Event professionals across the globe will need to adopt a flexible mindset and be prepared to adapt and evolve their business practices in order to succeed in a post-pandemic world, stressed Patrick Smith, senior vice president and CMO of Cvent, a market-leading meetings, events, and hospitality technology provider.
Smith kicked off EduMonday at PlanetIMEX today with his session, ‘Adapt, Evolve, Accelerate,’ offering attendees important insights into how to find success as many take their first steps towards business recovery. More than 1,000 event professionals across Europe registered for the session.
Smith spoke candidly about how Cvent has had to adapt to the new environment, helping their clients adjust event strategies and adopt new ways of thinking. Nearly all of Cvent-hosted events in the second quarter of 2020 will pivot from in-person events to virtual ones, and Cvent has been working to support these efforts since early March. “What we’re finding, and what our customers are finding, is that even when we’re faced with lockdowns and social distancing regulations, the show can (and will) go on. Our customers are driving significant positive results because they made the decision early on to go virtual rather than cancel.”
Following the cancellation of IMEX Frankfurt, IMEX organisers launched a virtual experience in partnership with Cvent, giving attendees unlimited, free access to a comprehensive agenda and unique activities. “PlanetIMEX is a great example of how the industry is already adapting in spite of the current environment,” Smith continued. “IMEX organisers had three options: cancel, postpone, or pivot. They chose to adapt and be nimble. By leveraging existing tools and partnerships, as well as exploring new ones, a new range of possibilities was uncovered and it’s exciting to see it all in action.”
Key tips for success in the ‘new normal’ include:
1. Build a comprehensive, well-rounded, event programme strategy. As regulations and restrictions will vary from city to city, and country to country, plan for a blend of virtual, hybrid, and in-person live events to align with local requirements and accommodate attendee needs.
2. Find the right marketing mix and avoid cutting tactics or channels completely. During the financial crisis of 2008/2009, many marketers learned a harsh lesson when they cut their in-person event budgets. With no events, they were no longer driving the same volume or quality of leads into their pipeline. As a result, sales suffered, and it took organisations years to build their revenue-generating pipelines back up to pre-financial crisis levels. With the technological advancements of today, marketing and sales data from live events (whether in-person or virtual), can be leveraged to prove ROI and drive the right strategy.
3. Think ahead. Just because we’ve hit the pause button for in-person events in the short-term, start planning now for future events. It is no surprise that booking windows have increased significantly (according to Cvent Supplier Network data, in April 2020, the booking window was 284 days vs. 174 in 2019), but RFPs are still being submitted and the world is anxious to meet face-to-face. By preparing and planning now, event organisers will be well-positioned for when in-person events come back to life.
4. Focus on venue sourcing. Recent Cvent data shows that planners are sourcing for events in Q4 2020 and Q1 2021. As restrictions lift, there will be a premium on event space. Stay ahead of the curve and leverage online venue sourcing platforms to streamline sourcing efforts. While many are not able to travel for an in-person onsite experience, virtual site visits over the next few weeks and months will be critical.
5. Be prepared for the new world of in-person events. When things start going back to normal, the way events are planned and managed will be different. While no one can be sure exactly how things will change, or for how long, be prepared to adapt to new attendee expectations like contactless check-in, accommodating necessary spacing requirements, and possible control of attendee flow through the meeting space.
6. Keep the attendee experience top of mind. No matter what type of event you choose to organise over the coming months, find ways to continue to make the experience engaging, memorable, and educational. When the attendee is put first, ROI follows.