Last week, the World Health Organization officially declared the outbreak of COVID-19  — also known as the novel coronavirus — a pandemic. The move came just days before the total number of reported cases exceeded 170,000 across 114 countries, as Italy declared a countrywide lockdown, and the US banned travel to and from Europe. 

You don’t need us to tell you that this is having an enormous impact on the events scene. Right now, your team not only faces a rise in self-quarantining but it may have to cancel large-scale events. The bottom line? You’re under increasing pressure to balance public and personal safety while continuing to achieve your lead goals. 

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to do just that. Here are seven tips to ensure your team responsibly maximizes leads and achieves its goals in the wake of a new global reality.

1. Understand the new landscape

Medical experts say it isn’t possible to define how long this pandemic will last — with some commentators adding that COVID-19 could become a permanent fixture. At the moment, the events landscape is defined by uncertainty. The best way to tackle this is to stay ahead of the curve: read the World Health Organizations’ recommendations on mass gatherings and keep up with the news. Let leads know you’re on the same page as they are; you’ll seem reckless if your team sends out emails or makes calls without addressing coronavirus-related concerns at all. And if you have canceled an event, follow up with those who would have attended  — and those who were interested  — with alternatives such as recordings or webinars (more on that below).

2. Train your team to work from home

It’s vital your event team stays safe and feels secure. If they don’t, they won’t maximize leads because they’ll be worried about their health. It’s time to train them to work from home. The easiest way to do this is to sign up for a free trial of a remote work management platform, and invest in event planning tools. You need to be clear that remote workers will be held to the same standards as they would be in the office. Advise your team that one of the best ways to approach remote work during Covid is to act like they are in an office. Tell them to eat breakfast at their usual time and to structure their day in the same way as any other workday. The good news? Data shows that telecommuters are more productive and even take shorter breaks.

3. Assess your upcoming event and practice new event etiquette

If you have an event planned, look into whether you should cancel it based on local legal requirements — and your own nous as an event marketer. Where is your event being held? Will attendees and staff come from CDC threat level 1, 2, or 3 areas? If you decide to go ahead with your event, it’s vital that all those present follow best practices such as maintaining safe distances, avoiding handshakes, and regular hand sanitization and washing. Keep in mind this can be hard to enforce. You also need to be mindful to keep up with attendees after an event. Why? They could become ill well after everything has wrapped up. It’s your responsibility to follow up and inform those who attended and the relevant authorities. 

4. Offer virtual events and webinars 

Have you canceled your event? Perhaps COVID-19 arose in the middle of your plans for the near or not-so-near future? Time to follow Google’s lead and go fully virtual. Far from being second-rate versions of in-person gatherings, virtual events are becoming ever more popular. Livestreaming alone is projected to be a $70.5 billion industry by 2021. Here’s why: Virtual events are cheaper, have high attendance rates, and allow for concrete, measurable results on ROI

With that in mind, one idea might be to livestream your event on a platform that offers moment-to-moment audience interaction. Failing that, you could record it as a webinar and send it out later — marketed as the entire event accessible via a single click. Right now, these approaches resonate with leads because many can’t attend gatherings but are still interested in the event itself. In the coming weeks, people all over the world will feel cooped up and will need to keep themselves occupied. Create a safe, unique experience using event planning tools and they’ll remember your virtual event for years. Here’s how to plan one.

5. Harness your digital presence 

As coronavirus spreads, pretty much everyone is migrating online. This means event marketers need to pivot from using events to influence audiences and instead focus on digital content. It might sound pretty basic, but make sure your website is up to date. If there was ever a time where all eyes are on every undotted i and every uncrossed t, it’s now. Does your company have an SEO-maximized blog? This is the best time to start one. It’s also a great time to include social media in any digital strategy. Even something as simple as engaging with hashtags and addressing potential lead questions directly can have a large impact. Products like Hootsuite can play a vital role in how you manage your accounts, from LinkedIn to Twitter.

6. Use email marketing and key account marketing

Now is the perfect time for email marketing. Use your databases and tailor your emails to the developing situation. Don’t focus all your messaging on the virus situation itself, but rather the headspace your leads are in. Make sure your messaging is reassuring and target it in a way so that on top of your core product, your company is associated with safety and responsibility during a trying time. Be wary of the language you’re using, too: verbs like “meet”, “mingle”, and “taste” might not be the best choices at the moment.

Key account marketing — or account-based marketing — is a strategy in which you target a key account as a market of one. This calls for hyper-focused messaging and requires in-depth research of a prospect. Has a restaurant chain pulled out of your expo? Get your team on researching how your product can help them right now.

7. Analyze results 

Here’s a shocker: Maybe that one in-person event wasn’t as important as you thought. This is the perfect time to dive into the data on your virtual events, email campaigns, key-account marketing, and digital strategies. A/B test everything and look at what comes out. Maybe that blog post was super popular and generated a ton of leads or maybe your webinar reached capacity faster than any event you’ve ever put on before. See this as both a learning curve and a teachable moment for your events team. You’ll come out of this stronger and more prepared for the digital-first landscape of the coming years. 

Here’s how Team Wrike can help

Moving all your work out into one, centralized location makes hitting your event goals easier. With projects and workflow statuses all in a single space, you can measure performance and prioritize only the most important work.