As we approach the end of the year, it’s hard to believe that 2020 is over. Somehow, it felt like the longest year ever—yet, gone in the blink of an eye. This year has been unlike any other in modern history and, hopefully, 2021 will look different and we’ll finally be able to move past COVID-19.
Returning to ‘business as usual’ isn't as easy as picking up where we left off, though. For most event professionals, it will mean dusting off the clipboard to face a backlog of postponed events and those already scheduled for 2021.
Now, this is most certainly a good problem—especially after a year of scarcity. However, if you want to keep up with the slew of business that lies ahead, you need to ensure that your tech is in place to accommodate the workload.
An arsenal of great digital tools isn't just helpful for your time management (and sanity), it also provides a more engaging client experience for a market that is increasingly tech-dependent. Generation Z (or 'Zoomers’ as they are known) is made up of people in their early twenties who have grown up with technology right in their pocket.
From TikTok dances to virtual conferencing, Gen Z has embraced all the possibilities that technology has to offer—and this has been particularly emphasized amidst the pandemic.
With only weeks until 2021, it’s high time to run a digital audit on your business to ensure that your tech solutions are up-to-speed and prepared to carry the weight of the work to come. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Start where you are.
This isn't an excuse to sign up for a bunch of free trials and try every new platform under the sun. Instead, it would be best if you start small and assess where your business currently stands. What technology do you already use? How does it support your business operations? Is there anything you would change about it? You might find that there are new alternatives on the market that can better serve your needs.
From there, take a step back and evaluate your current business processes. Think of everything from how you handle inquiries to the post-event wrap-up and map out each procedure's steps. When you have all of this on paper, it will help you to identify gaps in your workflow that are prime for digital enhancement. Look for the areas that take up too much time or that aren't particularly interesting—much of your day-to-day administrative tasks are excellent candidates for a tech solution.
Make your life easier.
Based on your evaluation, consider the top tasks that your life would be easier without. Do you hate posting to social media every single day? Does tracking your mileage in a spreadsheet make you want to pull out your hair? Are you over the back-and-forth of printing, signing, and scanning contracts? Would you be happier without having to remember to follow-up on invoices constantly? If you said yes to any (or all) of these questions, it's a good place to start looking for a digital solution that will save you time and energy.
Do some research and narrow your choices down into the top two or three programs you’d like to try in your business. It can help to ask your industry peers for recommendations, as many have tried their fair share of apps. Sign up for a free trial or two and spend time digging into all of the features available. Don't overwhelm yourself by signing up for too many at once; focus on a few options for one area of your business until you find the right fit before moving onto other areas.
Prioritize efficient communication.
More than ever, client communication is taking place over virtual means, removing the need for in-person meetings and even phone calls—and this was the case even before the pandemic. The market is increasingly tech-dependent, relying on smartphones for everything from the latest news to tonight’s grocery list to connecting with faraway friends.
This has led to a shift in communication habits, as clients now prefer connecting through text messages, emails, and video calls (a la Zoom or FaceTime). Evaluate your current communication procedures and determine whether they are up-to-par with client expectations. You might feel inspired to try out a messaging app like Slack with your clients, or perhaps you’re ready to create a virtual walkthrough for prospects to tour your property from home.
Consult with your partners.
Planning an event is a team effort, so it makes sense to bring your creative partners into discussions about introducing digital solutions. Set a meeting (whether in-person or virtual), grab your coffee, and start brainstorming about how you can better collaborate on shared events. What would simplify the process? How could you ensure everyone is updated in real-time? There's a good chance others in your network have tried out different apps and platforms, so seek out suggestions to find your company's best solution.
This goes for your internal team; if you have partners or staff, bring them on board to see how you can collaborate smartly. As we've learned from 2020, it's important to have the capacity to accommodate remote working. Even after the pandemic, it may still make sense to keep this element in your company to create an empowering culture that values your team's personal lives alongside their professional responsibilities.
Consider implementing a "digital watercooler" for your team to gather and discuss company updates, and even have some fun with each other. A private Facebook group or a Slack channel can be the answer to bringing people together, even when apart.
Every element of your client experience should speak to your brand and, if you aim to be fresh and modern, you need to have the technology in place to meet your target market where they are. Although we can't predict what the future holds in store, we can still do everything to prepare our businesses for whatever may come.