Hosting in-person events offers organizations the opportunity to develop relationships with prospective customers, build rapport with employees and members of your community and allow employees to network and meet new people. However, the pandemic has taught us that businesses can change course, be nimble and adapt their traditional events into virtual offerings to reap similar (and perhaps more) benefits.

Community events don’t have to be traditional, in-person events. Virtual events can help facilitate a sense of community and togetherness through broadcasting, livestream videos on social media and video and audio conferencing. They offer a cost-effective alternative and require low-entry barriers so that people can enjoy any event from the comfort of their own home. In fact, with many companies adapting to work-from-home protocols, the global virtual event market is predicted to grow at a rate of 23.2 percent between 2020 and 2027. With endless technological options to choose from, participants safely gather to support a cause or enjoy an event.

Going Online

When COVID-19 halted in-person trade shows, events and conferences, businesses were forced to develop alternative options to promote their products and keep their audiences engaged. The Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce plays an immensely important role in Iowa’s rural community of Adel, connecting community members to local businesses, keeping people informed of events and encouraging economic development in the town. Canceling their long list of successful annual events was not an option.

“Typically, we host several in-person events each year ranging from member-only networking to outdoor celebrations that bring thousands of people. When those suddenly had to stop, we really had to get creative with how we would be able to continue to support our members and promote our community,” said Deb Bengtson, president of Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce.

Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce got creative through social media and video livestreams to continue their support of Adel’s local businesses, inform the public of events and promote the community’s culture.

Ribbon Cuttings Connect the Community

Promoting new businesses is one of the Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce’s main priorities. Creating virtual events to celebrate the opening of new businesses around town allows their audience to “attend” the event from the safety of their own home.

Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce has hosted virtual ribbon cutting ceremonies to welcome new businesses to Adel, allowing the community to join the celebration. “We used virtual events as a way to continue to connect with our members and make sure they were able to network and get the information and resources they needed to succeed,” Deb reflected. Historically, attendance rates at traditional ribbon cuttings have been low, with only a couple dozen people participating. By making their two ribbon cutting ceremonies virtual events, Trilix was able to help Adel Partners Chamber reach 3,562 people on social media and accumulate 57 responses. We created event pages for each of the ceremonies and promoted them on social media. The client then used Facebook Live to share footage during the events.

Adel Takes their Beloved Traditional Events Virtual

Every year, the Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce hosts their annual Adel Sweet Corn Festival and 5K run. They wanted to keep the tradition alive but knew they couldn’t gather thousands of people together this year. “During a time when many were trying to stay home, the virtual Sweet Corn Festival alternative allowed people to get outside, get some fresh air and stay socially distanced from others while enjoying our community,” said Deb.

With the help of Trilix, they developed the Sweet Corn Scavenger Hunt event for Adel community members and families to search, scavenge and explore Adel while maintaining a safe distance from others. To participate in the event, each team was required to upload a photo of themselves and announce their team name. On the morning of the hunt, image clues of well-known community landmarks were uploaded to the event page. Each team then had three hours to find each location, snap a picture of their team at the location and upload it to the event page.

Traditionally, close to 10,000 central Iowans attend the in-person event each year. Taking things virtual allowed the Chamber to continue engaging with nearly 3,000 members of their core audience. In total, the virtual Sweet Corn Scavenger Hunt event page Trilix created and shared reached 2,917 people on social media, received 79 responses and had seven teams participate. The online event was so successful that Chamber officials plan to integrate this element into their in-person Sweet Corn Festival when it can safely resume.

In conjunction with their annual Sweet Corn Festival, the Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce 5K run also took the virtual route. Community members who wanted to participate were able to choose where they ran, when they ran and with whom they ran; the only requirement was they had to run a 5K and submit their information by the deadline. Trilix helped the Chamber create an event page so participants could access information, including how to sign up, purchase tickets and t-shirts, submit race times and find out who won. The event garnered so much attention that several local businesses donated multiple goods and services to the grand prize basket. With the 2020 Census results projected to be 5,316, the virtual Sweet Corn 5K event reached more people than in the city of Adel with a reach of 5,500 people and 205 responses. Chamber officials coordinated sign ups, prizes and information about race winners. They also gathered race images we shared on social media to recap the event.

Ceremonial Bridge Lighting Done Virtually

After seeing the great success of their previous virtual events, the Chamber was confident that the community would rally behind a virtual lighting of the Racoon River Valley Trail bridge, a local landmark along the trail. Trilix helped create an event page on social media to post progress pictures and updates and encourage the public to drive by at designated times to see the changing of the lights each week. The client held live video streams at the site, and Trilix shared some photos of the bridge submitted by area residents. Although this event was originally created as an alternative to in-person walk-throughs, the photos, videos and livestreams from this event are housed online for their followers to view, anytime and anywhere — allowing the Chamber to receive continued engagement as opposed to one-time, in-person event participation.

Virtual Events Offer Longevity

The benefits of virtual events are countless. Aside from being a more cost-effective option than an in-person event, they allow accessibility, networking, alternative learning opportunities and more. Attendance rates for virtual events can reach more people than physical events ever could, allowing more consumers to participate. Your business and audience can benefit from virtual events. While there is still great value in hosting in-person events, virtual events allow for long-term lead generation and offer accessibility to a wider audience when physical events aren’t feasible.