December 11, 2020
By Mike Fletcher

Some 75% of senior decision-makers admit that, the absence of in-person events and experiences since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a detrimental impact on the marketing of their business. 

The finding forms part of a survey conducted by #WeCreateExperiences - a UK-led campaign for worldwide industry recognition. 

Over 90% of business leaders also confess that the absence of live events has had a negative impact on their staff engagement and internal communications. Whilst 96% state that face-to-face marketing activity adds overall value to their business.

With a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out now underway in the UK, and European countries likely to follow suit in the new year, such an undeniable appetite for the return of live events in all their many forms will no doubt result in increased budgets being signed-off for hybrid conferences, meetings, training and live marketing activity. 

However, investing in live for 2021 will be markedly different than budget planning this time last year.

The world has forever changed and companies should consider redirecting funds into areas that will support the development of corporate meetings and event strategies that are both future-facing and fit for the new normal. 

Here’s five areas to consider

1) Play to the strengths of hybrid event technology 

Invest in the best platform for you

One of the key successes of translating in-person events to online during the past year has been the dissemination of content.

Once planners moved beyond basic webinars over Zoom, they quickly discovered that they could deliver truly engaging content via live, simulative or pre-recorded video, on platforms that allow global attendees to browse and select sessions in their own time or interact with live moderated Q&As or live polling.

Certain types of content, delivered via platforms such as Cvent's Virtual Attendee HubTM, will now remain part of the digital offer so investment in the right platform is key. 

2) Invest in all areas of production quality

Hybrid event design should consider camera equipment

The production quality of your event is no longer just about the set and stage design, meeting room layout and trade show floor combined. Hybrid elements require event app investment, branded backdrops, 4K-quality cameras, great mics, plus video and graphic-mixing and editing expertise. 

By allocating budget to how attendees experience your event online in equal measure to how they experience it in-person, you will guarantee audience growth and engagement.  

3) Understand the weaknesses of virtual event platforms

There's no virtual substitute for in-person networking

It’s a fact, when it comes to networking and making new connections, there simply is no substitute for live.

Face-to-face interactions with other humans force us to lean-in and experience, rather than look down and switch-off. One-to-one, in-person conversations provide a more meaningful and memorable way to engage prospects, speak to customers and communicate brand values to targeted audience segments.

Online networking just isn’t the same. 

So when allocating budget for hybrid event solutions, prioritise those live elements that will facilitate networking by investing in safe and suitable venue solutions, live entertainment options and hospitality. Attendees, exhibitors and sponsors will thank you. 

4) Bring event planners and marketers closer together 

Bring marketers and event planners together

With events occupying more of the digital space, their effective execution requires a new blend of planning and marketing mindsets and skillsets, not only to maximise their reach but to capture all the available data and insights as well. 

Planners are being asked to get more involved in production or digital marketing and marketers are being asked to get more involved in events.

An investment in training therefore is paramount to ensure that each discipline understands how the other is evolving and how shared technology can benefit both. 

5) Acknowledge a shift in CSR

Build in CSR investment into event strategies

As in-house CSR teams challenge the need to travel or attend meetings, training and conferences around the world, those planners who have invested in virtual meetings technology will continue to stay relevant and have a competitive advantage both now and in the future. 

But it’s not just about maximising virtual platforms to reduce the carbon footprint of your hybrid events programme.

Consider offsetting live elements or historic travel by investing in environmental programmes such as tree planting or introduce in-person community activity, which can double-up as vital attendee networking. 

By allocating 2021 event spend into these five areas, companies will be well-prepared for the return of live and even better prepared for the hybrid future of face-to-face. 

Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.

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