The Future of Event Marketing

The Future of Event Marketing

It is no secret that event marketing is important to B2B executives. Which is why marketing budget owners were caught off guard when 2020 hit and in-person events had to either be postponed or cancelled. Now, as we approach the Spring of 2021, and certain locations are opening completely, it begs the question of, when are in-person events coming back? What will they look like and will virtual events go away?

According to Bizzabo’s Event Marketing report, the majority of leadership, 85%, “believes that in-person events are critical to their company’s success.” This same report also shared that 97% of “B2B marketers believe that in-person events have a major impact on achieving business outcomes.” Considering these statistics, in-person events will have to come back, the question is when and in what fashion? The truth is, no one can be certain about the future, but we can look to see what trends are showing and how to best execute events, so that the positive and critical business impacts will still be seen.

Event Marketing Trends

I recently attended a small gathering with presenter, Steph Smith, Analyst and Senior Manager, Head of, and she shared that as businesses transition back to in-person gatherings, there will still be an aspect of virtual interaction involved for a hybrid approach. Like half of executives, 50.7% that participated in this study with 614 Group, I would have to agree.

The virtual aspect of events allows for companies to reach their audience at a greater volume and have the content generated from the event be more readily available, which is ideal for the B2B consumerism buying mindset that we are seeing from prospects today. Buyers, even in B2B, not just B2C, want to take control of their own journey and do their research. Allowing them to consume the content from an event on their terms, completely aligns to this approach.

However, the difficulty with virtual events is the lack of engagement, attendance, deeper relationship building, spontaneity, and networking that all comes with in-person events. Networking and engagement were reported from Bizzabo’s Evolution of Events, to be the number one problem that marketers face when executing virtual events. Breakout rooms are great, but they are not always as natural feeling, nor provide the amount of time really needed, compared to the networking that can take place when two people at an in-person event are standing in the same line for coffee, start talking, and then skip the next session because their current conversation is so valuable.

The other difficulty with virtual events is the sheer volume of them, the competition, and having the ability to stand out. In-person events are dictated by location, geographic proximity and the ability for attendees to have the funds to travel there, let alone purchase an admission ticket. With virtual events, people can attend them from anywhere in the world, hosted by any company in the world. The competition just skyrocketed. 

Which begs the question, why should your target audience attend your virtual event over every other option they have in the first place?

Why People Attend Events

Smith summarized the reasons why people attend events into four values, Community, Learning, Status, and Experience. We either want to network or come together with other like-minded individuals, learn something new, be associated with others of a certain status, or have a certain kind of experience. Understanding how your event will fulfill these aspects will determine how well it serves its attendees.

In-person events will come back, but not overnight. According to Bizzabo’s Evolution of Events report, almost half, 48.3%, of marketers say that they do not plan to resume in-person meetings until later than the Spring of 2021, if they even resume them in 2021 at all. Individuals may express that they are willing to take the risk of attending an in-person event, but large corporations may not have the luxury of taking this same risk. No brand wants to be associated with an event that causes a spike in cases. Meaning that virtual events will remain the primary event marketing medium for a little longer, but to the earlier statistic, may not ever go away completely. Thus it is up to event marketers to get creative and understand how to make their virtual events unique and worth while according to the value that attendees are searching for.

Impacting The Future

Webinars are great for fulfilling the desired value of learning, but then what virtual event is your business doing to provide a sense of community or memorable experience to its target audience? A question to ask yourself is: Will my event be something that attendees will want to tell their co-workers and friends about? If not, then it is time to level-up your event marketing.

Smith posed the challenge to the group to understand the value that the event is fulfilling and to do it really well, better than anyone else. If your company plans on doing a virtual event, how can they create that memorable experience that would come with an in-person event? Is it doing the event on a smaller scale with a more intimate group? Is it doing a virtual food or beverage tasting or leading attendees through a hands-on DIY project? There are so many options, but it needs to best serve your target audience in a way that they will want it, which is where a big part of the challenge for event marketing comes in.

In order to make a notable impact on the future of your event marketing strategy that will drive business outcomes, understand the value(s) that your events are fulfilling, Community, Learning, Status, and/or Experience. Be in tune with your target audience and how to best serve their needs. Then strategize and plan your event, whether virtual, in-person, or a hybrid to be unique and memorable, to stand out from the competition, and have the positive business impact that your team is striving for.

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