The events landscape has forever changed—the result of a global pandemic. However, the transition of the industry has driven innovation, made planning teams and marketers more closely aligned, and as a result, has turned a traditional channel into a dynamic force.
Maximizing the impact of this NextGen event channel does require a comprehensive strategy and marketers need to resist returning to 2019 norms. This means breaking down siloed thinking in event strategy, teams, and technology and taking proactive measures to optimize outcomes.
This new strategy encompasses many event formats, including virtual/webinar, in-person, and hybrid and event types—conferences, trade shows, road shows, and customer groups. For marketers, this presents an incredible opportunity to drive engagement to new levels.
Virtual should still be a part of your event mix
According to a new report produced by CMO Council in association with Cvent, "Aligning Strategy, Teams and Tech for Success in a New Era of Events," about 64% of those surveyed are "moderately effective" or "not effective" at executing virtual events that deliver value. The study also found that 36% of marketers are experiencing severe virtual-event registration fatigue and a loss of connection with customers. Again, the impulse from marketers may be to push all their efforts in budget into in-person experiences.
The value problem is likely the result of mismanaged expectations. When the pandemic forced events online, marketers wanted virtual events to deliver the same outcomes as in-person events. But virtual and in-person events play different roles. Don't mistake virtual fatigue for loss of virtual-event value. Virtual events can help you reach large groups of people across many locations, the breadth of reach for marketers here is unmatched.
Hybrid events: the rewards outweigh the risk
The return of in-person means combining two experiences into one event for many marketers who crave the "best of both worlds," i.e., the benefits of customer intimacy and massive brand reach.
The potential value of a hybrid event is exponentially greater than pre-pandemic events, making "hybrid" the new catchword for the NextGen event channel. While reluctance to travel, or other concerns mean many people are still unable or unwilling to attend an in-person event, a hybrid event opens registration to them.
Still, executing a successful hybrid event isn't easy. And many marketers surveyed felt they haven't reached the point where their hybrid approach has been perfected. Only 36% of marketers rate their ability to execute hybrid events at "effective" or "very effective."
The learning curve can be steep, because the scale of hybrid events has reached a new level of size and complexity. However, there is a "sweet spot" for marketers to stive for. As long as you are carefully scoping the event to meet your goals, and carefully planning what should be live-streamed and what shouldn't be, you can successfully execute hybrid events that deliver strong ROI.
Reimagining your events in the new landscape
If marketers can infuse in-person events with digital elements, they can create a more immersive attendee experience. According to our survey, the top three digital components that marketers plan to add to in-person events are online platforms (both web and mobile), on-demand content and connecting digital and in-person audiences.
Digital components also lead to richer attendee profiling and ROI measurement, better digital content delivery, deeper engagement, and better outcomes. An "always on" approach to events means marketing reach can be greatly extended, long after the execution of the actual event is over. One CMO interviewed for the report said that his organization plans to have his video editing team produce high-quality videos of presentations at in-person events for just this purpose. "Replays can be really strong," he says.
Also, NextGen in-person events are tracking toward being smaller, more numerous, and more specialized. When we asked how in-person/hybrid events will compare with pre-pandemic in-person events, marketers overwhelming (60%) said they'll be smaller in size.
Marketing in the NextGen
Marketers will have to invest more resources in events, manage more events, and better orchestrate events under a company-wide strategy. That means breaking down traditional silos and digital and demand gen teams becoming true partners. If done properly, NextGen events will drive deeper engagement, better content, and richer attendee profiling.
Simply returning to 2019 in-person events isn't an option. Two years of virtual events have heightened attendee expectations. NextGen in-person events now require digital components even if they're not full-blown hybrid events. Overall, it appears marketers are getting the message, with 71% saying that they are "experimenting with new event formats."
Learn more by downloading your free copy of the new CMO Council report, "Aligning Strategy, Teams and Tech for Success in a New Era of Events."