Personal connections are sincerely lacking amid COVID-19. Aren’t we all missing the handshakes, eye contact and occasional hugs exchanged while networking at industry events?
With the persistent uncertainty in society since March, RE/MAX quickly pivoted to ensure our network would have the same exceptional experiences for the remainder of the year, despite not being face-to-face. We found creative ways to bring our network together—albeit virtually—for the annual events that our brokers and agents count on for professional growth.
Without a doubt, RE/MAX went virtual
We recently hosted our annual Broker Owner Conference (BOC) through a virtual event platform with only one goal: to ensure that this conference was unlike any stagnant Zoom call.
In addition to hosting speakers and sessions, we needed a digital platform that offered an equally dynamic and interactive experience. We needed a platform that could work with our approved suppliers and host online booths. We needed a platform that could have chat rooms and places for thoughtful discussions. We went with Intrado, a company that runs digital media experiences, so attendees could have multifaceted involvement with a networking component.
Beyond being technologically sound, the success of the virtual BOC can be attributed to the unique elements that expanded it beyond the screen. We peppered in opportunities for attendees to mingle with one another, enjoy entertainment breaks and have fun. Social events and happy hours helped strengthen the RE/MAX community from a distance – and DJ tWitch even performed a live concert from his balcony in Los Angeles while our brokers danced away.
One advantage of the virtual BOC was the increased global presence. Due to its accessibility online, we reached a wider audience from a total of 42 countries. Smaller than R4, our annual event in Las Vegas, BOC isn’t typically feasible for brokers outside of the U.S. because it only runs for two days. It was incredible to be in Colorado and see affiliates all the way in Australia joining us.
Another advantage of taking this event online was the accessibility to data. We were able to navigate attendees’ movements within the platform and track how long each person stayed in a session. Metrics showed that our sessions were visited over 10,000 times.
We know that networking truly is the key to referrals and growing one’s sphere of influence. Those who attended BOC engaged in over 2,500 private chat conversations and sparked new connections with members of the RE/MAX network thousands of miles away. With data to help us understand the habits and preferences of clients, RE/MAX can continue to tailor events to their specific needs.
Remember that hope can never be a strategy. We didn’t say, “I hope the virtual event works.” Rather, we said, “We will find the best platform and we will deliver the best experience that we can.”
The future of virtual and socially distant events
Until it’s safe again to have large in-person gatherings, companies hosting events must adapt to the varying comfort levels of their attendees.
Hybrid events, with both a live and digital component, will undoubtedly be the norm as we head into 2021.
With a hybrid event, those who feel comfortable can get the full in-person experience while practicing social distancing, and those who have health risks or live too far away can engage with the same event online. RE/MAX is already planning on hosting hybrid events with safe options for everyone in 2021.
For brokers and agents hosting their own upcoming events, virtual or in-person, there are a few factors to consider:
- Your event must be interactive. Let’s face it: applicable skills don’t come from solely being talked at.
- If you host a small-scale event online, or even just a Zoom meeting, consider sending each attendee a coupon for food delivery. If members get the opportunity to order lunch from a platform like Grubhub, then you can all enjoy an activity together. For smaller events RE/MAX has hosted recently, we’ve mailed attendees goodie bags in advance. It’s all about finding ways to deliver an unwavering customer experience.
- If you host a live event, be mindful of the most up-to-date social distancing protocols to ensure everyone feels safe.
- You are going to have to think outside the box when it comes to curating engaging activities for your network. In times of uncertainty, people seek comfort and avoid change. Instead, open your arms and embrace it—for the sake of your employees, affiliates and customers.
While virtual experiences have been instrumental in unusual times, it’s unanimously agreed that everyone is excited for the day we can get back to in-person gatherings and be inspired by the energy of an event space once again. As hybrid events become increasingly more popular, be sure that both the live and virtual components expand beyond the screen for the most enticing, engaging experience.