Technology marketers optimistically budgeted for the return of in-person events in 2021. In the latter part of the fourth quarter, Gartner saw the slow return of this delivery model, however, the impact of the last two years will permanently shape the future of these marketing programs.
In spite of Omicron and potential exhibitor cancellations, conference and event hosts are committed to hosting in person events in 2022. As in person events return, technology marketers will complement these events with digital components in addition to stand alone virtual events. By 2024, Gartner predicts that 30% of technology providers with at least $100 million in revenue will extend their reach to additional audiences and roles by shifting to a “virtual-first” event model for both first-party and third-party events, compared to less than 5% before the pandemic.
The transition to hybrid delivery is likely to dominate event strategy discussions in 2022. To improve the impact of these events, agile event strategies must be developed that anticipate and plan for quick pivots as warranted by external market forces. These strategic discussions must include a roadmap to shift to 100% virtual delivery models if in-person event cancellation becomes necessary. Before hosting in-person or hybrid events in 2022, technology marketers should also consider:
Regional Status and Ongoing Management of the Global Health Pandemic
Technology marketing teams may be inclined to rely on regional protocols, however, don’t overlook the criteria attendees will use to determine if your event is worth the risk to them. Speak to your attendees or conduct a survey to find out what protocols they’d like to see in place before attending a conference. And, consistently communicate these requirements to ensure all invitees, registrants and attendees are familiar with them through dedicated communications and webpages.
Lower In Person Attendance
Don’t conflate the desire to attend with the ability to attend. Technology marketers must consider the target audience’s ability to obtain travel budget in addition to employer approval to attend in light of the current environment.
When hosting hybrid events, meal and offsite budgets may decrease, however, meeting room rental space and audiovisual budgets are likely to increase. Bringing digital and in-person audiences together requires not only the event technology platform to deliver content, but also the appropriate AV equipment to ensure that the on-stage, in-person content is captured and streamed as high-quality digital media. This may also require renting space earlier than expected to allow for the AV team to access and set up the required equipment.
Often, event success is measured by volume; however, this must shift in 2022. Conferences will not look like those hosted in 2019, as attendance is expected to be lower, which requires technology marketers to redefine success metrics. New success measures may include level of engagement within target accounts, progression of pipeline deals and customer retention.
Over the next two years, event strategies are expected to evolve rapidly. Technology marketers must develop long-term agile strategies that reflect the impact of the pandemic on future events.