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10 emotions of Thanksgiving Week (Brought to You by Will Ferrell)

10 emotions of Thanksgiving Week (Brought to You by Will Ferrell) 150 150 Alicia East

Once a year, a holiday that calls to mind all we have to be grateful for rolls around. And every year, we think of you–the clients and customers who make our work possible. We also think of pie. This year, we’re sharing 10 emotions of Thanksgiving week (with a little help from Will Ferrell gifs).

10 emotions of Thanksgiving Week

Glee

On Monday, with a short workweek ahead and the comforting knowledge that nobody’s calling a meeting on Wednesday.

Panic

On Tuesday, when we realize that if the year keeps going at this speed, 2023 is basically tomorrow.

Anticipation

As we strategize our meal–knowing we need to leave room for Aunt Ida’s corn soufflé and Grandma’s cookies with the “secret” ingredient (everybody knows it’s almond extract).

Overwhelm

When we try to decide which treats to bake, consume, or skip altogether.

Awkwardness

When the conversation inevitably turns to politics and we have to decide whether to body slam Aunt Ida or hand her a drink and gracefully change the subject.

Regret

When we eat the first, middle, and last pieces of pumpkin pie and then opt to plop down in front of the football game.

Relief

Did someone say stretchy pants?

Tired

When you’ve baked and stirred and whisked everything under the sun and you still have a dozen dishes to go.

Gratitude

For family, friends, and love (hopefully).

Joy

When it’s finally Thursday and for the first time all year, nobody’s in a hurry.

 

It’s That Time Again: Gift Guide For Everyone From The Minimalist to The Techie in Your Life

It’s That Time Again: Gift Guide For Everyone From The Minimalist to The Techie in Your Life 2560 1707 Alicia East

The holidays are upon us and so are the sales. You’ll find tech, entertainment, gadgets and experiences for everyone from those who are averse to letting new items cross the threshold of their home to your tech savvy loved ones. Here’s our curated list for just about everyone in your life—from the tech junkies to the minimalists (and maybe even for yourself)!

For When Your Loved One is Ready to Toast to a New Year

Get a wine / beer / liquor subscription or a home-brewing hard cider, beer, or wine kit if they’re extra adventurous.

For Your Family

Have some fun together.

For The Crunchy Folks

This Wellness Mama list is for the granola-bar making mamas looking for an environmentally friendly/healthy option for everyone from their kids to the grandparents.

For The Tech Enthusiast

45 of the best tech gifts for the gamers, gear junkies, and media fans in your life.

For The Minimalist

Minimalists don’t want things…at least not things they didn’t thoughtfully consider before allowing into their lives. So for people who want nothing, you’re better off either getting something very personal or sticking with experiences. Yep, it’s harder to think of ideas for that than just to grab a mug with the person’s initial on it at Target, but this list of ideas will help.

For The Travel Lover

This might be the perfect time to buy something for travelers itching to get back out to see the planet. This list sticks to gift cards because, while those living on the edge might be ready to book a nonrefundable option, most people will probably still feel a little safer with flexible options.

Bottom Line

It may seem early to start thinking about

Fines, Jail Time, & Reputation Damage: The 👻, 👿, and 🧟‍♂️ of Misclassifying Workers

Fines, Jail Time, & Reputation Damage: The 👻, 👿, and 🧟‍♂️ of Misclassifying Workers 2560 1707 Alicia East

If you engage a contingent workforce and would rather avoid fines, jail time, and damage to your reputation, this post is for you. This month, the Biden Administration rolled out a proposal that would make it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors. From the beginning, the administration has had its sights set on misclassification and this proposal makes it clear that it remains a top priority. While worker classification is important at all times, this kind of news makes it that much more important for companies to pay attention because violators can expect to be subject to strict penalties.

Fine, Jail Time, & Negative Press

Big companies like Uber make headlines for their missteps and pay equally big fines. Still, it can be a costly mistake to think it’s only the big companies that face consequences. By rescinding the Trump Administration’s “Worker Classification Rule,” the Biden administration made it easier for workers to argue for minimum wage and overtime protections/compensation. In addition to having to pay back 100% of the matching FICA taxes they would have paid had they classified the worker correctly up front, employers can end up subject to additional penalties such as the following:

  • $50 fine for each W-2 form they failed to file
  • A penalty equal to 1.5% of the employee’s wages 
  • $5,000 penalty for the first misclassified employee and up to $25,000 for each subsequent violation

Suffice to say, misclassifying workers does not save money in the long run. Perhaps scarier than the possibility of monetary damages, misclassification has landed some business leaders under house arrest. 

