The events industry has certainly proven how innovative and resilient it can be. With mask mandates and social distancing increasingly relegated to the rearview mirror, event planners remember the real value of in-person events and expos.
Innovating the return to in-person
For an industry whose lifeblood depends on people gathering in person, social distancing and isolation proved to be tough pills to swallow.
Owing to their professional commitment and dedication, many event managers were able to survive the shutdown by changing the game. Thanks to event management software, they mastered the art of hosting virtual events and successfully kept business moving forward.
Now, there is an increased emphasis on returning to in-person events and expos.
For attendees polled by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIT) Omnichannel Marketing Insight Series 87% of survey respondents anticipate attending in-person opportunities, with 98% planning to shop and 97% eager to learn.
With such resounding interest in in-person events, it begs the question — should event managers still worry about hosting the hybrid component?
That same survey shows that 38% are quite accustomed to online communications. Leaving 31% who prefer to choose between in-person and online alternatives. Once again, keeping everyone happy in these separate spaces requires a continued reliance on technology.
Event management software is the not-so-secret solution empowering event managers to navigate this much-anticipated return safely and successfully.
The challenge this time? Demonstrating the value of in-person events, specifically B2B expos.
Identifying the “why” of in-person events
There’s no doubt that most people are feeling energized at the thought of gathering in groups again.
CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, Peter Guber, makes the point that “Nothing replaces being in the same room, face-to-face, breathing the same air and reading and feeling each other’s micro-expressions.”
In fact, according to survey analysis by CEIR CEO Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM:
“The CEIR Omnichannel Marketing Insights is showing us what we’ve known to be true all along – people want to meet face-to-face. Of those surveyed, 95% identified multiple unique values of attending B2B exhibitions not fulfilled by other channels. The data confirms that attendees value the in-person setting more than any other touchpoint along their journey for building relationships and shopping for products and services.”
If the data confirms that attendees do value in-person events, the question is why?
Let’s hear it for the “halo effect”
Featured in EE Times, Randall Restle celebrates the value of in-person events, attributing them as having a better halo effect than their online counterparts.
Really, what he’s saying is that attending in-person events gives you access to a group of like-minded people, all of whom are interacting and communicating about the same pain points and possibilities.
Unlike online interactions, which tend to be heavily scripted and staged, in-person events inspire spontaneous exchanges. These moments, more than video conferencing or other digital marketing initiatives, introduce an attendee to the product or service they never knew they needed.
Simply because you can’t Google what you don’t know you’re looking for.
By attending in-person events, like expos and tradeshows, you encounter possibilities you never knew existed. Of which, most prove to be game-changers to your brand, business or professional journey.
Event planners can facilitate these encounters with expo management solutions that organize trade shows and exhibition halls, making life easier — and your event more engaging — for exhibitors.
Moreover, providing your exhibitors with advanced lead retrieval solutions will not only impress them but also signal the value you place on their presence at your event and the value your event affords their participation.
In-Person participation is practically guaranteed
Well, maybe not guaranteed, but given the cost of attending most in-person expos and tradeshows, participating or, at least being present, is more likely compared to online events.
As Restle admits, “I find it easier to remain focused when it is harder to switch my attention. I have two monitors on my computer, and I never put the online event I am “watching” on both monitors. My second monitor reminds me of other things I want to and need to do.”
In fairness, even if you’re using both monitors for maximum focus, most online interactions are defined by distractions.
Consider this data that Zoom collated about what’s happening on and off camera during Zoom calls:
- 43% of parents suffered a cameo appearance by their kids while on a Zoom call or meeting
- 36% had a pet steal the show
Not exactly conducive to meaningful interactions… which are inherent to the value of in-person events, expos, and tradeshows.
“We learn by interacting with those having different experiences. We benefit from having the group’s eyes and ears looking out for new information and then sharing what excites them. Being plugged into a group of commonly interested people is a huge benefit to discovery,” according to Restle.
Event planners can actually measure the values of these moments of discovery with event management software. These tools allows users to track attendance, evaluate session popularity, and analyze how types of event content perform against attendee demographics.
Still, the ongoing threat of COVID-19 exposure remains real. This is why event planners must be prepared to take steps that support the safety of all involved.
This is where contactless and digital features are crucial to the success of in-person events.