November 10, 2021
After the nuclear winter in the events business, and recent fatigue with webinars, marketers are hoping to restart in-person events. This time around, marketers have a golden opportunity to re-imagine them and fix problems of the past using lessons learned from virtual events.
While virtual events are great for brand reach, they’re not so good at conversion. The in-person event, on the other hand, is a proven conversion channel and a great way to deepen relationships with customers. That’s why marketers under new mandates to grow revenue want to return to in-person events.
The idea of returning to in-person events with attributable sales conversion has the marketing world abuzz.
But it would be a mistake if marketers simply jumped back to in-person events as if the last two years didn’t happen. It’s not business as usual, or at least it shouldn’t be. In-person events weren’t orchestrated nor optimized very well. This is a chance to reset the gameboard.
At some large companies, in-person events — whether hosting or participating — often were siloed. That is, different parts of the business or regional offices signed on for an event on an ad hoc basis. There was a lack of communication and orchestration across the enterprise, largely due to the fact that in-person events mainly impacted specific products and geographies.
Virtual events, however, taught marketers the value of coordination and optimization. Virtual events aren’t confined to a geography or micro-targeted audience. Promotion and attendance casted a wider net. And so a company could get more bang for the buck if virtual events worked in concert with each other across the enterprise.
Another lesson from virtual events that can be applied to in-person events is the power of reach. When marketers restart in-person events, there should be a digital presence both during and after the event for those who cannot or could not attend the in-person event.
Taking this a step further, perhaps it’s time for CMOs to orient their digital and demand teams around events.
“The pandemic exposed many event technology modernization and skills gaps,” says a Forrester Research report. “Because event planners and marketers tend to operate in silos, in-person event planners struggled to adopt the virtual technology and digital practices that effectively engage remote attendees and deliver value to sponsors and partners.”
Forrester believes the future is in hybrid events, but this will present a host of new challenges. These range from delivering networking opportunities that are valuable to both in-person and remote attendees to addressing the added preparation time, resources and logistics of the virtual component.
The hard truth is that companies will need to invest resources for future hybrid events. According to the Forrester report, the top six areas of event investment/improvement include:
1. Creating a unique event experience for every attendee
2. Marketers and event managers working toward common goals/KPIs
3. Integrating events more holistically into marketing or demand generation campaigns
4. Treating events programmatically
5. Making event content available for longer periods of time
6. Ability to adjust team makeup, workflows, content, day-of activities, etc. in a more agile manner
Given the excitement around the return of in-person events, the CMO Council is launching a study on next-gen events optimized for outcomes. There’s no question there is an opportunity to break down siloed thinking in event strategy, teams and technology in a way that can lead to a more satisfying and immersive attendee experience — as well as better business outcomes.
Stay tuned. The second act is about to start.
Tom Kaneshige is the Chief Content Officer at the CMO Council. He creates all forms of digital thought leadership content that helps growth and revenue officers, line of business leaders, and chief marketers succeed in their rapidly evolving roles. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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