In addition, class-action lawsuits, failed audits, and negative headlines can damage a company’s reputation to the point where both workers and consumers are hesitant to engage with the company. It’s just not worth it!  

The Bottom Line

Someone on your team needs to to protect your business, stay compliant, and reduce the risk for fines and unpleasant attention from the IRS. If you don’t have the in-house team to do it yourself, it’s worth considering working with a partner.

In our world, accurate worker classification and top notch risk management are always the priority. We are the first to be aware when change is in the air. We track rules in every state as well as on a federal level and offer services to help clients stay compliant. Contact us if you have any questions about your own status. 

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In-Demand Skills You Can Learn Without College

In-Demand Skills You Can Learn Without College 2560 1658 Alicia East

P.S. They pay well, too.

If you’re already freelancing, you may be looking to either improve the disciplines you already offer or to add to your skillset to make your total package that much more valuable to your clients. Businesses used to consider proficiency in Microsoft Word foundational, but recent years have seen the addition of basic SEO and WordPress proficiency to the list of foundational skills f0r many occupations. Businesses are also looking to keep their data safe from hackers, stand out on an increasingly-crowded information superhighway, and tell their story on diverse platforms that will reach their clients. While it may seem like a lot (too much?), it also means there is plenty of opportunity out there. Whether you’re freelancing or looking for full-time traditional employment, being proficient in these skills will make you ultra-hireable.

Here Are Four Skills To Enhance Your Resume

Network and Information Security

Just like the internet and the world itself, hackers and scammers are ever-evolving. Once upon a time, a thief might’ve stolen the cash out of your pocket, but with the ability to steal an entire identity, the stakes increased. And of course now, with battle being waged increasingly in the online sphere, the stakes are even higher. A hacker can blow up an individual’s life and shut down a hospital all in a day’s work. It is sobering to consider that it’s happened to Equifax, multiple government institutions, and Zoom. So yes, it can surely happen to (or through) you.

Businesses increasingly need more than a security officer at the front door. They need safeguards in place to protect the sensitive data on their computers. In addition to the technical firewalls and other fortifications to their systems, they’ll need to fortify where they’re most vulnerable. In many cases, that’s their people. User error is responsible for most security breaches and hackers are getting more and more subtle and skilled to outsmart very smart/savvy people.

All of that to say that becoming at least proficient in security is good for your own financial world and becoming a pro makes you invaluable to businesses. Being able to offer security advice to your clients or employer makes you that much more attractive. Whether or not you’re consulting as a security expert, just being savvy enough not to fall for a scam (like this one, which took a Shark Tank judge for nearly 400K) could save your job and reputation.

Udemy offers The Complete Cyber Security Course: Hackers Exposed, along with a boatload of other courses to solve nearly any business challenge. With cybercriminals making headlines, it’s no surprise that people who can combat this threat increase their desirability. Whether you’re primarily a writer, video producer, website developer, or designer, being able to offer clients additional peace of mind is priceless. Especially for small businesses, who may not have a team dedicated specifically to security, your expertise adds value and makes you an essential team member.

All Things Webby

WordPress: With new sites being added daily, the Internet is basically one big WordPress matrix. Even if it’s not their core business, content creators who can build, update, or fix WordPress sites will keep businesses from having to hire additional people. Saving clients money is one surefire way to get in their good graces. Many free courses will absolutely give you a return on your time invested.

SEO: The only thing as constant as change is change itself…and SEO. The clever behind-the-scenes glut of the right words may have worked in the Space Jam days, but it doesn’t get results anymore. SEO has gotten much more sophisticated and tough to crack. The real key is increasing traffic organically. Having the tools to have an intelligent conversation on the subject and being able to point clients toward solutions makes you extra valuable.

Sales Funnels/ List Building: Sales funnels are a key to converting all that organic traffic into action. If you already have some knowledge of landing page design and content strategy, ClickFunnels (or something similar) is a great way to take your skills to the next level.

