GTR CEO Travis Tucker shares five things event and exhibition organizers should consider when planning events.
#1 It’s essential to set the right expectations for events. Clients were asking the wrong question during the early stages of the pandemic.
They were asking, how do I take my in-person event and make it virtual? The right question was and continues to be: How do I deliver the objectives that this meeting needs virtually?
Many event organizers just tried to take their meetings and make them virtual. They were unsuccessful, which is really sad because now they are saying that they will never do virtual events again – even though it could be such a great tool in their arsenal.
For event planners who are feeling that way, my hope is that you hit reset because people are having a very positive engagement at virtual events.
#2 Hybrid events are a totally different thing. It’s not about how you create two things and bring them together. The right question is: How do I bring both virtual and in-person attendees together for a coherent experience?
An example of how technology and creativity can combine for hybrid events is to have chat walls on the side of stages so in-person attendees can see what virtual attendees are saying and can contribute to that conversation.
#3 The event industry has woken up. From a technology standpoint, the event industry is a late adopter. Typically, event technology was adapted by event planners after it had gone mainstream in other industries. For example, mobile apps existed for a long time before event-focused apps came out.
Then it took five to seven years for event-focused apps to permeate the market to the point that attendees expected to have one when they went to an event.
After a year of virtual events, event organizers see technology as a major part of their event and want to know how to leverage it to provide value. There’s been more funding in our space than ever before because investors see this as a real market where they can put capital in and get a return. That means innovation is going to happen.
#4 Exhibitors got real quality and value from virtual events. Early on during the pandemic, one of the biggest challenges was showing exhibitors how they could get value from virtual events. In-person attendance at exhibit halls created activity and traffic that could not be replicated virtually.
Exhibitors needed to change their metric from lead quantity to lead quality. Seven hundred people dropping their business card into a fishbowl because they want an iPad might get you 12 actionable leads. In a virtual world, I can tell you in real-time that there are 15 people on your page right now and what they are looking at.
#5 Highly actionable data is the future. For instance, during an in-person event, people generally don’t get up and walk out if the session is not good. Virtually, an attendee is going to click off and go somewhere else. With this real-time feedback, event organizers can go beyond survey results on measuring engagement with speakers, sessions, and topics.
You get to see the nitty-gritty and pull in different types of data to determine what offers the most value and what delivers the most impact. You can determine event location better because you see not only where people are coming from to join in-person, but where they are coming from virtually. So now you can make smarter decisions based on better data about your next event.
The path forward? Event planners must lean into creativity. Whether it is hybrid event emcees guiding the virtual audience through the event flow or touchless badge printing to safely check people in, thinking outside of the box will rule the day for events.
This blog is sponsored by GTR.