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With more and more Wall Street CEOs daring to use the dreaded “R-word,” at the close of 2022, companies across the world are looking for ways to “recession-proof” their businesses. In other words, they need to reduce spend and cut budgets–– hopefully without cutting corners.

In many cases, though, trying to squeeze more out of a diminished budget can feel… pretty impossible.

Cartoon by Tom Fishburne, "The Marketoonist"

Fortunately, there is one avenue where marketing teams and human resources teams can tighten their belts without settling for less: quite the opposite, in fact.

Converting your next internal all-hands team meeting to a virtual setting* may be just the financial solution your executives are looking for.

* Mind you, we’re not talking about gutting your get-togethers by replacing them with a basic Zoom meeting. There are high-quality, interactive virtual platforms available where your employees can still have an engaging, positive experience.

1. ELIMINATE EMPLOYEE TRAVEL EXPENSES

Many organizations have pushed to preserve their town halls as mostly in-person affairs, now that the initial waves of the COVID-19 pandemic have worn down. And it’s easy to see why: meeting face-to-face and having one big special gathering as a company really can bring a team together.

But the fact remains, funding travel for every company associate is exceedingly far from a cheap process.

a. Flights

It’s easy math. Instead of flying, say, 500 employees into the same city… you may only need to transport 5 of your executive team to the broadcast location. Given the unpredictability of canceled flights and rising travel costs due to fuel pricing, cutting flights almost altogether is one of the best tactics available to recession-proof your budget.

Cartoon by Tom Fishburne, "The Marketoonist"

b. Rental Vehicles/Rideshares/Public Transportation

Similarly, you would no longer have to shuttle all your participants to and from the venue. Cutting out both this and air travel isn’t just better for your wallet, either–– it’s also the most significant way to reduce your live event’s carbon footprint.

c. Hotels

Once again, this is a simple equation. Instead of booking hundreds of rooms, now you may only need half a dozen for your panelists and presenters.

d. Meals

No need to organize catered brunches, reimburse overpriced airline meals, or arrange open-bar happy hour for hundreds of travelers! Now, sending a single DoorDash meal voucher to your employees is more of an added bonus to the virtual event experience–– but it definitely isn’t a requirement.

2. DOWNSIZE OR ELIMINATE VENUE EXPENSES

a. From a Conference Center to a Smaller Studio… Or Your Office!

Yet another major gain from going virtual is the easy reduction or redirection of your event location. Whereas a major in-person event requires some sort of large banquet hall or even a large conference center, virtual events can scale down that need drastically. You can hire a broadcast studio (which is almost definitely going to be a far smaller building), look into setting up your own company building as the host location, or even go 100% remote and have each panelist join from their own home offices.

b. No Stages, Booths, Banners, or Brochures

Without in-person attendees, there’s no need to pay for glossy color-coded maps or printed tri fold copies of the event agenda. There’s no stage that needs your branded colors framed around its borders, nor a massive opening hall where the name of this year’s latest company theme hangs overhead on a banner larger than a tractor trailer.

Cartoon by Tom Fishburne, "The Marketoonist"

If you do any printing of schedules or agendas to reference, it will probably only be done for the event’s admin team and your panelists at the studio location. But even then, that dollar amount of paper and ink probably won’t even reach into double-digits.

3. SAVED TIME

Another major factor that makes virtual events even more recession-proof than physical ones is, simply, that they’re dramatically shorter.

a. From One Week… to One Hour!

Perhaps the biggest and most dramatic change to digitizing your internal meetings is the simple act of reducing what used to be a multi-day experience into a single hour or two on just one workday.

Companies around the world learned very quickly after the 2020 pandemic that Zoom fatigue will exhaust event participants far faster than in-person interactions. In fact, attempts to recreate trade shows over several days or even several hours have shown excessive dropoff past the 60-minute mark. Even multi-hour events or courses offer regular breaks every 20-30 minutes to keep audiences’ attention, as well as honor their need to eat, stretch, and step away from their desks for at least a minute or two.

This drastic downsize may be a bummer, but it can also be a good thing: it will force you to condense your agenda into just ninety minutes or so, instead of beating around the bush in one of those infamous, “meetings that could have been emails.”

Cartoon by Tom Fishburne, "The Marketoonist"

And not only can this transformation benefit your budget… you can also harness it to improve employee morale. Consider offering your associates a simple deal: after they attend the virtual event for an hour or two, they get the rest of the day off! After all, you used to pay for their multiple days and nights of travel to your town halls. You’ll still save money by reducing that time to a single day, and your team is almost guaranteed to view these new events under an even more positive light! It’s a great way to emphasize the value of their work-life balance and emotional health.

b. Cut Out Travel Days

In addition to the actual days of an average in-person event (let’s say your big town hall runs from Monday to Wednesday), your employees would also have to take a half-day or sometimes even a full day just to get to their destination and then back home afterwards. Security checks at airports can take hours, and traffic in major cities can prevent any hopes of a speedy arrival. As a result, most “three day” events are really more like five-day events. Taking your all-hands meetings online will cut out those extra two days entirely for everyone, except perhaps your handful of panelists.

c. Eliminate Post-Travel Sick Days

COVID-19 may have been the first illness to ‘reveal’ large gatherings as a hotbed of germs, but the truth is that they’ve always been that way. Major conferences (not to mention crowded, unsanitized airplanes) have often resulted in the spread of flus, viruses, and common colds–– especially during the winter season.

For every town hall that your company holds in person, there is always a risk that some percentage of your employees will return home sicker than when they set out… and depending on the severity of that illness, that could result in their taking sick leave from the office to recover. Suddenly you’re not just paying for their three days at the all-hands meeting, plus two days of travel. You’re also paying for an extra day or two that, quite honestly, probably wouldn’t have happened if there hadn’t been any conference at all.

That’s not to say this is a good enough reason to never gather in-person. Illness is always part and parcel with going out into the world. But we’re pretty sure that both you and your employees would prefer to utilize those PTO days elsewhere.

Cartoon by Tom Fishburne, "The Marketoonist"

As frightening as converting to virtual meetings in the face of budget cuts might be, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a permanent change. In-person town halls still have their place, and their face-to-face bonding brings incredible value to companies of all sizes.

But expensive on-site all-hands meetings also don’t have to be the only option in your company toolbox.

In fact, you may find that virtual town halls are an option that you can employ on a far more frequent basis. In a corporate world where recession-proof strategies are hard to come by, this is one tactic that just might help keep your company’s internal communications on a steady track.

Cartoon by Tom Fishburne, "The Marketoonist"
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