Instagram API: There are a lot of ways to use Instagram’s APIfrom turning a website into a living museum to converting sales. Often, companies spend a lot of time creating and posting content but fail to convert views into action. Add knowledge of Instagram API to your resume and you can become a conversion superhero. Learn more at Consuming the Instagram API by LinkedIn Learning and Build a Photo Web App Using Instagram API (cape not included).

Storytelling

Businesses are always looking to tell their story. Anyone can convey information through bullet points and data, but not everyone can weave those facts and data into a compelling narrative. It’s famously Apple’s storytelling and skill at communicating their “why” that made their “Think Different” ads so effective. Storytelling is important in writing, videos, podcasting, social media, and more. Get the principles of story and you can apply it to just about any medium.

Bottom Line

How do you make a client or a potential employer want to hire you when they have endless options just a click away? One way is to go beyond solving the problems they know they have and solve the ones they haven’t even thought about yet. That’s when you become an advisor clients can’t live without rather than a cog in the wheel they can replace tomorrow.
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W-2 vs. 1099: Which workers get which?

W-2 vs. 1099: Which workers get which? 2560 1708 Alicia East

The way the IRS distinguishes between employees and independent contractors guides what benefits a worker is entitled to, what tax obligations they’re subject to, and which paperwork is required to make their status legally sound.

Worker Classification (The BIG Question)

While the paperwork is important, the most important aspect of this whole conversation is making sure you get a worker classified correctly in the first place. The classification guides all other questions, including whether to file a W-2 or a 1099. It also determines whether the employee or the employer is responsible for withholding taxes, which labor and employment laws apply, and how the work gets paid.

Thankfully, the IRS provides some guidance guidance for determining how a worker should be classified. It considers how much control the worker has over how, when, and where work gets performed as well as whether/how much the employer provides in order for the work to be completed.

Employees Require W-2s

W-2: Wage and Tax Statement is a document that reports an employee’s gross earnings as well as the amount of taxes the employer withholds on said employees’s paychecks. Employers are legally required to fill out W-2s for any workers earning $600 or more in one year from whom they’ve withheld any taxes. The Social Security Administration receives a copy of the form as well as the state, city, or local tax departments. Employers retain one copy for four years.

The deadline to file W-2s with the SSA and provide copies to employees is January 31 of the year after the year of employment. Employees use the forms to complete their own individual tax returns and future social security and Medicare benefits are computed based on these figures.

Non-Employees Require 1099s

People who perform work for the company without being on the payroll require the Form 1099-NEC: Nonemployee Compensation. Note that as of 2020, the IRS no longer uses Form 1099-MISC.

While independent contractors keep track of their own tax obligations and file their own forms to the IRS, employers are still required to file a 1099-NEC for each person who is not an employee and was paid at least $600 during the course of the year.

Similar to a W-2, copies of the 1099-NEC of to the IRS, state tax agencies, and the independent contractor while the employer retains a copy. The 1099-NEC is also due January 31 the year after the work was performed.

Bottom Line

Employers that need help making the determination can work with a partner (such as PayReel!) to make sure they get that status right or may wish to file Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding to let the IRS make the official determination. Since that process can take up to six months, any business that has frequent hiring needs may be better served by working with a partner (such as PayReel👋 !) that is specifically qualified to make the determination and handle all of the associated risk and compliance issues as well.

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Questions to Ask When Onboarding Your First Employee

Questions to Ask When Onboarding Your First Employee 2560 2560 Alicia East

If you’re looking at onboarding your first employee, congratulations! It’s a big step in the life of any business. Since you’re dealing with paying someone else, you need to be extra sure you do it correctly! You’re dealing with someone else’s livelihood, which in itself is a big responsibility, but you’re also subject to government rules. If you break them, you’ll eventually face consequences. So here are some questions you might be asking and resources to help you find the answers you need.

1. What Paperwork Do I Need To Gather?

Typically, you’ll need to gather the following forms:

  • Form W-4: This form helps you determine federal tax withholding
  • State W-4 form (if applicable): Some states either don’t have state income tax or use the federal Form W-4 to determine state income tax. Check if your state has a specific form.
You may also offer direct deposit (which requires its own form) or benefit forms. The good news is that employees are usually motivated to help you get what you need because that’s how they get paid.

