There’s no two ways about it: this is a scary time for everyone.
Freelancers, entrepreneurs and SMEs are some of the worst hit professionally, as the uncertainty of the future looms over our work. As a business planning a huge, flagship event, the effects have drastically changed our plans for the year, but we’ve seen some real positives in keeping our audience engaged and working with other SMEs to try and keep everything in place to host the event when we can. This is such a turbulent time for everyone that I think businesses are being very generous and understanding that so much is out of control right now.
So, if you’re looking for help on what to do if your event has been affected by Covid-19, here are some tips we’ve learned so far.
Communication is the first commandment
During these uncertain times, customers are wanting to see the humanity of companies – and the people behind it – so don’t shy away from showing your brand’s personality and voice. Obviously, if you were planning an event for your business as I was, these are the kind of things you’d probably look to communicate, so it’s important to make sure any communication feels in line with your previous messaging and approach.
For us, our audience shapes everything we do. I’ve been getting them involved in my podcast by opening up the floor (via Twitter) to questions for the experts I’m interviewing every week. I allow 10 minutes at the end of every episode for questions from our followers on Twitter. It’s been a great way of allowing your audience into the creative process of creating something and makes the end product feel more useful and practical.
Navigating your social content during a crisis
Something that almost all business owners and freelancers won’t have prepared for – so how do you get it right?
Increased transparency is key
Consumers want to interact with brands that are authentic, honest and, to some extent, vulnerable about the challenges they face – so if your business is going through difficulty, if you really need the support of your customers or want to get feedback on a brand pivot, this is the time.
Likewise if you’re facing logistical difficulties, such as longer delivery times or problems with suppliers, then be upfront with your audience. It’s better to confront the challenges than disappoint them further down the line, especially when they’ve already spent money.
When we had to postpone our flagship festival of female empowerment, #SheStartedIt LIVE, the only way forward was to be honest and straight with our audience and engage with them on a human level about the challenges we were facing as a small business to put the event on. If you treat your audience with kindness, you’ll be amazed how compassionate they will be back.
"I’ve found a lot of comfort in joining business-focused webinars with other entrepreneurs, joining support groups on Facebook and even doing Zoom ‘speed networking’."
Our event partners were also very understanding. We managed to postpone the venue until October with no additional charges, and for the most part our suppliers were happy to wait until them, although we have paid some smaller businesses involved an advance fee. We made sure to offer our audience refunds but asked them kindly if they’d support us as a small business by holding on to their ticket until October.
Pivot online – but don’t rush it!
The temptation right now is to turn everything online, but I’d ask you to take a pause before you do that. Be careful not to rush into organising online events, and really question the worth before launching anything – ask yourself, is some of the value of this event the face-to-face connections? Does this make financial sense for you?
One of the reasons I’ve decided against taking our festival online for now is that I believe so strongly in the power of person-to-person connections in real life, and the chance to network, talk and share together. Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, you have to sit with discomfort – including NOT doing the things you want to or running with projects – and accepting that not everything is within your control. For now, we’re sitting tight and watching how things develop before looking at our events schedule for 2020. Sometimes you have to accept that you can’t plan everything, and the health of the nation comes first!
Find new ways to connect
One of the best things to come out of this situation is the increased opportunity to connect with others in new and unexpected ways.
I’ve found a lot of comfort in joining business-focused webinars with other entrepreneurs, joining support groups on Facebook and even doing Zoom ‘speed networking’. Eventbrite is a great place to start if you’re looking for new ways to network online, and have a look at Enterprise Nation, who have some great free online events and talks.
So much of this situation is our perspective on it – there’s still lots happening in the business world, and it’s a great time to be looking at your brand proposition, giving your website a freshen up or building a social media strategy. There’s more time now to be working ‘on’ your business, rather than ‘in’ it, so use this time as an opportunity to build more of a brand presence online, which will only benefit you in the future.
Helping sole traders
Asto can help you manage your business admin when you’re on the move. Send invoices, record your expenses and get paid sooner.