“How relevant is your event”? is the key question that every event professional needs to answer today if they want to attract delegates for future events.
In this post, I focus on in-person events. These were effectively stopped in their tracks due to Covid restrictions and caused event professionals to shift their thinking to deliver other solutions.
With vaccine rollouts and lockdowns being lifted, in-person events are back on the menu of options again. A lot has changed in their absence of 15 months. Event planners will need to be more on their ‘A’ game than ever before.
Energising or Exhausting
Some planners just want to get on and make events happen. In fact, some are already declaring on social media how many hours a day they are putting in. They are exhilarated to be working at full speed again.
However, with this level of frenetic activity, what will some of these events deliver? If event professionals are simply serving up the same as they did pre-Covid I wonder if that will be enough to tempt people to spend money and invest time and energy to travel to events.
Right now, there is a lot of good cheer as people re-connect. The events trade press has been sharing stories of well-attended awards and exhibitions. There are numerous photos of people together, smiling, laughing, and hugging.
If the events space is typical of what is happening in other industry sectors, this bodes well for the economy and society. But, if the sector is merely an echo chamber of the interested parties within it, planners may need to think again.
Speaking to people across other business disciplines, it’s immediately clear that many are being much more selective about their event decision making. After all, Coronavirus is far from eradicated. In addition, rising prices, supply chain issues and vaccine requirements are all factors that have been added to the decision-making mix.
Today, event professionals face more challenges than has been the case for several years. And to add to the challenges mentioned, event attendees are more sophisticated and expect more.
It would be flawed thinking to believe that because people came to your event in pre-Covid times they will automatically do so again. And this is where looking at how relevant your event is, becomes super important.
Planners have a huge choice of different types of event formats they can offer from in-person, virtual and hybrid. What is needed is a critical decision.
But let’s imagine that all event professionals decide that in-person events are their way forward. What that means is that the competition between planners to attract delegates will be huge. This is way more than it was pre-Covid. Delegates are more considered when they evaluate why they go to events and which ones work for them.
Your event will have to really stand out as much better than your competitors to attract people. You must give attendees strong reasons to overcome their inertia and attend. “In-person” euphoria will only last so long before it stops being a novelty again.
Right now, there are a number of people going to in-person events, simply because they can. Starved of physical interaction, people are opting to go straight to the networking more so than heading for the educational content. They want to connect with familiar faces and make new connections. And this of course is totally understandable.
However, in a few months time, things will have moved on again and networking will become only one of the reasons why people will attend.
You need to be thinking about how you can attract the people you need to make your event a success.
Elevate your Event
You need to elevate your event. However, there is no magical answer to this. To my mind, it’s not simply a case of providing the best technology, or some amazing entertainment act, or providing the very best hospitality. Those are all ‘normal’ delegate expectations, and they were so, before Covid.
And let’s not forget that people also want the very best educational content. And now they want it on-demand as well.
Of course, it is relevant to you, as it will likely generate income for your business. But is it relevant to your delegates? Is it relevant to your sponsors or other stakeholders?
It’s more critical than ever that you check in with your stakeholders and ask the hard-hitting questions. A lot has changed in the last 15 months, including the attitudes of attendees and the C Suite that send them. Unless planners understand what is needed, they will not be able to elevate their event from their competitors. You want to stand out so ask the questions.
Be ready for the responses. You may need to take a deep breath as you study the results. However, you could also be delighted by what you discover.
Facing down the question of relevance will help you shape what you offer and enable you to stand out from your competition.
Conclusion – Be Ready to Change
You may decide that you can carry on as you did before and if that is your answer and strategy that is fine. But if that is based on hope rather than fact you could be in for a shock.
It’s always better to be in a position of understanding your delegates. You may find that a few changes are all that is needed to bring them rushing to your doors. Or you may need to change your event from in-person to hybrid. But you need data to help you.
Do the research, ask the tough questions, be prepared for the answers and then you will be able to answer the question of how relevant your event is.