The next generation of events is here – the result of a seismic shift in the industry and two years of digital acceleration during the global pandemic. With the model reset, there are plenty of opportunities for marketers.
But there is a learning curve. The thing is, while the return to in-person events is gaining momentum, professional events should still have an “always on” approach.
Next-gen events span multiple formats: virtual/webinars, in-person, hybrid, and other types, including conferences, trade shows, roadshows, and client groups. This range represents very good news for marketers, who now have the opportunity to improve their event strategy and execution for the foreseeable future.
In “Aligning Strategy, Teams and Tech for Success in a New Era of Events,” a new CMO Council report created in association with Cvent, we asked marketers about this new era and uncovered several insights:
- 60% of leaders surveyed say restarting in-person and hybrid events is very important, even critical
- 65% say insights gathered in the first two years of the pandemic will lead to a more holistic view of events that is better aligned with marketing outcomes
- 71% of marketers are experimenting with new event formats
Virtual events are more relevant than ever
While virtual fatigue is a fact of life, chief marketing officers (CMOs) surveyed understand that virtual events will continue to play an important role in next-gen events. In fact, 20% of marketers say virtual events continue to deliver tremendous reach.
Yet after more than two years of virtual-only events, marketers are chomping at the bit to restart in-person events. It makes perfect sense. While virtual events are great for extending brand reach, in-person events offer the unparalleled ability to nurture customer relationships, which results in higher conversion rates. Three in five marketers surveyed say restarting in-person events is very important, even critical.
Two years of learning and innovation
Before the pandemic, the events industry for B2B marketers was a whole different world. Silos were in place that prevented event managers and marketing managers from having little more than a passing connection.
Lack of collaboration between event planners and their marketing partners has resulted in inefficiencies and missed opportunities. According to Forrester Research, 66% of event managers have planned events independently of marketing campaigns.
“Because event planners and marketers tend to operate in silos, in-person event planners have struggled to embrace virtual technology and digital practices that effectively engage remote attendees and deliver value to sponsors and partners,” Forrester reported.
But marketers are learning from the pandemic and addressing these issues.
In the CMO Council report, 57% of marketers surveyed now say events are owned and managed by marketing, orchestrated across the company, and aligned with a holistic marketing plan. This is a major change, and a success. The future looks even brighter: 65% of respondents say event marketing will continue to mature and incorporate a holistic view of all events that is better aligned with marketing outcomes.
Hybrid Events: The Unvarnished Truth
Organizing a successful hybrid event is not easy. Only 36% of marketers rate their ability to run hybrid events as “effective” or “very effective” — the lowest effectiveness rating among the other three top event types (in-person, webinar, and virtual) . No real surprise here, as the added complexity and technology that hybrid events require means that planners and marketers must engage more fully in the execution of these types of events or risk them falling flat.
Yet even with their complexity, hybrid events are attractive to marketers. The potential value of a hybrid event is exponentially greater now than it was for pre-pandemic hybrid events, making “hybrid” the new buzzword for the next-gen event channel. Combining the breadth of virtual events with the depth of engagement at in-person events, hybrid events are ideally situated to offer event organizers the best of both worlds. The secret to success here is to carefully define your event objectives to ensure that the effort of executing a hybrid event will actually result in a return on investment for your organization.
Reinventing events: the next generation is here
For organizations planning their event calendars, simply reverting to pre-pandemic strategies for in-person events is not an option. Two years of virtual events have heightened attendee expectations for focused and immersive experiences. Next-gen in-person events now require digital components such as online event platforms and on-demand content, even if they are not full-fledged hybrid events.
With the marketing world buzzing with excitement about the return of in-person events, CMOs need to strategize and prepare to maximize the value of this next-gen event channel. This is a golden opportunity to reset and reimagine events in 2022 and beyond.
Learn more by downloading your free copy of the new CMO Council Report “Aligning Strategy, People and Technology to Succeed in a New Era of Events”.