February '21

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rv-pro.com February 2021 • RV PRO • 69 walk-throughs or informational webinars while offering real-time Q&A and scheduling for in-person demos, according to Raithel. "People are not going to feel safe for a long time," she says. "So, we are designing these events as we normally would, but thinking through what parts will need to be virtual and what can be hybrid." For an industry trade show, this often means fewer people, including speakers and representatives, and virtual collateral instead of handouts. It also means any promos, discounts, give- aways or swag businesses provide to attract customers are often shipped to the customer's home. Designing Virtual Events As chief imaginator for The Event Nerd, J. Damany Daniel says virtual-only events are most successful when technology disappears but engages participants. As his Dallas-based organiza- tion continues to make a strong push into the virtual landscape, he is having candid conversations with clients about strategy as opposed to execution. "The technology is out there. You can easily find all the active platforms," says Daniel. "The question is: What makes one platform better than another platform? And how can you take that platform out of the box and use it to create long-term engagement?" That, says Daniel, is where an event professional can be an important partner in the planning process. An event professional can help business leaders think through their goals for a virtual event and provide the expertise and support needed to bring them through to fruition. Some key questions business leaders should consider are how they want to interact with the audience, what kinds of moments of engagement they want to create when attendees arrive, and what they want people to say or do after the event is over. "We often ask clients what their IRL (in real life) conference was like. What were the elements they loved? Then we can begin to figure out how to correlate those experiences to a virtual event space," says Daniel. Some other things RV businesses might consider when hosting virtual events have to do with the motivations of attendees. For example, for consumers, do they love giveaways from RV dealers, or are they entering with models they would like to see already in mind? For trade show participants, do they enjoy the opportunity to connect with manufacturers and distributors? Would a virtual trade show allowing the user to walk through virtual booths to give an experience or vibe work best, or a flatter experience with opportunities to conduct one-on-one video interactions with exhibitors? Back to Basics Before her clients get too far down the road of planning their events, Sarah Procopio, president of Newport Beach, Calif.- based Thrive Marketing Science, says it's important to take care of the basics first. Windish GM Corey Shaw was pleased with the results a virtual show generated for the Lakewood, Colo.-based dealership. Over a three-day Facebook Live stream in May, the Windish team generated more than 100 quality leads and closed 59 unit sales – using their cell phones to record videos and a customer service platform on its website for real-time interaction.

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