2. How Will I Pay The Employee?

You’ll want to consider frequency as well as the actual method of getting money into your employee’s hands (cash, check, direct deposit, etc.). When considering whether to pay your employee(s) weekly,  biweekly, or monthly, you should make sure you brush up on pay frequency requirements by state. Whatever you land on, just make sure you follow your state’s rules and also notify your employees what schedule they can expect.

3. How Should I Calculate Taxes?

Your W-4 form(s) will help you make this determination. Unless the employee is exempt, you’ll usually need to withhold social security, medicare, and federal income taxes. Other possible withholdings include state or local income taxes. If this is making you want to lie down for a nap, you can make it very easy by using a payroll software with a built-in system for helping you get it right.

4.What Other Deductions Should I Be Aware Of?

In addition to the standard deductions, employees may be subject to wage garnishments, child support payments, health/life insurance premiums, or automatic retirement. If any of these apply, have new employees fill out the appropriate forms.

Bottom Line

Payroll software can help simplify deductions and payroll big time if you’re handling them on a small scale. For large scale onboarding and payrolling, most businesses are best served by hiring a partner (like PayReel👋 !) that specializes in handling frequent, high-volume hiring and payrolling.

Worker Classification: The Billion Dollar Dispute

Worker Classification: The Billion Dollar Dispute 150 150 Alicia East

While many things remain in question right now, one thing we know for sure is that each year takes us ever further from the traditional employment model of our ancestors. As always, when things rapidly change, there’s a period of trial and error (emphasis on the trial) while we figure things out. What’s been changing (and getting litigated) in this case, has everything to do with how companies classify workers.

Worker classification battles are waging and the cost to companies is staggering. While many companies have long played the odds–liberally classifying workers as independent contractors to save money and hassle–the odds keep tipping more in favor of the house. This list identifies the major worker classification disputes (and corresponding fines) that played out in 2021 alone. The cost is staggering.

 

As we stare down whatever lies around the bend, one thing is for sure: the government cares about worker classification issues and it’s one area they are very efficient in! Sate labor departments and the IRS share information to identify companies that are misclassifying employees as independent contractors. The number of audits and corresponding fines has been climbing steadily since 2010. The risks of non-compliance are high.

I understand that as we are continually adapting to changing environments, we are also desperately trying to fit all of our management tasks onto our already full plates. The increase in demand and uncertainty leaves even more reasons to get serious about a process for managing our contractors, freelancers, and consultants. Fortunately, every challenge can be overcome with the right game plan and the right partners. In this case, a partner that specializes in worker classification and payroll can turn some of the most dizzying and high stakes aspects of your business into a breeze. Pinky promise!

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Are You Thinking About Freelancing? Here’s What I Wish I Knew A Decade Ago

Are You Thinking About Freelancing? Here’s What I Wish I Knew A Decade Ago 2560 1709 Alicia East

I was one year and two weeks into teaching high school when I realized it was–without a doubt–not a good fit. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’d won awards in the position I had left the previous year but, while I was certainly happier in sales than in teaching, that profession didn’t speak to me either. With a measly three years of post-college life under my belt, I’d experienced success without satisfaction in my first “real” job and then neither success nor satisfaction in my second. (Today is a good day to thank a teacher, people!).

I had harbored the “someday” dream of having my own business the moment I realized it was a thing. But picturing a future of business suits, uncomfortable shoes, and having a schedule set for me felt like going backwards. Oh and by the way: nobody was responding to my resume anyway. The timing didn’t seem right and I didn’t have the experience, but I was feeling backed into a corner. So with a little nudge from my circumstances, I went for it. Here’s what I would tell myself after a decade plus charting my own course.

The true risk isn’t the first one that comes to mind. In comparison with a 9-5 job, freelancing is risky. You absolutely could lose everything…or at least be very, very hungry at times. I mean it. You could have clients who pay late or don’t pay at all. You will have slow months that land you in the red and times you’re trying to figure out how to create a meal from whatever you can find in the freezer (“use by” date be damned) and the last quarter cup of rice in your pantry. Risk aversion is real, but if it keeps you in your swivel chair at a 9-5 you hate, then you’re afraid of the wrong kind of risk. Because there’s nothing more risky than staying in a job where you feeling like you’re wasting your life.

