By Saumya Chaudhary
From the very first week of the global pandemic, event marketers and planners knew a big shift was coming. The world of events as we knew it was going to change completely, and event professionals had to reskill themselves quickly.
After more than 18 months of navigating the twists and turns of the pandemic, a new world of events has emerged, completely changing the traditional rules of event marketing. The power of events has never been stronger in the overall marketing equation. As we gear up for the future, let’s look at the turn of events this year and how we can prepare for the future.
1. Event Marketing Trends Toward Virtual Buyers
Just as the events landscape changed overnight, so did the marketplace. Previously, planners were primarily focused on in-person events, but because of the pandemic, those were hardly happening anywhere on the planet. In turn, marketers’ audiences and buyers changed.
Everything about their world had shifted to a new virtual setting: event delivery models, their roles, and even the technology they used.
It was clear that the traditional marketing plan needed an overnight overhaul. The set-out plan of action, topics of discussion, and conversations to be had with the in-person audience were now irrelevant. Organizations were facing a new virtual reality, and their event teams had to buckle up and focus on the new virtual buyer.
2. Use Your Unique Voice in the Market
At the beginning of the pandemic, listening to the user community and engaging with them across multiple channels turned out to be immensely valuable for organizations. Virtual events were also a powerful format to help gather amazing insights from customers.
As a trend, organizations must continue to invest heavily in their communication channels. This was, and remains, a rapidly changing marketplace for the events industry. It’s more important than ever for organizations to stay on top of their community reviews to listen and find quick solutions.
For 2023, market interactions seem to be trending toward listening intently, leveraging best practices from global community reviews, and delivering “how-to” content for your customers. Therefore, it’s crucial to adopt the latest technology for delivering content that’s helpful to your audience.
As a best practice, marketing teams must also double down on practical content; for example, by offering training and certifications to their customers. Every industry is looking to restructure and rebuild its old programs, and you should use your unique voice in the market to contribute to that conversation.
3. Reimagine Your Webinars
Another element that kept most event marketers up at night was how the event mix had changed dramatically. Previously, in-person events had played a major role in generating leads, and that piece of the pie went away overnight.
There were not only concerns about lead volume but also the quality of leads. How were marketers going to make up for the meaningful in-person connections that were also highly qualifying leads?
As a result, event professionals worked on reimagining what virtual event formats looked like – especially webinars.
Traditionally, webinars weren’t considered the highest converting channel for most organizations when compared to in-person meetings. So, event planners had to lean heavily on creating thoughtful webinar engagements that told a cohesive story using high-quality production. In 2023, part of the way to do that will be by leveraging your authentic brand voice and delivering meaningful webinars that are much more than just running a PowerPoint presentation.
4. Embrace the Changes Caused by Virtual Events
The shift to the virtual world was a great time to evaluate old processes, and marketers and planners embraced many changes. They started thinking about why they had been using certain tactics and what could be improved, which led to innovation.
Organizations that didn’t shy away from leveraging virtual appointments and networking sessions at the beginning of the pandemic benefitted immensely from conversations with their user community. Customers and prospects wanted to hear what their peers were experiencing. These weren’t intense presentations but were topical and got people talking about how to adapt to the changing times.
In 2023, organizations must continue leveraging such virtual events and social channels to network and meet their customers and prospects and ultimately build their brand value.
With small and simple meetings anticipated to return soon, event professionals must also leverage self-service technology to save time, streamline processes, and provide an engaging attendee experience, no matter the event format. Event professionals also need to work closely with their IT department to ensure they’re making the most of their tech investments securely.
5. Leverage Every Format: In-person, Virtual, and Hybrid
The rise of virtual and hybrid events provided a massive opportunity in the form of a multi-audience, multiformat events landscape that allowed marketers to engage with their audiences at every level of the marketing funnel.
It also allowed event planners to begin strategically utilizing the three event formats in a way that made sense to capture and convert leads. As virtual events help quickly expand outreach to new prospects, planners could leverage them for top-of-the-funnel leads. Similarly, they could leverage in-person or hybrid events for middle-of-the-funnel communications to engage their customers with meaningful content that increases leads and conversions.
Technology also advanced to allow for deeper and more extended engagement with different audiences. The interactivity and immersion that’s now available via on-demand content have allowed planners and marketers to greatly extend their engagement cycle.
By leveraging each of the three-event formats and their respective advantages, you no longer need to trade reach for engagement.
6. Don't Waste Your Event Engagement
Historically, in-person events were considered extremely effective at engaging audiences during a particular day and time. For traditional B2B marketers, seeing all that great content, effort, and engagement limited to a single-time use was distressing. How could they upcycle and reuse all that great content and extend the life of an in-person event?
It was a challenge to determine what content was most loved by and resonated with their audiences; what they would like to see more of; and how to guide the next-best sales offer. To make these determinations, they needed more ways to extend the event experience further into the buyer’s journey.
With omnichannel as a hot topic for 2023, marketers and planners must focus on creating virtual events that can deliver content that isn’t bound by time or an offline boundary. This new wealth of data that can be later extended to newer audiences will be extremely powerful in gathering unique insights and impacting the conversion funnel.
7. Breaking the Silos: Marketing and Events Teams
Traditionally, marketing and events teams have worked independently, briefly intersecting on a few action items. The events team was largely responsible for building in-person programs, and the marketing team was focused on only the digital aspects.
But with the rapid digitization of events, there has been a convergence of these teams’ functions, creating a new mindset. We’re now starting to see the best of both teams working together. As an ongoing trend, event planners are leaning on marketers to leverage their digital knowledge and work closer than ever. In 2023, it will be interesting to note how these teams collaborate to foster better engagement, deeper insights, and a larger impact.
8. Reducing the Gray Zone Around Budgets
Before the pandemic, organizations had structured marketing plans and budgeting cycles. Cut to today, the focus is on minimizing the gray zone of uncertainty that came with the pandemic. Here are three elements to focus on from a planning and budgeting perspective in 2023:
Flexibility – Companies must have the budget flexibility to be able to shift gears based on each quarter of the year. Planners must also ensure contract flexibility to be able to negotiate with venues for last-minute changes.
Alignment – Marketing and events teams must be aligned on common goals and KPIs. Companies also need to prioritize data alignment to ensure a single source of truth.
Automation – It’s important to ensure that most of your manual operations are being automated as you move into next year. This helps free up resources that can then be allocated to new marketplace opportunities for your business.
To Sum It Up
There’s no denying that there might be complexities in event journeys moving forward. Organizations will be juggling multiple event formats and audiences and watching their customers engage with and respond in unique ways to their brands.
The maxim of the survival of the fittest still applies. Ultimately, marketers and event planners must scale their events programs and be agile enough to switch to different event formats quickly.
Today, this can be executed efficiently by integrating all your event formats into a single events management platform. This will not only help deliver consistent engagement levels and capture all activity uniformly but will also allow you to share that wealth of data with your sales team in a format they understand.
Saumya is the Assistant Team Lead for Content, and Enterprise Marketing at Cvent and is passionate about exploring storytelling as a brand strategy. You can find her immersed in a good book in a small café, hiking through offbeat Himachal towns, obsessing over women writers, or in deep conversation with her birds.