Visiting a trade show booth without stepping foot on a plane.
Taking a break from professional development sessions to eat lunch with your family.
Sipping wine while networking from the comfort of your home.
These are just a few of the many benefits that virtual events have offered attendees. The upside for brands has also been profound – from the ability to host larger, global audiences to making better use of data and analytics to optimize content strategies to finding new, creative ways to build a community for virtual participants.
As more employees consider heading back to the office and the travel industry starts to pick-up – many of us are looking forward to the return of business trips and the personal connections made through handshakes and shared during in-person experiences. However, the meetings, convention, and conference industry has undergone a rapid digital transformation – ushering a new era for corporate event planners and attendees.
There is no turning back; the benefits are impossible to ignore. Industry experts like to use the term “hybrid events” as a buzzword to describe the potential for the future of events – implying that a conference will need to include a virtual component and may not be entirely purpose-built for in-person audiences.
I prefer to use the term “always on” to describe the next generation of events – a model that will empower planners with boundless creativity, opportunities for engagement, and ultimately, a return on investment (ROI).
The always-on concept is an opportunity to extend event engagement before, during, and after a live event – moving forward, all events will be expected to have both digital and in-person elements. The bar has been raised.
How should brands begin to think about the future of events, today? Keep reading to learn more.
Events Without Borders
The goal of an always-on event experience is to break down the barriers presented by time, geography, and travel. Planners no longer need to wait until the event date to connect with their audience – they can schedule activities before the event, throughout the live period, and even post-event to take advantage of the full life cycle.
Attendees, both physical and virtual, now can join an event from anywhere in the world – on their own time. For example, user conferences can be executed as more frequent, shorter, focused sessions over several months. Sales pitches and product demos can be scheduled or accessible after hours, and missed sessions are available to be revisited as recordings at another time – giving attendees the opportunity to see everything a conference has to offer.
Planners also have access to a broader network of speakers and entertainment options when travel and tight timelines are eliminated.
When I think about the future of virtual events, I think about how emerging technology can facilitate seamless, meaningful interactions at scale.
An example may be a trade show booth outfitted with cameras (or virtual reality devices) for ongoing, two-way interaction with visitors – with special hours for live demos and on-demand content that is available pre- and post-show.
Planners should also consider curated or VIP experiences for virtual attendees – concerts, behind-the-scenes opportunities, or networking events set up to facilitate conversations with in-person attendees.
Data-Driven Event Builds
Events of the future will use the combined data collected from physical and digital audiences (e.g., engagement with content, foot and web traffic, number of attendees for keynote sessions) to build trade shows and conferences that deliver a better customer experience.
Virtual attendee analytics provide even more insights and feedback than traditional after-session surveys, and they can help a brand to understand who attended their show and what they were most interested in. This could also be an excellent use case for artificial intelligence (AI) – using attendee data from a previous conference can bring us closer to an ideal event in the future, from optimizing the booth layout to speaker recommendations and content planning.
Finally, always-on events can be leveraged across the entire marketing ecosystem with solutions that power the delivery of content, commerce, and community.
We are expanding our events technology beyond our current category leadership position into the heart of the marketing mix and into an always-on and intelligent event-centric platform. This includes real-time social media monitoring, press release distribution, and solutions that build strategic, high-impact media relations programs.
My team at Notified spends a lot of time thinking about the future of events – how to deliver a seamless experience, in-person and virtually – and we have only just begun to see the use of emerging tech in the industry.
Notified hosted an interactive webinar with industry experts entitled Hybrid Events: Uncovering the Complete Event Life Cycle. View our on-demand webinar to hear experts walk through the event life cycle and share ways to build meaningful connections with your audience that go beyond a moment in time and physical location.
P.S. If you are looking for tactical information and creative ideas for virtual events, check out my recently published book, Transitioning to Virtual and Hybrid Events.