Professionals have valued in-person events as a reliable way to make connections and network — and 68% of marketers say it’s hard to offer those opportunities in a virtual world. This challenge presents a massive opportunity, with 66% of event planners calling out the need to learn how to design digital event experiences for the future.
An Allied Market Industry Research forecast predicts that the event industry will reach nearly $1.553 billion by 2028. The shift to virtual and hybrid events will help drive the anticipated 11.2% of compound annual growth between 2021 and 2028. As we look beyond 2021, several trends have emerged:
- Tens of thousands of virtual events took place last year — a 100X increase from 2019.
- While historically, most major organizations held in-person events and conferences only once or twice a year, smaller events generate new opportunities to host virtual events more frequently with streamlined, predictable costs.
- CMOs and business leaders will continue expecting event planners to collect and analyze data during and after events. This data gives planners the ability to identify attendees’ intentions, wants, and needs. Harnessing and leveraging this real-time data to understand audiences will become even more critical.
More events and better data empower event planners to create personalized event experiences for in-person, virtual and hybrid audiences that drive meaningful business outcomes. The key to generating strong return on event (ROE) — which includes revenue impacted and generated from the event, minus the event costs? Finding the right Event Experience Management solution.
Tools and tech to drive ROE
When virtual or hybrid events struggle with lag time, poor interfaces, or a difficult user experience, you risk losing your audiences — including your attendees, speakers, and sponsors. Prioritize finding a platform that supports broadcasting live events and in-event sessions. These platforms should likewise support the “anytime, anywhere, any device” strategy so they’re fully accessible to all attendees. Find a platform that offers engagement tools — like chat, networking, polling — or one that allows you to integrate your preferred tools into the event platform. This approach ensures a single login and a single source of truth.
When your event platform integrates seamlessly into your MarTech stack, it becomes easier to align sales and marketing teams because everyone gains access to the same information and metrics. Everyone gains the same complete view of the buyer’s journey. A consistent, unified approach to gathering data and informing business intelligence drives smarter, more strategic decision-making in key areas including content strategy, lead generation and sales.
Creating value and generating strong ROE
Events provide an amazing opportunity to uncover deeper insights about your target audience. While many companies have begun planning for in-person events, virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. In fact 86% of B2B organizations saw a positive ROI from a hybrid event even seven months after its conclusion.
Whether hybrid or virtual, these events provide strong value and benefit including generating:
- Detailed analytics and deeper insights
- Greater engagement
- Increased reach
Delivering ROE requires a multi-pronged approach. Start the marketing process early. Clearly define and understand the event’s goals: to deliver key messages or thought leadership, cultivate brand reputation, increase the pipeline, promote new products and services — or even improve morale.
Use multiple channels and coordinated campaigns for promotion to grow your online audience. If you use social media, consider creating separate Facebook Event pages for in-person and virtual attendees. Collaborate with sponsors and partners to market the event. A wider net will reach a broader audience.
Invest in high-quality content to help your brand build authority, credibility and thought leadership. Invest in audience engagement and include calls-to-action (CTAs), whether it’s asking attendees to sign up for an email list or offer feedback on a session they’ve attended.
Elevate sponsor visibility and offer more opportunities for audience engagement by using brand positioning. Offer a virtual sponsor room, sponsor giveaway, welcome video or even virtual swag like discounts, exclusive access or user guides. Invite headline sponsors to speak or host coffee breaks for those attending in person.
Leverage the data you can gather through the event platform and associated apps to generate insights about the audience. For example, use sign-up technology to track the number of attendees, where they “go,” how they engage — and for how long. Other measurable KPIs to measure event engagement include attendance quality, customer performance, demand generation, funnel influence and speed efficiency.
Measure ROE with an attribution model that aligns with your broader marketing model, which can help identify how event touchpoints, activities and actions impacted the goal. Multi-touch models allow marketing teams to gain a clear picture and better understanding of the return generated by events. Combining insights from these models with robust analytics tools enable teams to translate data into actionable insights and embrace continuous improvement to execute virtual and hybrid events your attendees expect — and want.
Creatively-conceptualized, well-designed hybrid and virtual events have the power and potential to grow audiences by delivering value-packed experiences, increasing revenue and ROE, and potentially redefining their use in marketing and PR strategy.
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