The Future of Events
Taking B2B virtual in 2020 and beyond
In 2019, the majority (97%) of B2B marketers believed that in person-events had a major impact on achieving business outcomes. So, what happens when such a crucial part of the marketing mix is taken away? We adapt. Life, lemons, lemonade.
The disruption caused by COVID-19 has brought the in-person B2B events industry to a screeching halt. But alongside that there has been a surge of virtual event activity, driven by the desire to bring people together in times where F2F meetings have become redundant. Even with the recent lifting of some restrictions, particularly in Europe, there has been a seismic shift, altering our fundamental habits in our everyday lives, and more specifically how and where we consume business content. Only a brave brand would bring together a room full of potential clients for a face to face meeting right now.
In short, virtual events are going nowhere right now. And don’t be surprised to see online becoming a bigger part of event strategy, even once life returns to normal. Below, we explore how businesses can approach their virtual event strategies in the short-term, and what this increasingly digital approach means for the events of the future.
Getting the basics right
The flexibility of the virtual world can overcomplicate your strategy. But clarity, purpose, and insight are fundamental to getting your strategy right:
- Ensure you set clear objectives: align and reinforce your brand purpose, and of course meet your business goals. Think about what you want the user to take away.
- Make content available as on-demand versions: recordings can offer opportunities for the audience to consume content whenever and wherever, in their remote work schedules. If you’re investing in digital events, be sure to get the maximum return. The recording of your event is a valuable piece of content so make the most of it.
- Test, test and test again: as you put together your online event, the technical setup and configuration is key. Using existing and customised setups can prevent technical issues – remember, people won’t recall the 10% increase in quality sound, but they will remember the 10 seconds that awkwardly dropped out.
Audience fatigue and how to overcome it
Asking an audience to give you their undivided attention for an hour, half a day, or a whole day is a big ask. People are busy; they want value. They also want to be inspired, to learn and, yes, to be entertained. Audience fatigue is real, so how do you combat it?
- Engagement goes a long way: give opportunities for your audience to interact and communicate organically with your guests and speakers alike. Create an interactive dialogue, moving away from a one-way communication system, make participation the centre of the experience you provide. Start by introducing your guests, give them that sense of the tap on the shoulder familiarity.
- Look for inspiration everywhere: online events are not new, although they are relatively new to the B2B world. Take notes from other content creators, influencers, and brands outside your industry. You can benefit from deep diving into their content and how they continually keep their audiences engaged for longer periods of time.
- Digital event swag: with freebies no longer in play, provide a digital benefit that motivates the audience to attend. Just as you would want with a typical event, why not organise a celebrity guest speaker or opportunity for a gamified leader-board. Appraise the value of introducing plug-ins to help convert the virtual event into a more real business outcome.
Next generation nurturing
The shift to virtual events puts us in a position more powerful than ever before. We can quickly learn about our audiences by capitalising on their online habits. And we can utilise the insights from virtual events to hone our nurture tactics for post-event.
- Harness the data: the wealth of data available digitally enables us to draw detailed profile information that was previously limited to one-time F2F events.
- Utilise your CRM: as a bonus, data intelligence can start to build a better tomorrow. By transferring this information to your Customer Relationship Management (CRM), you can capitalise and create some of the most effective marketing campaigns, forgetting the unsolicited communications you previously had in place. In fact, virtual events can aid the alignment of sales and marketing, developing an integrated and hopefully successful customer acquisition strategy.
- Explore digital networking opportunities: platforms like LinkedIn are redefining the traditional concept of networking. At a simple click, you can bring real-world interaction into a digital age, being able to make that once familiar hand-off of business cards.
So, what does the future look like for events?
Did you ever think Kindle would monopolise books? Yes, me too. But now more than ever, we find people valuing books in their traditional form. They have become something far more special, an object to keep or treasure. There’s a place in the market for both. I believe the same applies for events, it’s not the end of in-person events but the start of a hybrid approach.
What do we mean by a hybrid event? Well this can be any physical event with the possibility of a virtual avenue. A time has come where we can maximise possibilities and widen our reach, presenting to a multitude of countries and removing the barrier of entry. Leveraging a hybrid event strategy will allow inclusivity, regardless of the logistical or financial limitations that existed previously with F2F events.
Now is the time to embrace the dual benefits of reduced environmental impact and increased cost-savings. The streaming world has taught us content shared can dictate the charge of virtual access, albeit at a lower cost than in person. Businesses need to take note and adapt to the shift currently taking place and utilise the opportunity to better understand their audiences, which we know is a key aspect to success.
This pandemic has fast-forwarded digital transformation by several years and we need to transcend from the old paradigms and approaches and start to focus on making offline experiences online. F2F events will not disappear, but they will evolve, embracing a hybrid approach accelerated by the current situation we find ourselves in. For event teams, it’s time to get creative, as business is no longer as usual.
The Bizzabo Blog 2020: https://blog.bizzabo.com/event-marketing-statistics