It’s a well known fact that horses cannot walk across water.
And yet, in 1795, that’s exactly what happened to the Dutch fleet of ships moored off the coast of Holland.
The French Revolutionary Wars had been raging and the Dutch Government had decided it was in their best interests to ally themselves with France and end the hostilities with their superiorly armed neighbor. The presence of the French army camped over Winter in Amsterdam might have influenced that decision. But while the new republic wanted peace, not everyone within the government and military agreed, and it was feared that the Dutch navy might sail to England to continue to fight on their own.
In fact, at the port town of Den Helder, during a bitter cold January of that year, there were moored fourteen warships carrying 850 cannon and hundreds of fighting Dutch sailors, along with a collection of merchant ships. A sizable force, and one that both the French and Dutch leaders wanted desperately to remain loyal and under control.
Meanwhile on the coast, Jean-Charles Pichegru, general of the French Army and leader of the 8th Hussar Regiment and the Voltigeur company of the 15th Line Infantry Regiment, paced, paced, paced back and forth. He had more than enough men and calvary units to secure the region, but the fleet of ships were stretched out across the water, out of reach.
Out of reach is what it felt like when my CMO came to me in 2018 and assigned me the task of putting together a virtual event so that we could leverage some of our brilliant ambassadors to build awareness and generate leads.
I wasn’t a virtual event strategist, and had never organized a true virtual event… only some assorted live video streams and panels on Google+ Hangouts on Air over the years. Where should I even begin? How would I get folks to register, and how would I manage all of these virtual sessions?
What should my strategy actually be in order to successfully achieve my goals? Heh, what should my goals even be?
Hey there friend. I’m Mike Allton, and I’m here talking to you today because I’ve been in your shoes.
Maybe putting on a virtual event was your idea, or maybe it’s something your boss asked… or told… you to do. Either way, it’s your responsibility now, isn’t it? It’s on your shoulders to come up with a strategy, build a plan, and then execute that vision and see it through to success.
It’s a lot of work to organize a virtual event and if you’ve never done it before, the prospect can be daunting, to say the least.
Imagine the last time you drove someplace new for the first time. Maybe it was a new restaurant across town, or a road trip to a getaway weekend. What was your strategy for getting there on time?
If you’re anything like me, you looked up the address and plugged it into Google Maps in advance, to see how far away it was, didn’t you? That told you approximately how far it was, how long it would take you to drive there, and therefore what time you would need to leave, approximately, in order to arrive on time. You’d make sure you had enough gas in the car and, if it was a longer trip, you’d pack bags and snacks and everything else you needed to bring.
The logistics of organizing an event can be the same. There are steps and processes and timelines and, once you have a handle on what you want to accomplish, it’s all a matter of being organized and executing.
But there are also decisions and strategies that take place before everything I just mentioned. What made you want to go to that restaurant or on that trip in the first place? What were you hoping to get out of it? How much time would you need for the entire trip and, given what you wanted to accomplish, were there other considerations you needed to keep in mind?
If you were hoping to try a hot new restaurant across town, would you need to make reservations? Dress up? Save up? Did you look at the menu and talk it over with your significant other to make sure they, too, wanted to try it?
Strategies are the programs we run in order to achieve certain results, and in the case of our business, they’re critical.
The result you want may be brand awareness and lead generation. Hosting a virtual event is the tactic you’ll employ.
What’s the strategy?
What, specifically, are you going to do to achieve the results and outcome you’re looking for?
That, of course, is what I will be talking about throughout the episodes of this podcast. I will be diving deep into the Why behind hosting virtual events to help you think through all of the necessary considerations which will inform how you actually go about planning and organizing your next event. And the next one. And the next one.
Because if we’re being realistic, our goal here isn’t to host just one event, right? Our plan is to host a first event and gain enough success and learning from that event to be able to replicate and scale it so that we can run more and more events in the future and create a sustainable model for our business. A successful strategy that we employ again and again to achieve predictable results.
For that first event back in 2018, I cobbled together a virtual event strategy not unlike MacGyver with duct tape and a pocket knife, and was amazed at how well it turned out, despite the seeming mountain of mistakes and missteps I thought I’d made. I learned from that event, improved on it, and proceeded to host another event, and then another.
I looked for better solutions and new opportunities to succeed, just like General Pichegru saw an opportunity during a cold night, staring across the water at that seemingly unattainable outcome, capturing the fleet of ships intact.
You see, the winter was so cold that year that the waters of the Southern Sea froze. When the Hussar Regiment saw that, they charged across the ice on horseback and successfully attacked a fleet of ships. Horses… surrounding ships on water… and it worked so well, the Dutch officers and sailors caught so off guard, they immediately surrendered without so much as a single casualty. The entire fleet secured and with it, the official end to French and Dutch hostilities.
Stick with me, and I’ll help you see what opportunities you already have in front of you. I’ll help you navigate obstacles and, most importantly, we’ll figure out together what success looks like for you and the specific strategies you need to employ to achieve that outcome.
Thank you for listening to The Virtual Event Strategist podcast.
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Episode 01 is next, Virtual Event Strategy: Your Why Is Why You’re Unfocused