The biggest companies take the longest to pay. I won’t name names, but I can say that our biggest clients often take the longest to pay. I followed up with a Fortune 500 company for two years before they finally paid an overdue invoice. It wasn’t malicious. I just had to navigate their system and got passed around from person to person. Cash flow is a big deal when you’re a small business. When we’re paying our mortgage based on that invoice, I’d rather work with the mom and pop shops that pay right away than get a recognizable logo on our client list.

The freedom is fantastic, but it comes at a price. Yes, the dreams of working from the beach and choosing the jobs that excite you are real. To overworked, under-appreciated 9-5ers, freelancing may seem like the holy grail. But going out on your own isn’t just a world of free-flowing creative juices, coffee breaks, and wads of money. Freelancing can make you feel just as burnt out and unstimulated as whatever made you take a hike from your previous gig in the first place.

Your “boss” may be liberal about time off, but you still have to answer to your bank account. You’re your own boss. That means you can take Friday off because it’s a great powder day (that’s the Colorado girl in me speaking). Still, if you want to build a solid business, you have to put in the work. And if you want leave of any kind–vacation, maternity/paternity, sick days, etc.– you have to create it yourself. Ideally, that means building yourself a solid savings account with 3 months+ living expenses. The hope is that, because you’re building your own dream (and not someone else’s/one you don’t believe in) that you’ll at least enjoy it more. While it can be enormously satisfying and liberating to build your own business from the ground up, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Some days, you’ll get to take a Friday off because you want to. Others, you’ll grind away on a Saturday because you have to. Any workday can be a weekend and any weekend can be a workday. 

You don’t have to starve. The “starving artist” is a familiar refrain for a reason, but it doesn’t have to be your reality. Start by producing work you can be proud of. From there, you’ll get some experience and can feel good about charging fair prices for it. Getting to a point where you can walk away from that don’t exactly stimulate you is so satisfying. My husband fondly recounts one of his early video editing jobs for a veterinarian client. He got feedback to show a dog’s anus at 50% opacity (i.e. tone down the butt shots). Keep the long-term goal in mind and you can keep the less than stellar projects in perspective. You’re building something. You’re building your thing. Once you have a steady flow of clients, you can be more selective and you can charge more as your experience grows. Remember that being able to walk away puts you in the best position to negotiate more freely.

It’s easier than ever to burn out. I know how easy it is to have your life and energy sucked away by a “regular” job. The counterintuitive truth for many freelancers is that it’s even harder when it’s your business. You can pay your mortgage and your car loan and your grocery bill because you pounded the pavement to find the client and then pounded it again to produce a product they valued. When you’re in business for yourself, it’s easier than ever to just do, do, do all the time. The trap is the lie that you have to. But you give yourself out completely and guess what? There’s nothing left. There’s nothing left for your bedtime routine with your kids, or those glorious miles on the trail with your sneakers and your earbuds. Here’s the real, counterintuitive kick in the pants: If you don’t have time for the stuff the fuels you, you don’t have a business. As a freelancer, your business is you. It’s’ your creativity, your talent, your brains, and your guts. That’s something you simply cannot phone in. You have to be fueled, which means you can’t give everything to your business. You have to give something to yourself, which in turn, gives everything to your business.

The Bottom Line

Once you go out on your own, you live and die by your own work. The allure of working from home in your pjs and not having a boss breathing down your neck is real. But the struggle of life without a full time, “safe” job is real, too. It’s awesome. It’s terrifying. It’s not easy. Whether you’re on your own or working a “safe” job, you will kill yourself if you don’t find balance. But here’s the truth about freelancing, if you can handle it. And you can handle it, by the way, because you are scrappy enough to think about launching out on your own in the first place. It’s hard, gut-wrenching, kick you in the seat of your pants, pride-swallowing work. And it’s all yours, which is absolutely fantastic.

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Risk And Compliance When Direct Sourcing (This is Non-Negotiable!)

