The Tide Is Changing: Future Forward Events Are Here

Sowmya Perugupalli

December 10, 2020


7 min read

In a dynamic business environment driven by digital transformation, what role do corporate events play in delivering value to customers and achieving intended impact?

Events are now on the C-level agenda

The core of all marketing activity is generation of value. Investment of resources in an event must result in tangible value generated.  An impactful event targeted towards a particular client group can help a business carve their niche and establish themselves in the industry. 

52% of survey respondents say event marketing drives more business value than other marketing channels, while only 8% say it drives less - The Event Marketing Evolution, HBR 2018

Today, the most important consideration for top management while planning a corporate event as part of marketing strategy is

What is the intended impact from the event?

Intended Impact could be explained in terms of increased conversion rate, product awareness, accelerated time-to-revenue and focused idea exchange, among other things.

It is clear that an event strategy is weaved into a much larger landscape of the overall business strategy. For instance, businesses with a digital transformation strategy will employ digital levers to host customer-centric data-driven events , while successfully leveraging marketing data from the event to enhance value delivery in the present and future.

What do clients want?

Gen Z (64%) and Millennial (72%) consumers believe that brands should provide personalized experiences - (CMO Adobe, 2019)

Keeping the client at the forefront of all marketing activities, particularly events, helps maintain focus on Intended Impact. It is imperative to answer the question: What do clients want? 

  1. Personalized Event
  2. Learning Experience
  3. Proof of Concept/Success Stories
  4. Exclusivity
  5. Value Exchange/ Meaningful Takeaways

Adapting to the changing business landscape

Grasping the extent of change that has been brought about by digital transformation and the Future of Work has not been too easy. Businesses are struggling to find the balance between accelerated adoption of digital levers and keeping ahead of the curve through Human-AI collaboration.

Businesses want to look, think and act ahead of the curve and believe that digital channels are key, as proven by the 18% rise in digital commerce spending in the United States (Accenture Technology Vision, June 2020).

The event industry was grappling with the rapid change in event formats (hybrid events, experiential events), marketing channels and customer engagement strategies when COVID struck its blow. A slow but gradual recovery supported by digital levers is underway for the event industry in a post COVID world.

Market research, competitive insights and marketing analytics now absorb more than 13% and 16% of marketing operations budgets (Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2019-2020)

For the event industry, the future of work could mean a change in perception of the two key components of the organization: Human Capital and Ways of Working. The C-Levels need to place emphasis on creating long-term value to mitigate negative effects of COVID through better governance frameworks, effective management of skills disruption through reskilling and upskilling and overall, encouraging systemic change to successfully sustain operations.

In terms of ways of working, event planners need to understand the importance of creating a blended experience for clients, integrating physical and remote elements to create the perfect event experience. They must be quick to adapt to changing market requirements, modifying their event strategy to suit the new normal. If event safety is a high priority concern, event planners need to integrate technology into the event experience using mobile technology, detection tools, Event Ticketing with QR, etc.

What does a future forward event look like?

Future forward events employ digital levers to enhance the event experience. Technology is used at every attendee touch point and valuable attendee data is gathered in real-time. Experiential events using augmented and virtual reality, cloud-based venue management software, Near Field Communication(NFC) powered badge scanning for capturing leads, real-time query management through event chatbots are all examples of  technology integrations that help C-Levels achieve Intended Impact from the event.

When it comes to measuring the success of an event, attendee engagement and satisfaction tops the list with 33% of marketers reporting that this KPI is their main concern. 2019 Event Marketing Report, Bizzabo

Leveraging attendee data gathered through event tech serves multiple purposes. Analysis of event KPIs and measurement of ROI provides data insights that act as proof of Intended Impact. Data insights generated using back-end analytics provide a detailed perspective on the factors that event success may be attributed to. 

For 66% of organizations, current data and analytics maturity hovers at a 3 or below on the Gartner 5-point Marketing Analytics Maturity Model.(Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2019-2020)

For instance, the leads captured through NFC powered badges can be filtered and segmented, and targeted engagement strategies can be created accordingly. 

Two-thirds of tech adopters spend under $100,000 annually on event marketing technology, including 37% that spend between $20,000 and $100,000. Meanwhile 16% spend between $100,000 and $500,000, and 17% spend $500,000 or more.(The Event Marketing Evolution, HBR 2018)

However, the process of planning and executing a future forward event must include data safeguards to protect and encrypt attendee data. In compliance with GDPR, active consent must be sought from all event attendees for usage of their data.

How does a future forward event could look?

Finally, we'd like to summarize the three key elements that comprise a future forward event with some concrete examples in each category

Intuitive Event Networking

Event Attendees can maximize engagement by leveraging insights from an AI matchmaking engine that directs them towards the most relevant exhibitor/sponsor/Business User/Leadership. Examples -

  • Smart recommendations as per changing needs of the attendee
  • Measurement of attendee engagement

Chatbots for engaging attendees as a support service for all stakeholders

Event Attendees can find answers to all event queries with zero human intervention. For example,

  • Real-time Query Management
  • User Segmentation for role based informational relevance

Data Insights from attendee data

Event planners can gather intelligence by logging pre and post event data points. For example

  • Capture leads in using NFC technology
  • Gather attendee feedback through live polling and session ratings

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