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5 Questions With… entrepreneur and event tech expert, Marco Giberti

Tech should not replace face-to-face events – it should improve it. Tech is part of the solution for the future of business, says Marco Giberti, founder and CEO of Vesuvio Ventures.

Marco Giberti of Vesuvio Ventures.

1. How can technology be adopted to create new revenue opportunities?

For many event organizers, tech wasn’t a core necessity and it was a nice thing to have. This mindset has changed. Organizers are finally realizing that tech is not a threat, or an enemy, or a competitor. It is the opposite – it is part of the solution for the future of the business. This means event organizers are realizing that, because of tech and through tech, they can generate incremental revenues and see clear examples on retargeting referrals, lead gen, and meetings on a virtual basis, which can help organizers to generate digital revenues.

On the other side, there is a clear efficiency through tech for event organizers, such as savings on salaries and G&A that will improve the business and also help them to deliver a better service to their specific customers, sponsors and delegates.

2. What advice would you give to event professionals who want to trial new technologies?

Pilots, pilots, and pilots. Think as a tech company. Any tech company will run a pilot, test it, fail, fix it, and do it again. Keep it simple, be ready to fail and learn, and do it again. Be agile, entrepreneurial and create your own specific pilot. It will not be perfect and that's fine – it's part of the innovation process. With that mindset, you will be having a significantly more productive relationship with tech.

3. What are the biggest opportunities with the hybrid model? And the biggest challenges?

The biggest opportunity by far is the Total Addressable Market (TAM). Virtual events, the Covid situation, and all the learnings that we're having during this last year are creating a massive new TAM for events.

The TAM that is new and bigger comes from the people that were not usually attracted to a specific conference, or trade show, or festival. And now – because of the virtual pricing, the convenience, no planes or hotel, time, location – they can join that specific virtual event. That massive new audience is a fantastic opportunity.

The challenge is nobody's cracking the code yet on how to monetize that audience and how to generate the right level and quality of engagement between the audience with the content.

Digital engagement is not as good as face-to-face engagement and that's probably going to take a while to solve or, possibly, is never going to be fixed. And that's fine because I don't think tech should replace face-to-face. Tech should improve face-to-face.

I see the opportunity for smart, entrepreneurial, and creative event organizers to capitalize on that TAM and move into layers of engagement, where they can add value to their exhibitors and sponsors, connect those virtual attendees in the future as physical attendees, and create a better engagement between buyers and sellers all year long.

4. AMR Research pre-Covid says the revenue split in events is 78% booths, 13% ticketing, 7% sponsors, and only 2% digital. For 2021 and beyond, what would you estimate the split to be?

Nobody knows the correct answer. I'm talking with many different organizers – big, medium, and small. The thinking right now is that probably events are going to become smaller at first. It is going to take two to three years to return to 2019 levels.

The revenue split is ready to change because of the learnings and the consumer behavior change that Covid is pushing. So, for example, if your show generated 50:50 revenue between exhibitor space and tickets, in the next three to five years, your revenue split should probably move into 20-30% from tickets and 10-20% virtual tickets.

There will also be a different revenue split from exhibitors, sponsors, and meetings, which means you are going to start monetizing that blended category that will include some meetings and activities that are happening at the convention center, but also some of those meetings will happen during the rest of the year in the community engagement.

The revenue split and business model will change slowly and will be more difficult, but the commerce component is going to change.

The clear opportunity here is customers are ready to change their mindset in terms of the way that they invest time and money at live events.

If you're an organizer that understands your audience and community, you can have conversations with them and discuss ideas for their investments that are more productive for them in the future.

If there is a clear lesson to be learned from virtual, it should be that virtual events should be productive in terms of marketing investment, lead generation, and engagement. The question will be: how can we capitalize on that for hybrid when we go back to physical events? And which lessons learned from virtual events could be still relevant and valid when we look back to traditional events formats?

5. What is your vision for the event industry for the next five years? And what new trends, that have been adopted this year, will we see in the future?

Covid will be an accelerator and we'll generate decades of innovation in a couple of years, which will be fascinating to see. Imagination right now is at full speed from all sides – from organizers, sponsors, and visitors. The genie is out of the bottle because now we all know that virtual could and should play a different role. Now we all know that hybrid could be real and that traditional events will have a hard time surviving if we're not able to showcase the return of investment to stakeholders.

If you put all those things together, the opportunity for change in the next five years is bigger than ever before in our industry’s history. This is because you have all these consumers ready to accept and engage with change. You have the exhibitor thinking: ‘I'm happy to keep investing in events, but I want to be sure, where is my return investment coming from?’

Organizers are now rethinking their business model because, if not, they're simply not going to survive and so will need to change their value proposition.

And you have visitors thinking twice, asking: ‘Should I jump onto the plane and cross the world for a conference or a trade show, or I should simply participate in a couple of keynotes and meetings from my home or office?’ Where is the real added value in terms of face-to-face?

This year is forcing us to rethink which specific activities should be done face-to-face and which should be digital.

If you mix all these components at the same time, there is a clear opportunity for change and innovation in our industry, and I'm super excited to see how smart entrepreneurs and organizers can capitalize on those opportunities for the future.

Read Marco's fascinating opinion piece 'Events as platforms' here.

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