Are events still on the agenda for marketers?

By Nick Gold, MD of Speakers Corner and President of the International Association of Speakers Bureaus

No longer a safe bet

This year we have seen the historical ‘safe bet’ of any marketing strategy, the events and face to face channel, guaranteed to raise brand awareness, promote new products, educate the market and gain face time with existing and potential customers has been negated as the world switched to virtual.

The best laid plans and careful strategy have been ripped up and thrown away as individuals, businesses and society have been dealing with the immediate situation.

The impact of this global crisis has resulted in two main outcomes in the events space.  Firstly, marketers were faced with seeing their planned events schedule switching from physical to virtual and trying to replicate their event offering in this new medium.  There was a quick realisation that this was not a sustainable strategy, both from the context of the financial model associated with events but also with the infrastructure or technology underpinning the creation of the event.

Reimagining events rather than replicating

As a result, there is a growing realisation that the event model needs to be re-imagined from ground up to deliver the impact, results and returns that came from the physical model.  This, while daunting, as is a situation that is fresh and unchartered, has the untapped potential for marketeers to demonstrate their true creative minds where there are no preconceptions or expectations of how things should be done.

Marketers can now create events and meetings with little lead time at a relativel small expense using the virtual model. They can target and focus where, previously due to the operational costs for any physical event, this would have been proven to be more challenging.  As technology improves marketers can position their business as a brand which embraces innovation while creating new experiences which enable a deeper emotional relationship between customer and brand.

For example we have run a series of virtual masterclasses since lockdown began, with themes ranging from the personal (mental health) to the collective (teamwork and leadership). The follow-up conversations have allowed both our team and our audience to share their thoughts and experiences collectively. Whilst this naturally helps the business relationship it also supports the personal relationship upon which the foundations of business are built.

Standing out and making distinctions

On the other hand, is the longing for the networking element that takes place at physical events. Therefore, marketers need to be considering what the new physical event model will look like and how they can build an experience which again positions their brand as an innovator and customer centric to deliver higher return and success.

The challenge for marketers is how the virtual event has moved from a place where people would attend as it was something new and different, to a place where there is plethora of virtual events happening at any one time and to stand out is hard.  This has meant a targeted focus for any event in the virtual world has to be the content being delivered in order to attract delegates.  The delegate wants to see how the event will both help them in their personal and professional journey but also ensure they can justify their attendance. Creating a proposition which ticks those two boxes is the key driver for the success of attendance at the event.

The marketeer or event planner who can balance up the benefits of the different mediums to deliver their events and goals, who understand the mediums, appreciate the distinctions and how they will deliver a different ROI will be those who achieve success and become leaders in a marketplace where the possibilities are expanding exponentially, especially as and when the physical event becomes a regular and trusted environment for any delegate to attend.