You probably had a lot of plans for your business for the next few months, but with the coronavirus suddenly sweeping across the world, you’ve had to put all your plans on hold. It can be dispiriting to realize that you’ve had to cancel all your appointments and put the brakes on your expansion strategy.
But even though you might not be able to go out, your business isn’t on ice. There are a number of ways that you can pivot to keep on delivering excellence to your customers during social distancing, or even under total lockdown. It’s said that creativity thrives when there are restrictions, so it’s not surprising that a number of small businesses have come up with clever online events to connect with clients and keep them engaged during the age of Corona.
Online events can cover a remarkable range of experiences, delivering value to your customers in many different ways. You might use them to keep in touch with your clients and make sure that you remain top of their mind for when the crisis ends and they can book in-person appointments again. You can even use them to create an alternative revenue stream which would be worth preserving long after COVID-19 ceases to be a threat.
Here are 10 ideas and examples of online events that will improve your connection with your clients, increase your income flow, and help your business emerge even stronger from the coronavirus.
1. Online tours
You’ve probably already seen invitations to virtually tour major international zoos, like the San Diego zoo, or world-renowned museums like the Louvre in Paris and the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. But virtual tours are also effective for smaller museums and educational centers.
For example, this small museum usually relies on spring break visitors to bring in a significant amount of its income. It just moved into a new, larger facility and was all set to reopen in time to welcome even more people during April vacation. But then Corona forced it to change its plans. The museum is fully settled into its new home, but there are no visitors coming in to walk the new rooms and learn from the exhibits.
Instead of being demotivated by their their bad luck, the museum staff turned lemons into lemonade (and managed to sound totally excited about it, too) by offering live online tours for virtual school groups and other online visitors.
Online tours aren’t just for museums. Band Sure Sure have had to cancel all their live events, so they’ve created an online tour — around their joint living quarters. Yep, you can get an exclusive virtual tour of the kitchen, bedrooms, and living room of the band, presumably along with some kind of concert, too.
They’ve really gone all-out when it comes to upselling, with lots of different extras tacked on to the basic events.
It’s a clever way to interact with clients and fans without needing anyone to leave their house.
Webinars are nothing new, but they are really coming into their own during Corona. Webinars give you a way to offer your scheduled courses, educational programs, and seminars as planned, without breaking any social distancing requirements.
For example, Hands On Approaches runs continuing education programs for occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, and other educators. When their live in-person classes had to be canceled due to Corona, they simply switched channels. Not only did they pivot their live courses into virtual classes, they also added extra webinars discussing topics that their clients were dealing with during the Coronavirus crisis.
Hands On Approaches found that their distance courses were a massive success and packed to virtual capacity. Their live webinars were offered free, and they charged for on-demand access to the recordings afterwards.
3. Virtual performances
Like webinars, online concerts have been around for a while now, but Corona is leading musicians and other performers to use them in new and unique ways. We’re not just talking about major artists shifting their live events to gated online concerts, but also smaller groups, singers, musicians, and dancers creating new virtual performances.
The Tune Supply collective is a community of musicians that was set up specifically in response to the Corona lockdown, as they make clear on their website.
Tune Supply works to connect people stuck at home with smaller artists, bringing them right into your living room to hold an intimate performance just for you and you alone.
This approach extends the reach of solo performers, who can now appear anywhere in the world.
4. Music lessons
Take advantage of the fact that your clients are stuck at home with nothing to do, and encourage them to use the time to improve their skills and discover hidden talents. It’s never too late to learn — or relearn — a musical instrument, and the internet means that you can give lessons to students who live too far away for you to teach in person.
Many music teachers have rearranged their websites and experimented with different online tools to help them give music lessons remotely. It might take a bit of trial and error to find the best video conferencing tool for your needs, but there are plenty to choose from.
5. Beauty consultations
For beauticians and makeup artists, the Coronavirus lockdown hits really hard. The good news is that there are still ways that you can use the internet to connect with your customers and deliver value.
For example, Le Beau, an Australian beauty clinic and spa, regularly offers skin care consultations by video. It’s not just a Corona special for them — located in Western Australia, they have a lot of clients who live too far away to easily make it in person. By using high quality video calls, the beauticians at Le Beau can analyze your skin, make suggestions for the best products to use, and give you advice and practical routines for improving the health and appearance of your skin.
In a similar vein, the Makeup Gourmet arranged virtual makeup lessons for clients stuck at home because of COVID-19. She teaches you techniques for applying professional-looking makeup and gives recommendations for which makeup lines to use for different effects and styles.
If you’re an author, illustrator, publisher, or running an independent bookstore, online read-aloud events can work for you. They bring in great publicity, helping to raise your reputation and brand awareness among your target customers.
It’s especially good for children’s books, since we all know that it takes a lot of work to keep children entertained through a whole day stuck at home. Parents everywhere will bless your name for this online event. Illustrator Peter H. Reynolds has been holding fairly regular live read-aloud events for each of his books during the Corona shutdown, and they’ve proved very popular.
Writer Levar Burton says that his calling is to entertain and tell stories, whether that’s in person, through the written word, or online. He sees online storytelling events as fitting perfectly into his overall business strategy.
8. Expert interviews
Everyone’s always interested to hear from people who do unusual jobs or have unexpected talents and knowledge, and that goes double when we’re all stuck at home during Corona. Prepare yourself to share your insights and experience, or find a friend with unusual expertise that people will love to learn about.
The National Geographic takes this approach, staying in touch with its young (and not so young) followers through its Explorer Classroom. The Explorer Classroom gives the stage to a different expert each day, who shares their knowledge, experience, and abilities with the entire virtual world, whether that’s how to draw flowers accurately or what it’s like to explore the rainforest canopy.
9. Tutorials and Demos
It’s frustrating to have so much to share, and be unable to share it. That’s why online tutorials and demos are such a great option, now and also when we’re not in lockdown. Whatever your line of business, you have a lot of skills and abilities that you can share with your customers, and they will be eager to learn them.
Here’s one great example: Michael Volpatt is the owner of Big Bottom Market in Guerneville, California, but right now his restaurant is empty. He’s moved his kitchen online instead, and he’s holding daily cooking classes live on Facebook, making a different meal every day.
9. Live online classes
Alongside tutorials, we have to mention the option of running online classes. It’s a particularly useful idea for personal trainers, dance coaches, yoga teachers, and other fitness instructors. It’s up to you whether you want to charge for them, or offer them for free as a way of raising awareness and getting more people hooked on your personal style.
For example, Sarah Friedlander is a yoga teacher who has moved her classes to Facebook Live. She has a weekly schedule pinned to her Facebook page, and dozens of students who are following her classes from home.
Finally, you can expand your online events into a virtual course that runs for several days or weeks. It will take you a bit longer to put your course together, but remember that you don’t have to have every lesson recorded and saved before you begin. You just need to stay one lesson ahead of the schedule.
Becoming Minimalist has a 12-week online course that guides clients to declutter and free themselves of junk that’s weighing them down. It’s a good example for any home organizers out there.
Your online course doesn’t have to be long. Hands On Approaches, who we mentioned earlier, has turned an important lab-taught course into a one day virtual course. They’ve created a “we’re all in this together” feel by letting customers know that it’s all new to them too.
With so many options, it’s clear that Corona doesn’t have to close the doors to your business. With the help of simple online tools and some creative thinking, you can also find ways to use online events to engage your clients and maintain an income during these challenging times.