How to do virtual client
convening right in 2021

By Mike Antonczyk and Matt Hirschland Ph.D.

As we do this time each year, we share some observations from our work convening senior-most executives across leading professional service and B2B organizations of all types. In the wake of a most strange and taxing 2020, we offer up the following as a means to help prioritize, challenge, and shape your client and customer engagement investments for the months and year ahead.

The year 2021 is likely to see many remaining off of planes and still working from home. While the vaccine offers tremendous hope and promise, its deployment across the West will likely not see a return to normal before summer even in the most optimistic scenarios.

Accordingly, in-person events will continue to be fraught (if not outright shunned over safety and legal concerns), making continued virtual convening the go-to solution. We regularly and successfully convene groups ranging from 10 to 1,000 to great effect. Here is what we have learned and how we are delivering in the weeks and months ahead:

Don’t Let Perfect Be The Enemy of the Good
Executives tell us they deeply value connection with each other and are seeking advice right now. We see too many organizations working on crafting the perfect experience or waiting for a return to normal. As a result, they are losing valuable time and are opting for last place in line when it comes to being top-of-mind with their buyers.

Registration is the New Attendance
Especially when it comes to (LOE) Large Online Events, attrition rates can be high – upwards of 40% – the real moment of truth is the opt-in of interest obtained at registration. This is the moment that must be a beginning to a relationship. Plan for it, seize, but don’t squander it.

If It’s a Webinar – Rethink It
One-way presentations have their place, but executives tell us that they are craving a real conversation with a group of true peers. Achieve this by changing your playbook with some great thought starters, unexpected voices and perspectives, and let the group truly talk with each other.

Zoom Fatigue is Real, But…
Let’s not forget that as much as we long for getting together in person (which will come), there was very real “event fatigue” prior to the crisis. Virtual has helped dust off a powerful, cost-effective tool in our engagement toolkit that will endure long after a vaccine is widely available.

What Starts Virtually Can Easily Be Migrated
New groups that are built virtually can easily be gathered in person over time. It will be clear when it is safe to gather again in restaurants, offices, ballrooms. Building cohesive groups that share much in common is an evergreen asset; constituting them now with you at their center will pay dividends immediately and over time.

Professional service and B2B practice leaders and marketers have a profound moment of relevance now for those that choose to seize it. Those that gather clients and customers in meaningful ways – in groups large or small – are proving to be the hands-down winners. They are the beneficiaries of new and better relationships, deeper insights gathered from real-time interaction with buyers, and they have the place at the front of the line when it comes time for buying decisions.