Events 2022: How disruption is influencing the development of leading B2B event brands
B2B events have already shown that our sector can think ahead, can learn to be more Customer-focussed (beyond just words). Think SXSW’s Interactive conference, c2 in Montreal, Money 2020 and many more.
So what should B2B event owners be thinking about and preparing for? How might technology and emerging service strategies allow events to develop over the next few years?
#1: Someone I know… (A Reimagined Customer Buying Journey)
More and more customers will find the event they need through their own network and community ties. Referrals will increase in significance and by the time your sales and marketing teams connect, their information needs to close a sale will be minimal/different. How will your team adapt?
Don’t get too attached to email – mass email is already troubled by spammers, new regulations and the general white noise of an inbox. By 2022, marketing will be about much more sophisticated analytics around incentivised affiliate marketing and WOM. Clients will act as the promoters (& detractors) of your event through increasingly complex networks – have a think about how your systems and community relationships will need to change and adapt to cope with this.
#2: Old School vs New School Spex
Remember the days in 2017 when a sponsor’s metrics were about meetings, conversions to post-event contact and on to the expectation of a deal or two?
By 2022 big ticket sponsors will see themselves as primarily investing in your analytics mill and your ability to offer rich analysis of; and speedy/automated behavioural analysis of their client base
Big $$ are on the table for companies who can leverage digital/content/onsite/social tech to analyse behaviour down to the finest level possible. Clients will reward your ability to deliver supremely targeted introductions with prospects at the right stage in their adoption path to actively consider their product or service
By the way, if you’re not already – keep an eye on sports sponsorships and how they are evolving. They are way ahead of the curve in how they combine venue and onsite experience with digital community and fanbase insights. It’s also worth considering the other ways in which sports franchises offer more than on-the-day and on-the-product branding.
#3: Self-Curation Of The Community/Event
Whatever generation we look at, it’s clear that people are increasingly expecting to have a voice, responding-in-the-moment. Great content is needed to intrigue them to book – but innovative events will offer more opportunities for them to participate actively onsite.
Delegates will add to pre-set agenda content by creating what they want and need in the moment. Event technology will match them with connections to create on-the-spot content sessions, breakout groups, challenge hacks etc.
They’ll want the ability to share/promote their knowledge and personal brand as much as any speaker or industry VIPs
Moving forward, we need to work hard to ensure that we understand who the clients are, what they would like and need to buy and what experience is going to deliver memorable value to them. Help is available – more advanced survey companies such as qualtrics will assist with pulling out more detailed feedback to carve out a more superior product rather than just using net promoter scores to evaluate event experience?.
#4: Events That Actively Form Around You, Reacting To Your Choices
Elements of deep learning technology will soon be embedded in the marketing, content, sales and event systems we use and choose. Feed these systems data (with client approval) about client activities in the digital community as well onsite movement/ratings/choices and you’ll be able to provide targeted customisation of experiences. You’ll also be at the forefront of improving or disrupting basic event services. For example:
Client rated that speaker in the last session highly? They’ll be guided to join her for a pop-up introduction opportunity.
Arriving at the last minute or worried about massive queues – no problem – badge or event kit will be ready as you walk in with no wait (unless they opt out of location based services)
Been messaging over the last few hours/days about specific issues with certain profiles in the community? There’s a pop up session on xyz content in an hour…
Planning a technology acquisition or upgrade – you’ll be messaged an invitation to a private meeting with someone who already knowns what stage you’re at and what you’re looking for?
Imagine… what would you provide for sponsors and delegates if you really knew rich detail on needs and behaviours? How would you improve onsite experience/enjoyment as well as monetisable opportunities?
#5: Recurring Client Revenue & The Ability Of An Event Community To Deliver
Your ability to get the real ‘right people’ present & active onsite and online (aka the ‘reality’ of their engaged network) will be the key determining factor in repeat loyalty and growth. Not just about the promise of a community – but the delivery of that engagement.
