Michelle Fanus-St Hill points to a fresh way of doing business in the events industry.
This health crisis has highlighted our events industry’s heavy reliance on face-to-face activities, however, it has also shown our resilience and creativity – forcing us to pivot and embrace doing business online. So much so, that 75 million attendees logged into more than one million events in 2020 via Eventbrite alone in 2020.
The global events industry was valued at $1.1 trillion in 2018, a figure projected to double to $2.33 trillion by 2026. Coronavirus has certainly stunted this growth, impacting B2B brands, marketing, and sales activity. Virtual events were, in 2020, our saving grace, so what is on the horizon for the rest of 2021 and beyond? How do we get back on track and what is our post-pandemic game plan?
A staggering 97% of event marketers believe we will see more hybrid events in 2021 than ever before (Bizzabo, 2020). Hybrid, multi-channel and omni-channel events are the way forward, without a doubt, but what does that journey look like?
Time to explore a different way of doing business?
Pre-coronavirus, most of our industry worked around a transactional event-by-event approach, jumping from one event to the next, but what if there were a different way of doing things?
Imagine taking a longer-term view. Instead of large-scale annual events, how about exploring a series of engaging, informative ‘interactions’ over a 12 or even 24-month period? We would save on venue hire and logistics planning, not to mention saving our planet. Quite a mindset shift. but do consider:
• Slicing and dicing your larger events into more focussed pieces of content delivered as a mix of digital ideas e.g., targeted live events, newsletters, or podcasts;
• Consolidating your smaller events into more substantial experiences;
• Viewing your stakeholders as the community that you serve;
• Setting aims, objectives and ROI with extended timeframes;
• Identify the community ‘binding interest’ and discover what they really want;
• Explore an ‘always on’ model. 24/7 content and engagement.
We need a re-definition of our game plan and a re-design of our engagement that will bring value to audiences, amplify activity, and build stronger propositions.
1. Build strong, engaging communities
The first place to start is always with content and tackling the perception that online content is free.
Not everyone will be comfortable returning to live events, so an omni-channel strategy is going to be critical to retain your audiences. What do your audiences want? What will they pay for, spend time watching and leave their offices for? Remove the guesswork and spend time finding out. This will build your community.
2. Develop compelling monetisation strategies
Establishing what your community values will boost your engagement, grow event attendance, and unlock revenues. Where audiences go, we know sponsors closely follow.
Service providers will want to keep their brands front of mind and post-pandemic there will be pent-up demand for lead generation and a pipeline of new prospects. Webinars have global reach so there is the potential to sell sponsorship. If you find hot topics and areas of interest for your community, you can then explore how brands or sponsors can be integrated.
3. Create viable economic models
Starting with a pool of great content ideas leads you to build out a subscription-based model (like the publishing industry approach) for your events. Explore a tiered pricing approach that offers access to free material but where other business-enhancing features come at a price. Virtual event costs are low compared to live, with no venue hire fees and marginal costs close to zero for additional days.
The post-pandemic era offers the events industry an opportunity to change.
We need viable bounce back ideas. Live events will come back, however, online events are here to stay. Audiences will not always want to travel so virtual events are the gateway. Our focus
needs to be on quality and on serving our audiences.
Keep calm and build community.