What to Do When Human-to-Human Connection is the Thing You *Can't* Do

March 11, 2020

Liz Lathan

Liz Lathan, CMP is a corporate event and experiential marketer who's obsessed with applying modern marketing principles to a segment of the marketing industry that has historically been an afterthought. The chief experience officer at Haute Companies, Liz has led event marketing strategy and teams at Fortune 500 companies and consults with small and medium businesses on how to optimize their events within their broader marketing program.

We at Haute Dokimazo tout ourselves as a human-to-human company. RSA's most recent conference theme was "The Human Element." Our entire industry is based on face-to-face, person-to-person, and human-to-human. But what happens if you Google any of those terms right now?

man wearing face mask

Yep. This. The human-to-human transmission of a coronavirus that is sweeping the globe has obliterated months — sometimes years — of event work in an instant. Huge conferences cancelled. Small hospitality events postponed. Business travel restricted. Sponsors backing out of agreements. We can argue (and are arguing) all day about whether this is necessary or just media hysteria, but the fact remains: corporate events are being wiped out for the next 60 days over health concerns.

So how does an industry that subscribes to the #huglife not just survive, but THRIVE during this? Take a page from Catalyst Ranch, one of my all-time favorite event venues in Chicago. They sent out this email on March 4:

Catalyst Ranch open for business email

This leads me to my Top 5 ways you can still create meaningful moments when you can't travel and gather and hug in person:

  1. Go local: If you can't have your big 40,000-person event anymore. Replace it with smaller, local gatherings. Bring in a Haute Dokimazo and use the local customer and prospect base for peer-to-peer sharing, networking, and problem solving, all while endearing your base to your brand. Do you know how many empty hotel conference spaces there are in your city right now? Help them out! Fill their gaps with your smaller local events! (In the Austin area? Haute Spot is here for you, too!)

  2. Mail them a hug: Remember when you used to get mail? Like real mail? Or packages that didn't have Amazon on the outside? You can bring that joy back into your customers' lives by sending thoughtful, useful direct mail packages that share snippets of the content you wanted to share in person, or drive them to a digital event to catch all of the content you were going to share at your conference. (Brag moment: Haute Rock Creative has created some EPIC direct mails!)

  3. Call people: Like on the phone. You almost forgot that's what they were originally for, didn't you? Now that people aren't having to hop on a plane to get to your event, you know they will be at home or in their office just waiting around for something more interesting to happen ... and when's the last time they got a random phone call from you asking about their dog? Just call and say hi. Ask how they are doing. Ask their opinion on the craziness. Ask about their mom. Whatever... human-to-human connection also includes voice!

  4. Text people: If you have a fear of calling people, it's okay to text them. But not a mass blast auto text. A real text! "Hey Bob! It's Liz from Haute Dokimazo! Sorry I'm not going to get to see you at SXSW since your company banned all travel, but I wanted to say hi! I'll be in NYC in June, can we meet up then?"

  5. Optimize for digital: Remember when the world thought digital events were going to kill the event industry? Never! But now is the perfect time to implement that hybrid event strategy. You can set up a streaming studio and create TV-like content for your target audience (use those empty hotel conference facilities or a cool place like Haute Spot to build out a studio!). Or you can video-conference your trainings right from your desk. You can hold local events and simulcast speakers across other locations. You can partner with movie theaters in different cities and hold your keynote session on the big screen! So many options!

I'll keep brainstorming, you keep brainstorming, and let's keep in touch, even if it's just virtually. Soon enough, we'll all be back on the plane, typing like a T-Rex from the 23rd row on our way to our next event. Good luck, event pros!

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn, and was republished with the author's permission.


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