The importance of in-person events to drive industry forward

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The importance of in-person events to drive industry forward

Competing for delegate attention has never been easy. Now, with the rise of virtual events, the power of connecting with audiences in-person is becoming clear. 

Human connection, local resources, and emotionally resonant experiences are at the heart of any successful business event strategy. Now, after so many months of webinars, conference calls, and online meetings, we recognise — perhaps more than ever before — the importance of gathering in person, and the role business events play in facilitating and supporting the exchange of ideas, building networks, and fuelling innovation. Thanks to an endless stream of events experienced from home, we know that it is possible to share knowledge across platforms and screens. But when it comes to authentically engaging with audiences and driving industry forward, there is no substitute for the creativity and energy that ignites when groups of like-minded people come together in the same place.

“We are hearing more and more from audiences that they are ‘Zoomed out,” says Virginie De Visscher, senior director of business development, economic sectors for Destination Canada Business Events. “Virtual events are a great alternative and enhancement to meeting in person, but they are no substitute for gathering in one place with your peers to learn about the newest technological or medical advancements — because meetings are about more than just sharing the latest news, they are also about moving industry forward. We really believe you need the energy generated from in-person events to drive innovation and momentum.”

Once we can meet again safely with travel restrictions and gathering limitations lifted for in-person events, it will be more important than ever to consider the purpose of hosting live events and evaluate it against the organisation’s mission to answer this question: Is the opportunity for learning, collaboration, and industry or mission advancement best done online, or is it best done in person?

Like the technologies we have all become so accustomed to using in the absence of in-person meetings (and the ones we’ll soon become used to in the new era of hybrid conferences), business events have the power to accelerate progress, lead to innovation and reinvention, and are critical to economic recovery — not just for conference organisers, but for the event’s host communities as well.

“International business events are magnets for content-hungry individuals and for those with investment resources,” says De Visscher. “Our role within Destination Canada is to spotlight Canada’s innovation industries to connect event organisers with Canadian innovators to create the sort of events global audiences will travel to experience.” De Visscher points to successful events such as the World Summit AI North America, the Collision Conference, and the VR/AR Summit, as examples of how business events spark new ideas, foster new relationships, and forge new collaborative networks. A resource for innovation and invention sharing, business events can help shape policy-making, create new opportunities for trade, investment, and business expansion — all of which will be critical for a robust economic recovery and future resilience of our industry.

Anyone who has attended a business event knows the value of tactile learning: touching, hearing, and otherwise interacting with innovation ecosystems and technologies have the power to create engaging learning environments. Business events, whether they are tradeshows, conventions, symposia, or corporate meetings, provide a unique opportunity for delegates and exhibitors to launch new technologies, connect with their target audience for real-time feedback on new products and services, and for delegates to safely sample a new culture through the organised social event programme.

De Visscher says: “Like many, our calendars used to be perpetually full of conferences, tradeshows, and client events, many of which have been replaced by virtual experiences. And as interesting as the online events have been, we can’t help but miss the hallway conversations, the serendipitous moments of connection that aren’t scheduled into a programme or agenda.” Indeed, the discussions aboard an event shuttle or over a coffee break can lead to a new way of thinking. Fresh ideas are sparked when listening together to local thought-leaders who know their industry’s ecosystem best. “Remember the new connections you used to make at an opening night reception? Or making a new discovery as you wind your way along a tradeshow floor? Who doesn’t miss touching, sampling, listening, and being one of the first to experience a new product just as it’s launched?”


De Visscher is confident we will return to those days, when it is safe to do so. And when we do bring our industry, our experts, thought leaders, academia, and business leaders together to meet in person again, the end result will be a true meeting of the minds that generates conversation, connection and collaboration and a path forward for individuals, industries and communities.

Learn more about Destination Canada Business Events.

Conference & Meetings World is published for the international conference and meetings industry. It tackles the issues facing organisers of international events. The editorial is independent, fresh and news driven, with a global reach.

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