While in-person events and engagement have always been high-impact, they were almost non-existent in 2020 and 2021. Virtual events and webinars took the scene and are still providing greater reach and more ways to connect than ever before, even as we get back to meeting in person.
How can you prepare an events strategy that succeeds in 2023? By delivering more digital in-person events, implementing a continuous engagement strategy, and making full use of your resources within the events ecosystem.
The Power of Digital Events in 2023
All this disruption the past few years has revealed powerful new opportunities for live engagement before, during, after, and even between events as we enter an era of “always on” engagement in our event programmes.
Our collective crash course in virtual events over the last three years is going to have a lasting impact on the events industry. The digital genie, so to speak, is not going back in the bottle, and has opened the door to profound digitisation across all event formats.
Multi-format event programmes are the go-forward reality for most organisations and brands, who will see their customers, prospects, and members across multiple in-person, virtual, and hybrid events year-round. Successful event programmes will connect these experiences by connecting the technology that powers them and leveraging all the benefits of more digitised events.
Delivering More Digitised In-Person Events
Events of 2023 are going to look drastically different than the events of 2019 – and definitely different than the events of 2020. The two years our industry spent planning, hosting, and attending only virtual events have had a lasting impact on in-person events and our expectations for them.
Now, attendees and stakeholders expect to see every event become more digitised and to reap the many benefits of digital events.
Getting More from Your Event App and Website
Mobile event apps offer attendees a way to discover content, build their agendas, and connect with others. Now, we’re ushering in the next generation of technology to meet the increased expectations of attendees and event organisers alike, which means changing the way we think about the in-person experience from start to finish – beginning with your event website.
Your speakers and content are a huge draw for many attendees, and you spend a ton of time and resources on these elements, so that information needs to be front and center on your event website and app. Once attendees register for your event, they’ll build their schedule, hunting down all the sessions they’re excited about.
By having a streamlined event website and app, you can curate content for specific audiences, highlighting the content you want attendees to see based on their interests – you just need the right platform.
Building Connections Before Your Event
In the world of “always on” engagement, attendees can do more than interact with your content in advance – they can interact with each other. Why not offer attendees the chance to break the ice early by connecting with others who are interested in attending the same sessions or with your sponsors and exhibitors?
By creating opportunities for early connection, attendees will be even more prepared to have impactful conversations once they arrive onsite and build a network of connections that will carry them from event to event.
Capturing Onsite Attendee Data
Everything that happens at the registration desk and at session doors requires rethinking in this digital age. There are countless ways to improve the event and session check-in process, from attendee tracking to monitoring room capacity.
Today, many event professionals are hosting trainings and seminars during their events, and capturing accurate attendee data is critical for awarding credit for these courses. This means not only tracking who attends but how long they’re in attendance.
Having all this data connected in one place is essential to ensuring your event runs smoothly and that you’re able to actually use the data you collect to further your event program.
Mastering Continuous Engagement
While it’s exciting to be getting back to in-person events, the ability to bring people together face-to-face is still limited – especially as budgets everywhere are tightening.
With in-person experiences relegated to the realm of the few and far between, how do you keep your audience engaged between events? How do you keep them primed so they're ready to snap at the chance to join your next event when it becomes available?
What Is “Always On” Engagement?
Engagement begins the moment your attendees sign up for an event. It's no longer enough to launch your sessions, say your agenda is live, and send that “know before you go” email like we always have.
Instead, there's a whole new opportunity to start connecting your in-person attendees with your content, with other attendees, and with your sponsors before your event begins. Before they even get onsite, attendees can have access to everything that made virtual events possible, and these digital opportunities can be used to not only drive engagement before an event even begins, but to make onsite content even more interactive and accessible during your event and to keep the momentum going when your event ends.
With always on engagement, you can extend your reach beyond the ballroom, and by leveraging on-demand content, you can continue engaging attendees after your event has wrapped.
Leveraging Virtual Events to Drive In-Person Engagement
Over the past few years, the new reach and engagement potential of events has made them even more valuable marketing tools. With virtual events, we're now able to have more frequent, high-value interactions in our event programmes, and more attendees are able to attend.
But how can marketers and event organisers drive attendees to all these event opportunities? The best time to attract your audience is when they’re already engaged – at your events. Why not take this opportunity to promote your upcoming events and actually allow attendees to preview content and highlights from those events?
Keep your attendees continuously engaged with a platform that supports the ability to add events to attendees’ calendars months in advance, look back on content from previous events, and recall connections they’ve made and may want to follow up with.
By simply bringing together our audiences more often throughout the year, we build a more engaged and connected community. Now, all these events can be truly interconnected rather than one-off, siloed experiences.