Risk And Compliance When Direct Sourcing (This is Non-Negotiable!) 1920 1080 Alicia East

Using your own talent pool can be a wonderful way for businesses to meet their contingent workforce needs. Direct sourcing is the practice of finding and recruiting talent and then building, nurturing, and drawing from an internal network rather than enlisting a third-party. It’s an increasingly popular (and feasible) option and it has many benefits. Still, there’s one aspect of the practice that businesses must be absolutely sure to get right: risk and compliance!

Benefits of Direct Sourcing

Direct Sourcing allows businesses to place workers on a temporary basis, while keeping the best workers in the pipeline between projects. Building and nurturing an internal network means companies can draw from their own well, so to speak. There is no third party that will ever know a company and its needs better and cutting out the middle man can make the process quicker and more economical.

Risk And Compliance When Direct Sourcing

While finding your own talent and building your own network has many benefits, businesses need to be in position to do it in a way that protects them from liability. It’s not the glamorous part, but one of the most important parts to get right when direct sourcing is anything associated with risk, compliance, and payroll. Mitigating risk requires specialized skills, a great depth of knowledge, and a department with enough bandwidth to understand and follow rules on a state and federal level.

What’s at Stake?

You know who’s paying a lot of attention to all things risk and compliance? The government. As such, errors can be incredibly costly. In addition to heavy fines, offending businesses face damage to reputation and loss of resources–both financially and otherwise. The rules around classification and payroll vary from state to state and on a federal level as well. Regulations change frequently as well and hiring organizations must do due diligence to make sure they keep their practices compliant and their businesses in good standing. Any company using direct sourcing simply must also include effective independent contractor classification and payrolling services as a part of its plan.

Does Engaging a Partner Make Sense?

If there are any gaps in knowledge or capacity when it comes to risk compliance, worker classification, and payroll, engaging a partner makes good business sense.  In most cases, any company that doesn’t have a specific department to fill these roles will benefit greatly from engaging a partner with the appropriate bandwidth and skills. The best partner will be able to handle every worker type a business employs and will be equipped to handle everything related to risk, compliance, worker classification, and payroll for a contingent workforce.

When direct sourcing talent, many businesses find an Employer of Record (EOR) that takes care of all the administrative details of managing a contingent workforce is an indispensable part of their team.

If you’re considering whether an EOR would be helpful to your business, contact us! This is our jam.  

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How to Get More Mileage Out of Hybrid Events

How to Get More Mileage Out of Hybrid Events 2560 1707 Alicia East

You’ve hired a team to professionally film and broadcast your event. You’ve considered the content to be sure it translates well both in-person and online. When you’ve already gone to the effort of putting together a hybrid event, you may as well get the most you possibly can out of said event.

Three Ways to Get More Mileage Out of Your Hybrid Event

Social Media Snippets

Your most important camera crew is the one capturing the event and live-streaming it live, but consider getting an additional camera in the mix. Give your additional videographer direction based on what you’d like to accomplish after the event. Their goal should be to capture footage that can be edited together with the primary footage for social-media friendly montages, teasers, and more. For example, they could get b-roll from the location or close-up audience shots. You may even want to set up interviews with your most in-demand presenters. Whether you’re seeking to advertise future events or offering online training sessions after the event, collaborate with your marketing team and engage top-notch editors to make the most out of the footage. There are endless ways to choose your own adventure based on your marketing goals.

Training Sessions

Look for ways to offer more value to customers. Consider both follow-up content for those who attended the conference as well as any materials you can offer to those who didn’t. You’ve already vetted the content and information for your event so you know it’s helpful to your audience. See what other ways you can leverage that content into training sessions/programs and more.

Sponsorships

Anytime you increase engagement, you also increase opportunity to capture sponsorship dollars. More eyeballs and more enthusiasm demonstrate that a sponsor’s money will be well spent. You can offer ads, event website sponsorship, commercials, and more.

The End is The Beginning

Once you’ve pulled off your event, have a quick celebration and then get back to the grind. The work is just the beginning. Use a survey of attendees or other customers to find out what content they liked most or are most interested in after the fact. Use that information to improve future events and to engage customers who didn’t attend while also increasing value to sponsors. The bottom line is that it would be a crime to let all that awesome content sit on a hard drive after it’s over.

What are your favorite ways to make the most out of your post-event strategy?

Want more on hybrid events? This post is the second in a series. Check out last week’s post that debunks the #1 myth about hybrid events.