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The future of B2B events

This blog is the first in a four part series covering the future of events.

At the beginning of the summer, I—and I’m sure many of you—thought that we would reliably return to hosting in-person events again by the fall.  I dreamed of those days in the near future where our feet would hurt from standing for hours at a booth, where we would find the bar cart as soon as the last session wrapped up, and where we finally put faces to names. 

Then, sigh, Delta. Covid case numbers have upticked, mask mandates are back, and we are once again involved with the hurry-up-and-wait planning process. But it’s not all doom and gloom. As we learned the last year and a half, uncertainty breeds creativity. 

So we are now dreaming up a new strategy and pivoting for what is next. We started by exploring a simple question: why do we love events?  Travel, experiencing new places, networking and meeting new people is what makes us tick. For the same reason poets and musicians travel to be inspired, events invigorate us.

The future of B2B events checklist

With this in mind, here is what I envision success looks like for the *near* future of B2B events (because let’s be real, this can all change in a moment): 

  • Hybrid event models will become more commonplace than in person-only or virtual-only
  • Prioritization of safety precautions and mandates from both event organizers and employers
  • Increased evolution of virtual networking platforms like  Hopin, Swapcard, and Bizzabo,  which make a seamless virtual expo hall experience where attendees can interact with one another much like they would on-site
  • Virtual experiences will need to be more creative to attract interest; more than just another virtual webinar, brands will need to entice prospects with creative experiences like a virtual cooking class,  or a meet and greet with an author or athlete
  • Influencers will be utilized now more than ever to increase registration rates and promotion of these virtual experiences
  • Swag needs to evolve with the times; no longer will cheap pens at a tradeshow booth cut it, to break through the virtual noise brands will need to source merchandise that people want to use—at home, in the office, and everywhere in between
  • Align brand experiences to other relevant dates, holidays and seasons; for instance, we plan on hosting a Global Mental Health Day event in October, where we will offer an activity that promotes mental health in the workplace.
  • Increase in event engagement app usage, such as  Attendify or Brella; these apps show you who is registered for the event, and provide the capability to schedule 1:1 meetings
  • Creative post-event follow-up; without the in-person connections we used to rely on for post-event success, brands will need to invest more thought and resources into their post-event campaign strategies—for example, we have found success running a virtual after party or wine tasting

Never lose sight of the important questions

No matter how things shake out or how future events shape up, event planners and attendees alike need to always remember what’s important:

  • What is your goal for this event? 
  • What business challenge does it solve?
  • What about your event is intriguing enough that someone would be inspired to register and attend?
  • How does your event reflect your brand? 
  • How can you build on this experience after it’s over?

As we all know now, anything can happen in the future, but we can rest assured that there will always be events of some kind. Based on our learning from the past 18 months, we can predict these things with confidence. 

Be sure to watch for part two of our series this month and register for one of our upcoming events here:

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