- Eventers will be proactive in proving their community-chops by engaging in external hubs – being seen contribute, and to react to, feedback
- Intelligent content hubs will be widespread and automated, rather than reliant on marketers/editors to add content that they hope will engage and challenge. Tech solutions such as Placed, Localytics and Movable Ink will assist event marketers with serving up the right content at the right time and location for individual audience members
- Hubs will automatically seek external content of value to their clients and create partnerships in real time to make it available
- By engaging more widely before an event, event communities will respond and act more like stakeholders in the live events
#6: Experience & The Vendor
- You and your team are already working with exhibitors and clients to step out from behind their laptops and talk with people. The next phase is coaching them in presentation style, use of tech and then providing the bandwidth to enable the next phase of tech interaction.
- Fewer formal exhibiting stands, immersive experiences, VR/AR and a myriad of other technology used to engage the audience as the vendor relates to the delegate’s world
- Personalised conversations (via badge scans) that tell vendors what individual delegates want as they walk up.
#7: Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality & Virtual Reality
It’s not about replacing the whole live event experience, but rather about improving the UX of content, of product/service info, of networking experiences.
Attendee’s interactions with vendors, the show floor and vendor solutions will see the most change (and benefit) from these technologies… improving that interaction is a boost to the event-owner too, so think about how the bandwidth and tech you provide will need to alter in order to enable it.
#8: Integrated experiences (Looking to the retail sector as a guide…)
Seamless and complimentary – even the most forward thinking events in our space are yet to truly master this combination of experience. Much like the retail sector, we eventers have work to do in integrating these two worlds whilst allowing their natural strengths to flourish:
- Live = tailored relationship-building for everyone, the rise of concept/convergent content, self-curated discussions, small group interactions within the larger hive experience; mixed-reality tech used to deliver content; live problem solving
- Digital = Content-on-demand tailored to the viewer; increased live streaming of non-core/non-event content for subscribers, intros based on messaging & search analytics, stakeholder partners working with with event owners, contextual & behavioural content feeds
#9: Valuation based on repeat revenue vs Valuation based on yielding the right data
Yes – most of the event sector is trying to focus on big experience and scaled concepts… but there will always be groups within our sectors for whom small events are a more valuable, high ticket item. Already there are plenty of examples of hosted buyer events, just one boutique model, delivering exceptional customer experience and loyalty. These events, along with retreats and high profile smaller events, can still make 6-7 figure sums from sponsorship and delegate sales when done right.
Perhaps the event companies of 2022 will be less obsessed by a single model, and more focused on their ability to deliver what different audiences and sponsors need and demand. This could well be driven by future valuation models which focus on what event data shows about industry dynamics and behaviour instead of how many bodies they can get in a room on a regular basis.
The value of what can be learned about an audience, data on behaviour, investments, and the ability to micro target commercial opportunities on this basis is very likely to become the core valuation model in events. Imagine that – the valuation of your event business being based on your ability to develop data sets with intrinsic value vs. a valuation based on current profit and repeatable value.
#10: Great user experiences as a countermeasure to low barriers to entry
While a lot of these points focus on technology, the reality is that the future of events (and our ability to continue to be relevant & build loyalty) lies in how we deliver experiences that have value.
I can feel the old guard of the events industry roll their eyes at this. And yes, sometimes it can feel like ‘everything old is new again’ – user experience, they might say, has always been important.
But that misses the point: What’s new is the significant easing of barriers to entry into your markets. To launch an event in years past, you needed a lot more manpower that required upfront investment. You needed to build large quantities of data, you needed to spend on marketing and websites, you needed up front investment in venues and staff with the ability to build meaningful networks. You needed sales teams skilled in building commitment and interest from people who’d only just heard of the event.
Whilst some of that is still true, consider this: It has never been easier to build a following, to find influencers and to create a community than now. One or two people in a back room could do what previously took months and a lot more spend.
Imagine how much this will have been further disrupted by 2020. You don’t even need a particularly flash-bang website – many of the newest disrupters launched with single page sites that took hours to put up and looked pretty good all the same.
Aside from the relative ease of brand building and spreading the word, its also never been easier for a competitor to copy and disrupt your event cycle – again – all they need (at least in theory) is a strong social media strategy and they can replicate and drown out the noise from your event within days or weeks.
So what really protects you is the authenticity, the relationships, the value of your onsite/community experience.
And so this little post comes full circle: It’s already time to prepare for 2022 – time to work how how to select and deploy technology that will help us and our competition (both known and unknown) to be the disrupters, to build highly responsive, dynamic and ‘sentient’ events.