The major challenge for commercial organizers is that anybody with a zoom account is a competitor, says Tim Groot, founder and CEO of Grip. VEI caught up with Tim to chat about trends, challenges and his vision for hybrid events.
1. What trends and challenges do you foresee for events in the near future?
On trends, the rapid digitization of the events industry will continue and move even faster this year. The main challenge for organizers, especially commercial organizers, is that anybody with a zoom account is a competitor. Anybody could organize an experience, begin sharing content and try to build a community.
For organizers, it's more important than ever to be in tune with your communities and to continually strive to bring people together and actively look for ways to improve and differentiate themselves to build a long-term sustainable brand in the communities they serve.
2. How do you think technology can be integrated to create new revenue opportunities?
There are many ways that technology is going to have an impact on the way revenue can be generated from events and the communities they serve.
Some of the most interesting ones we’ve seen so far are centered around facilitated meetings and hosted buyer programs. There are many opportunities for finding ways, on both sides, to monetize a supplier's need to instantly connect and engage with people and effectively meet a lot of the buyers in the market.
On the buyer side, there is always a desire to have better and higher quality conversations with suppliers at instant notice.
Other opportunities around revenue streams related to technology would be centered around content and how this can be monetized, but also insights and what we can learn from the analytics that comes from virtual, hybrid, and in-person events.
3. What advice would you give to event planners on how to research and appoint a tech provider?
When figuring out who to work with, don’t just look at where a company is today, but what its plans are for the future and whether its vision and plans align with you as an organizer.
I think many organizers are looking at a big spreadsheet and assessing whether the platform ticks all the features they need. And yes, that is an important exercise but you need to get a feel for the company’s vision for the future of your events, too.
The user experience is also key. More features aren’t always better. Try to find experiences and platforms that are not just focused on ticking boxes in terms of features, but try to create effective and well-thought-through experiences that result in value for event participants. So, you are using different event concepts and different features to work together towards the particular goals you have for your community. That's really what an evaluation should consider beyond just the typical feature review.
4. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities with the hybrid model?
I look at hybrid events in two ways. One is a concurrent hybrid event where you simultaneously have people participating virtually and in person. That model has several specific opportunities and challenges associated with it.
On the challenge side, there is a resource constraint as organizing a virtual event takes time and so does organizing an in-person event. So doing both simultaneously is going to require more people, oversight and planning to do properly.
However, if you have amazing content, it is a great way to get people engaged in real-time. High impact experiences that are concurrent have been around for ages such as football matches and Apple's keynotes.
There are many other ways that content has been engaged with in a live environment in a convention center, while also being streamed to millions of people across the globe. The reach that virtual has is a unique opportunity – it is astronomical compared to what you've previously seen for in-person events. And that's a really exciting opportunity for organizers to grow their audience and also charge more for sponsorships and other monetization opportunities.
Hybrid events can also be done async, which we like to call Sequential Hybrid Events. This means having an in-person event this week while having a virtual event(s) leading up to or after the event. There are specific challenges and opportunities to that.
If the virtual event happens before the in-person event, this is very interesting from a return on time perspective. For example, normally you show up at an in-person event and you don't know if those first interactions or meetings are going to be worth it. You can pre-plan and look through all the people if you use an event matchmaking platform.
If you put on a virtual event leading up to the event, or maybe even multiple ones over a three-month period, it allows people to connect with each other and have short meetings leading up to the event. Let's say, I may have 30 meetings in the three months leading up to the in-person event, which helps to figure out the five people that I absolutely should meet with, and then I can have a longer and more productive meeting when I actually show up in person.
This is a way to further increase the return on time from the in-person event by having already qualified the people that I'm going to be speaking to.
It also means that I have a better idea if the in-person event is going to be worth it for me. There is a challenge with this. If someone doesn't find the right connections in the virtual events leading up to the physical event, they might be less inclined to attend the in-person event.
And so, delivering quality connections and engagements leading up to any experience is even more crucial than ever before. This trend is going to continue far into the future.
We also see some planners organizing virtual events after the in-person event as a follow-up. This is definitely a great opportunity, but it comes with some unique challenges as well. It can result in some people being less inclined to attend because they have already made their connections at the in-person event but, as a follow-up setup, it could be very interesting. For example, you could create specific experiences for niche audiences within your event next week that have a three or four-hour timeframe in which they could have more meetings with the people that they didn't manage to speak to.
5. What is Grip’s USP and how are you different from your competitors?
We've been around for six years and, pre-pandemic, we supported more than 2,000 events. We have delivered more than 500 virtual events in the last year alone.
We've learned a lot about how matchmaking and bringing people together works, and I think that's one of our biggest USPs. We've got an advanced AI-powered matchmaking engine, measured by the quality of the connections that it's able to establish, number of meetings that people have thanks to our platform, both in-person and now in virtual events. We continue to be a leader in driving leads for exhibitors, providing a high return on time in terms of the meetings and the experiences that people have at those events.
We also have an incredible customer success and project management team that makes sure every event runs smoothly. Also, 12 out of 20 of the largest trade show organizers in the world work with us, which is a huge privilege.