The COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions and new practices of the resulting lockdown have left an indelible mark on many industries, and events are no exception, whether the event occurs online, in the real world, or as a hybrid of both.

As the demand for virtual / hybrid events continues to grow, we need to consider how we define our approach by focusing on who our audience really is and then using those insights to design the results and content for our event. Recalibrating event goal scoring makes all the difference when creating participant experiences that nurture engagement, impact, legacy, and behavior change.

What that means

Since the beginning of the COVID lockdown, we’ve been switching back and forth between fully virtual connections – which cannot have physical contact with anyone outside our homes – to gradually relax the restrictions, while distancing measures have yet to be taken. Given that some sectors are still open for business (and the undeniable consequence of the pandemic in the travel and hospitality industry), creating bespoke events has to deviate from a “one size fits all” approach.

By thinking sideways about the implications of the latest government guidelines – as well as the societal impact of lines of business that are reopening versus those that are not – we can turn event planning on its head to find ways out to innovate in both physical and virtual events spaces.

looking ahead

The current period of silent reflection will be followed by a flurry of activity and concern about how to achieve results in a post-pandemic climate that is not yet fully normal. Older stakeholders in organizations turn to organizers and ask: “So what should we do and how can we do it?”

If you look at people first, it will benefit you. Take a look at the “personas” of your event attendees: the different types of people who use (or might use) your company’s services, products, and website. Identifying the personas in advance can help you better understand the experiences, behaviors, goals, and needs of your delegates. This, combined with audience segmentation, is a powerful lens for event design (see checklist elsewhere in this article).

If you’re trying to innovate with our new reality as a context, consider brainstorming methods to create new types of engagement – for example, highlighting digital content by introducing it within a few days, pre-recording set pieces, or keynotes and panels Broadcast discussions via livestream. Create a complete experience for attendees by designing events with the aim of bringing people together, including from different locations around the world.

Event checklist

1. Identify personas

The best way to locate compelling personalities is to think of real people. Consider:

  • Who they are, where they come from and what jobs they have
  • What has changed since the lockdown and how has it affected their perception – the world in general and your company?
  • What communication preferences, if any, emerged from the lockout that may affect the way you enable them before, during, and after the event
  • What are your goals?
  • What are your goals in terms of attending your event?
  • What challenges do you see – obstacles that could stand in the way of achieving these goals

2. Apply audience segmentation

Typical marketing segmentation techniques can be applied to your persona mapping. Segmentation usually falls into four main categories:

  • Demographic: age, race, gender, ethnicity, marital status, income, education, and type of employment, for example
  • Psychographic: values, desires, goals, interests and lifestyle choices
  • Behavior: Your last experience of the event and what feedback you gave, for example
  • Geographic: The range of regions and cultures of your attendees, the range of cultural / social climates you will be addressing, and the approximate percentage breakdown across your entire event population

3. Define your event results and change behavior

After carefully creating a detailed picture of who your target audience is, define your goals and messages by using the broader context of your answers to the questions in levels 1 and 2. Divide them into groups based on what you want the key findings to be.

Imagine your event has ended and notice the following:

By using these elements as an additional filter, you can create and demonstrate a logical approach to building the basics of your event plan.