When it comes to acquiring leads and doing business, nothing replaces the value of face-to-face events. That’s why, before the COVID-19 pandemic, meetings and events made up 25-30% of B2B marketing budgets, according to research by Frost and Sullivan.
Today, after months of widespread shutdowns in the global economy, organizations have switched to virtual formats to keep their events alive. But the landscape is starting to change: Small and manageable live gatherings have sometimes taken place between the waves of closing and reopening.
While face-to-face meetings are expected to come back in force over time, new formats and trends are paving the way for event marketing in the years to come. This article describes three of these trends and how to take advantage of them while keeping participants safe.
1. The hybrid is the future of event marketing
According to a global report, 89% of event planners say that even when face-to-face meetings resume, virtual elements will remain critical to their post-pandemic event strategy. survey by Aventri.
As the name suggests, hybrid events combine both speakers and participants in person and remotely or virtually. For example, you can host 100 people in one location and share the content with 1,000 virtual participants around the world. Virtual components also provide an excellent back-up plan to preserve an event in the event of an emergency and that participants cannot travel.
Beyond the virtual format and the ability to reduce risk, hybrid events serve unique purposes to expand audiences, create dynamic experiences, and create differentiated sponsorship opportunities.
Here’s how to successfully run your future hybrid events:
- Recognize that hybrid gatherings attract two different audiences. Onsite guests have plenty to do between sessions, from meetings to dining and entertainment, but that’s not the case for remote participants, who can’t tolerate an eight-hour conference day.
- Don’t try to duplicate an in-person event experience in the digital world; it will inevitably fail. Keep every audience engaged, but use the technology to do it virtually differently.
- Short, quick sessions are ideal for remote participants. Pick your best sessions and limit them to an hour or less. Consider reducing your conference day to four hours instead of eight. Keeping content concise, without omitting important information, increases audience engagement and retention.
- Attract digital participants into the conversation with interactive tools, such as live question and answer, chat, video chats, polls and social sharing. Polls and instant votes help speakers tailor their sessions to audience needs. Creatively increase engagement. For example, some marketers offer 15-minute music breaks with DJs and music requests through chat.
- Make it easy for guests to network onsite and online. Why not allow them to filter the list of participants by common interest? Give them tools to schedule one-on-one video calls during and after sessions.
- Create new sources of income. Opportunities abound with hybrid events: you can showcase sponsors on your virtual homepage, or you can offer sponsored digital sessions, showrooms, networking fairs, and gamified challenges.
- Build a digital library of recorded content. Savvy marketers promote different levels of access through individual and group packages. Digital libraries offer a critical path forward: even after the restrictions are lifted, many businesses will remain cautious about in-person contact. Conference recordings also extend the reach of your event to people who can’t travel due to health concerns or budget cuts.
2. Data and analytics will play a critical role
In today’s climate, showing a return on event investment is vital.
A major benefit of hybrid and virtual events is that engagement data is easier to capture. When participants log in, every action is traceable. This includes exhibitor pageviews, scheduled meetings, leads generated, session recordings, dwell times, question submissions, polls, surveys, languages, downloads, social media likes, and more.
The data provides a window into the preferences and weaknesses of participants. Successful businesses use this intelligence to enrich the customer experience.
For starters, you can recommend sessions, exhibitors, and other attendees that clients can connect with based on common interests. After the event, continue those conversations by sharing white papers and articles that align with attendees’ priorities.
Longer term, analytics provide a better toolbox for quantifying event ROI and improving marketing. Modern event management software solutions connect to marketing automation and CRM platforms, creating a more complete picture of buyer behavior over time. By using a multi-touch attribution model, you can follow the journey of attendees throughout their purchase journey. You will show how your events generate revenue and contribute to business results.
But the benefits of event data go beyond measuring ROI. New buyer insight can help inform everything from list development and lead generation to sales priorities and content strategy. Use this business intelligence to drive sales and marketing performance across the board.
3. Contactless check-in and presence will become the new normal
The pandemic has forced organizations to get creative and embrace new technological solutions to meet the stringent demands of in-person events, which require contactless and social-distancing procedures for the safety of guests.
To this end, modern badges and wristbands are equipped with near field communication (NFC). It’s the same technology as Apple Pay. No need to exchange business cards or manage money: portable NFC devices enable contactless payments, lead retrieval, access control, session tracking, material distribution, and more.
Event recording provides another example of how meetings go without contact. Between shipping and stuffing, traditional badges undergo a lot of handling before arriving at the check-in table. Plus, manual check-in often means long wait times as people line up crowded lines.
Using modern check-in solutions, attendees print their own badges at home or on site. Self-scan stations on site allow rapid, contactless entry of events.
When large salons restart, facial recognition software can create a personalized and contactless welcome on a large scale. The latest systems verify registration, greet each participant by name and print a personalized badge in seconds. The essentials for success with facial recognition are excellent cameras, lighting, processing power, and a facial recognition engine.
Complying with data privacy regulations is also essential. Make photo posts optional for attendees. Do not store images; instead, use them to create digital signatures for a single event.
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The pandemic has created unprecedented challenges, but event marketers are known for their resilience and innovation. The industry will rebound, driven by pent-up demand and new opportunities. After all, professionals crave business development and continuing education, and nothing beats the power to meet in person.
I have no doubts that event marketing will emerge intact as we work together for solutions that promote customer safety and business growth.