Over the last three years, the events business has taken a beating. As of March 2020, 90% of event professionals saw some or most of their business gone.
Throughout the pandemic, government officials across the United States rolled out several restrictions on social distancing, masking, and other aspects of public life. The orders are for public safety, and they vary by state, county, and even city.
At the peak of restrictions in late March and early April 2020, more than 310 million Americans were under directives ranging from "shelter in place" to "stay at home."
The 2020 COVID pandemic created a disruption in the event industry that has required planners to relearn and rethink everything from business models and sponsorships to event technology and content delivery.
Fears of viruses spreading, national lockdowns, and people's concerns about meeting others have led to a drop in in-person events and a move to online or hybrid events. However, virtual events can not completely replace in-person events as some B2B events require physical demonstrations that are best received in person.
The personal interaction offered by in-person trade shows allows you to establish a direct, more effective relationship with your client. Considering COVID is far from over, what does it mean for the future of in-person events?
Since the start of COVID-19, thousands of events have been postponed, canceled, or pivoted to virtual platforms. The pandemic has led to some hesitancy to attend public events. That is why hybrid events have been one of the leading meeting formats over the past three years.
While the vaccine has allowed many businesses to resume events and meetings, new variant waves have continued to stall the return to face-to-face events. Many organizations across the country, including the event planning industry, have implemented new protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help attendees feel comfortable attending in-person events.
Events professionals have noted that reduced interest in in-person gatherings was due to a perceived lack of safety precautions. From requiring masks to creating socially distant floor plans, event planners are taking additional measures to promote a healthy environment and build confidence about meeting in person.
According to a survey by Encore, 48% of planning organizations now require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to attend in-person events. While virtual events have taken the industry by storm since early in the pandemic, many attendees are eager to get back to face-to-face gatherings. Vaccination is allowing for in-person events to make a gradual comeback.
While there is no specific timeline on how quickly in-person meetings will become more regular, meeting planners are confident that we will see a steady rise by the end of 2022.
Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak ground in-person events to a halt, many organizations and businesses have thrived with virtual events. Since the pandemic started, there has been extensive expansion and growth within the world of virtual events.
From Zoom meetings to digital conferences, virtual events provided a lifeline for many businesses and individuals in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic led to the shut down of physical events worldwide.
B2B businesses were forced to digitize their operations to keep running successfully and ensure customer safety. They turned to digital and remote self-serve models and engaged with their customers purely online.
Aside from physical safety, here are some reasons why virtual events have thrived:
Hosting a virtual event requires the same care and attention as an in-person event. In both cases, you need to craft an event strategy to effectively promote the event, engage your attendees, create memorable moments for attendees, and prove event success.
It's more important now than ever for event planners to learn how to create a virtual event. If you're looking at organizing one, here are some steps you can take to manage a successful online event:
Trade shows, conferences, and meetings are just a few events that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to attend virtually for the past several months.
Virtual events have many benefits, including the opportunity to easily and quickly widen the reach and collect large amounts of data on attendees. But while they will always play a role in the marketing and sales processes, virtual events don't connect communities in the same way that in-person events do.
Business owners can generate more impactful business opportunities and better reach potential customers to market their products when they're not communicating from behind a screen.
Video meetings are rife with communication disconnects and technical errors, causing the "Zoom fatigue" phenomenon. By contrast, people can better pick up on non-verbal cues during in-person meetings and don't have to deal with the frustration of audio or video cutting out.
During an in-person trade show, attendees typically walk around the expo hall. They might have a pre-set list of companies they want to talk to. But as they walk around, a personalized booth might catch their eye, and they'll stop to learn more. That's not something a virtual event can successfully replicate.
In many aspects, in-person events are irreplaceable, and attendees are eager to return to face-to-face interactions. Over the past three years, event organizers have become innovative in utilizing virtual events. Still, it was never a question of replacing live events per se.
Event safety must be the top priority should event organizers wish to avoid cancellations or postponements. Most organizers and attendees have already adjusted to the new rules of attending in-person events.
Furthermore, in addition to new safety measures, we've seen the development of new COVID vaccines and COVID-safe technology that have aided us in ensuring safety is never compromised.
Hybrid events are a combination of in-person and virtual events. They often allow for a much greater degree of flexibility: people can attend in person if they want or access remotely if they're unable/unwilling to be there physically. The best of both worlds, if you will.
Hybrid events can also allow multiple connected events to happen simultaneously in different locations. The following benefits of hybrid events are why they are the future of B2B.
Hybrid events require planners to attract in-person attendees without alienating virtual attendees and compete for a virtual audience's attention in a saturated market. How can planners market their events to stand out and appeal to both groups?
By using the hybrid event in your B2B marketing strategy, you can appeal to your audience no matter where they are.
Hybrid events have an added layer of complexity because they need to consider how live and virtual experiences function as independent and interdependent components. Before the event, the marketing campaign should emphasize on:
Trade shows have the potential to generate an impressive number of leads for the brands that approach them in the right way. They are a great place to showcase new products and attract potential buyers.
The global pandemic brought in-person events, including trade shows and conferences, to a standstill, and the industry adjusted to virtual events.
It's not a question of if but when trade shows return in the future, and marketers and planners must be prepared with the latest strategies to meet new market demands. You can maximize your trade show strategy in the following ways:
Other than trade shows, there are different in-person events B2B businesses can organize. They include:
Conferences are generally hosted by organizations selling B2B. People come together to discuss the latest trends and opportunities related to the conference's theme.
Workshops are much smaller than conferences and last only one to two days. Because workshops are smaller than conferences, attendees tend to spend more time interacting with the presenter and other attendees.
The benefit of hosting a networking event is that it doesn't require as much planning as a conference. You don't even need speakers. You just need a venue and people.
Product launch events are hosted when a company wants to generate buzz around a new product. These products are shown to the public for the first time and are only exclusive to the press and influencers.
Organizers need to follow some safety protocols for in-person events to make a comeback. Aside from the apparent health benefits, these safety measures will also define how you are perceived by your attendees, speakers, sponsors, partners, and team members.
There is no comparison to what face-to-face meetings, small conversations in the halls, or quick chats over meals at in-person events can achieve for your business.
While it may take some time for things to get back to normal, in-person events are here to stay. In-person events will come back soon; it just depends on whether organizers and businesses are ready to adopt the new measures required to keep them running and safe. That said, different companies require different solutions. Find the solution that works best for you whether in-person, hybrid, or virtual events.
Are you looking for materials to prepare for your event? At Steel Croissant, we help brands discover who they are and where they want to go, and then we get them there. Contact us, and we will help you nail your next project.
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