Covid-19 has wrought havoc on a lot of industries but few felt the blow of it as directly as the live events business. Large gatherings were among the first casualties of the public health crackdown that began last February when the mega-event MWC 2020 Barcelona was canceled, with hundreds of other trade shows following their lead. In response, CMOs slashed their in-person event budgets and many allocated additional funds to digital marketing, virtual events, and webinars.
But with the wide availability of vaccines and things beginning to open up gradually, both event planners and attendees are anxiously waiting for in-person events to come back in a big way. According to reports, at least 80% of people will bounce back post-COVID and will be attending big live events. With some of the largest trade shows announcing their live events, the excitement is palpable. Looking back to pre-pandemic times, most people will agree that the value of face-to-face interactions was taken for granted. In-person events are truly irreplaceable. Humans are inherently social creatures, and social distancing requires us to inhibit that urge. People are eager to get back to those face-to-face interactions and experience the rush of the in-person event experience. And while virtual events have many benefits in their own right, it was never a question of if live events would come back, but when.
Over the past year, event planners have become incredibly innovative in their virtual event use cases, and are now shifting their focus to hybrid experiences – integrated virtual and in-person events. So how has the switch to virtual events during the pandemic helped the industry? Truth is, in-person events have always needed to evolve. Virtual events have expedited the process for both registration and attendance – all event organizers have to think about is what type of experience, content, and engagement they will have to account for following the shift to virtual. 67% of marketers quoted attendee networking and engagement as the #1 hurdle when it came to navigating virtual events. Gone are the days of organizations producing one annual sales summit to the next. They will have to start designing additional virtual or hybrid events to fill in the gaps and not to cater to large numbers like they used to so the content and experience is personalized for the audience. Virtual events have definitely brought out the importance of personalized experiences, which will channel into in-person events as well.
One of the main problems that sales teams had before the pandemic was missing deadlines with follow-ups. It’s important to make sure that your sales team understands the reason the conference was held. The easiest person to sell to at an event is an existing happy client — utilize the power of their satisfaction to upgrade their account.
Also, there has to be a personal touch that sales reps can leverage to get buyers to that final stage. At live events, it is a lot easier for salespeople to assess customer needs, understand body language and visual cues, and make adjustments easily. While virtual events too can disseminate a lot of information, businesses are built by people, who respond very differently to a face-to-face encounter.
MWC 2021, for example, that has long set the tone for the events landscape will take place in Barcelona but will be hybrid. This will send a strong signal to the rest of the world that in-person events can take place safely — and that a well-designed hybrid event model is viable for engaging attendees and advancing sales opportunities.
It’s human nature to be social, and ultimately, people crave face-to-face interactions. They are a fundamental part of what makes events so enjoyable, which is why event marketers are eager to bring back their in-person events. That’s why we believe – and most event marketers agree – that in-person events are back and stronger than ever!