Building a Community of Continuous Participation
By offering more frequent and varied opportunities for your attendees to connect, you’re building a more engaged and connected community that promotes continuous participation in your brand and your events.
The sense of community built through events is an asset in and of itself. If you’re a prospective attendee and you see that several people in your network are attending an event, you’re probably more likely to go – not just to meet with these people, but because if this event is relevant to them, it’s likely relevant to you, as well.
This kind of social proof also extends to the events themselves. If I’m looking at my connections’ calendars and see they’re planning to attend a specific session I’d considered skipping, I might be more apt to check it out.
Repurposing Event Content for Marketing Campaigns
Just as your attendees can take advantage of your content year-round with on-demand viewing, your marketing team can and should be creating opportunities to repackage and repurpose the content you spend months creating for your in-person events.
If you record some of your in-person sessions, that’s hours and hours of high-value video content that could be used to extend engagement, but it also provides opportunities for countless marketing materials. Think blogs built from session transcripts, snackable video snippets, and even entire ad campaigns based off of one golden nugget of insight from one of your sessions.
Events Must End
These days, some planners are leaving their events running indefinitely, allowing their content to be viewed for weeks or even months after their events “end.” That’s great, to a point – but the reality is, events should end, and you should play a little hard to get with your content.
What makes live events so special, whether in-person or virtual, is that they have a start and end date – that creates scarcity, which drives urgency with the help of the magical “fear of missing out.” The key is to keep attendees engaged between events, not create one continuous event.
How can you do that? By highlighting your best content, offering new snackable content that’s pulled from full sessions, and building a home for this content to live where attendees can access content at any time between events.
A Fresh Look at Virtual Events
Virtual events are undergoing major changes (again). To deliver engaging experiences in a way that makes our event programmes more sustainable, more accessible, and more effective, virtual events are going to start looking much different than the pandemic-era virtual experiences.
It’s no longer enough to take real-world conferences and move them online – the days of virtual conferences hosted over three eight-hour days are likely over. This model isn’t meeting attendees’ expectations, which means we should be looking forward to more an era of more streamlined, simplified virtual events that look more like single-session presentations or reimagined webinars.
Webinars Get a Makeover
Webinars are an excellent way to keep your attendees engaged with your brand and promote a sense of community by curating webinar topics that appeal to various segments of your audience.
The recent advancements in virtual events have helped the events industry realise that webinars can be upleveled through functionalities like live chats, polling and surveys, Q&A, higher quality video production – features that allow us to go beyond the classic death by PowerPoint webinar we all know and… “love.”
Of course, it’s not all about your attendees. Your webinars should be lead-driving machines, providing real-time insights about attendee engagement to help your sales and marketing teams take the next best action, whether it be hosting another webinar or directing leads to your sales team.
Leveraging the Events Ecosystem
All of this talk about continuous engagement and more digital events is great, but you might be thinking, I can’t do all of this. Don’t worry – you don’t have to. That’s where the events ecosystem comes into play.
The events ecosystem involves three key pillars every event planner needs to support a modern events programme:
- Technology that engages your audience and measures event success
- Services to support and complement your own team’s efforts
- Venues whose physical and digital spaces bring people together
With the right tools and resources, you can connect with this ecosystem of technologies, partners, and venues to help you deliver amazing experiences across any event and every event. But how do you identify the right providers in this increasingly complex event landscape?
Upgrading Your Event Technology
Especially as we embrace increasingly digital events, every piece of technology is part of a larger puzzle helping your event program succeed. From marketing tools to meetings management programmes and travel platforms, all of your technology must work together to make your job easier and your attendees’ experiences more enjoyable and unique.
Sourcing Event Services Vendors
Technology, of course, does not an event make. You still need a team of reliable vendors behind you to make that technology work and to help create the unforgettable event experiences we all strive for.
From A/V expertise to gamification, or ground transportation to swag providers, the right vendors can help you produce amazing events that wouldn’t be possible on your own.
Part of what makes events amazing – especially in-person events – is the way a venue can transform the experience. Finding a space that’s large enough, has the safety and production upgrades you need, and is within budget is challenging enough.
Add to that tightening budgets, staffing shortages, and changing attendee expectations, and venue sourcing is a whole new ball game. Site visits aren’t always possible or practical, which means finding a way to evaluate venues from afar. Luckily, that’s easier than it sounds.
Need to find a great venue for your next event? Check out this resource to help planners source and evaluate venues virtually.
Planning Your 2023 Events Programme
As you begin planning your events for 2023, think about the ways events are changing and how you can leverage the events ecosystem to better equip your teams with the tools and partnerships necessary to achieve year-round engagement with more digital, connected events.