Panic to Pivot – Saving Events during COVID, Alan Hanstein, Event Owl

I consider March 12, 2020, to be the day it all changed. My son and I were just getting back on the redeye from a ski trip out west. The day my favorite team, the Florida State Basketball team, was to play in the ACC tournament with a great chance of winning it all. As the team stepped on the court to warm up, the announcement was made – the entire tournament was canceled. It was the first domino in an almost endless list of events that would fall victim to the burgeoning Pandemic.

For Event Owl, the effect was felt almost immediately. It was early Spring, and many of our clients had their Annual Conferences scheduled throughout the upcoming months, including The Tallahassee Chamber. As the realization came that they would not hold a live event, our clients looked to us for solutions. We were fortunate, while we had never envisioned a need at this scale, our software-as-a-service platform – customarily used to support live events by providing information to attendees before, during, and after the event – had all the features needed to support a virtual one as well.

For many of our clients, for example, those in the Education and Healthcare sectors, moving to a full virtual event was more than just a convenience. The education and leadership they needed to deliver to their attendees were impacting real lives. Clients such as fellow Chamber members, Florida Association of School Superintends (FADSS), and the Florida Chamber were early adopters to pivot to a virtual event. These organizations quickly realized they could not only engage their attendees online, but the virtual format also provided an opportunity to potentially reach an even larger audience, including those previously unable to attend the event due to scheduling or cost. According to FADSS Director of Communications and Business Partner Engagement Diana Oropallo, “The Event Owl virtual format allowed Superintendent the opportunity to participate regardless of location or other obligations, without having to leave their district. Another positive benefit is the inclusion of district leadership teams, district staff, and school-based administrators in our FADSS training.”

By June, it was clear that the Fall events were being pushed as well. Our clients could continue to use Event Owl to deliver education and provide a valuable opportunity for their vendor partners to engage with attendees in meaningful ways. The feedback we get from many exhibitors is that they felt that lead quality was higher in the platform than in person.

Fortunately, the future looks brighter; this past January, almost a year after the Pandemic started, Tallahassee-based Florida Podiatric Medical Association held their first hybrid event. More than 400 attendees participated live in a safe manner, and hundreds more participated virtually, all using the Event Owl platform to track the CME Credit.

As an event professional with more than 40 years in the industry and thousands of events under my belt, I am incredibly optimistic about the future of live events. This Spring and Summer, we are optimistic as The Tallahassee Chamber, the Florida Society of Association Executive, and others return to live events.  There will always be a desire to gather in person when safe and able – but I think everyone agrees, and I hear it from my clients every day – that having an online virtual/hybrid option will now be part of their events moving forward. When they do, Event Owl will be with them!

Alan Hanstein is the Director of Business Development for Event Owl. He has more than 40 years of experience working in all aspects of the Event Industry with Fortune 100 clients like Google, CBS, and Activision – on Events from 100 people to 100,000. He resides in Tallahassee, Florida.