page. At the scheduled time, each merchant went live into the Facebook event from their business page where they then conducted a live sale from their storefront. This kept all content in one place and people could easily shop with the retailers who participated in the event.

3. Keep the Traditions Alive

When you’re converting a longstanding in-person event to virtual, keep some of those same event features attendees know and love! In this case, we kept some of the same shopping elements and turned some of the traditional fun into digital questions. For example, the in-person event is full of conversation and enjoying Downtown Milford. At specific times throughout the virtual event, we posted conversation pieces for people to comment on and converse with other event attendees. It was important for us to create a human connection, even though participants couldn’t be together in person. We gave away $500 in prizes which kept people engaged, interested and online until the very end.

4. Stay Organized

Running a virtual event has many similarities to an in-person event. Once you’ve determined the event platform, don’t throw out the traditional event planning skills you put into action during an in-person event. Create a run-of-show, host a digital dry run and prep your spokespeople and speakers. Test your technology and stay online to help facilitate. It’s an interesting turn of logistics, but there’s still plenty of planning and prep work that takes place to run a successful digital event.

Nothing can compare to Ladies Night Out, but we were thrilled with the outcome of Ladies Night In. You can read more specifics about our program and the results in our case study.

In-person events were few and far between in 2020. It’s hard to say when in-person events will resume safely, but we can safely assume that virtual or hybrid events will continue to occur in some capacity moving forward. If you’re planning a virtual event soon, remember to first outline your goals, stay organized, keep it simple and have fun!

Reach out if you’d like to learn more about how the Franco team can help with virtual events (including B2B events, like webinars).

Lauren Connor is an account supervisor. Connect with her on LinkedIn.