With COVID-19 causing millions of large and small events to get canceled or pivot to virtual events in a very short amount of time, professionals and event planners alike find themselves facing a very different landscape in 2022. On one hand, many want to resume in-person events with the appropriate safeguards in place since they are incredibly effective business opportunities. On the other hand, numerous people do not want to risk nonessential travel and/or congregating in large groups indoors due to their personal circumstances and appreciate the accessibility that virtual events provide. Even still, some also find virtual events more difficult to make time for and engage with.
Live events slowly resumed in 2021 upon the availability of vaccines. Associated state, local, and international mandates have had to factor into these plans, and in most cases, event planners are still required to adhere to strict regulations.
Are hybrid events the future of event marketing? If you are planning to attend a conference, meeting, or trade show in 2022, how will you prepare? Let’s take a look at a few of the considerations when planning your events, conferences, or trade shows this year; whether virtual, in-person, or hybrid.
Planning Your 2022 Event Schedule
When deciding to attend events this year, there are many important factors that need to be assessed. Staffing across all industries has proven challenging, with large gaps in the workforce exacerbated by the pandemic and resultant issues like childcare. With significant gaps in the workforce, do you have enough staff on deck to both manage operations and manage a booth at the event?
If you are not boothing at the trade show or other event, can you justify your and your employees' attendance? Of the events you are considering if they offer virtual or hybrid options, is it worth the trip to go in person, or should you just go for the digital option?
Consider events where your competition also frequently has a presence. Would it benefit your team to have a presence there as well? What events do your target buyers attend, and where would you have the highest likelihood of engaging with them? Keep your decision-makers top-of-mind when weighing your choices. If they plan to be present during an event, it’s probably wise to ensure that your business has some sort of presence there as well.
With concerns about the spread of COVID-19 during travel and inconsistent mandates, it's also worth considering which local and regional events should stay on your radar as opposed to national and international conferences. If your firm is experiencing staffing shortages or has employees who are immunocompromised and/or with caregiving responsibilities, it may be worth going with virtual options and doing a sponsorship instead of a booth to mitigate risks and save on travel expenses.
Goal Setting and Event Marketing ROI
Calculating the ROI on event marketing can be challenging, since the leads gathered at events can take months or even years to convert, opposed to the more instantaneous analytics one can obtain from a social media or digital ad campaign.
With challenges in preparing for events in 2022, it bears more consideration as to what your goal is in attending. Is it to get more leads, or increase awareness of your brand? Get updates on the latest industry news and techniques, find new talent to work with, or cement your position as a problem-solver for a particular niche?
If the event is one where you've historically made lots of deals, this is an important factor to consider when setting your qualifiers for event marketing ROI. Calculating ROI could be based on deals, or also on the number of leads gathered. For events that have higher exhibiting or attendance costs while in-person attendance in some regions may still be lower than normal, it's a good idea to consider this while determining potential ROI. Having a particular goal in mind like making deals or increasing brand awareness can help you decide whether the cost of the event is worth it.
If the ultimate goal is brand awareness over engaging with other professionals and lead generation, it could be worth considering other avenues like sponsorship without having to set up a booth or even attend at all.
Marketing and Promotion
If you do decide to attend an event, preparations need to be made in order to get the most out of your attendance, booth, or sponsorship.
Before the show begins, get an idea of who is attending the trade show or conference. This can usually be determined by browsing social media for relevant hashtags and leads' and peers' blog posts. Your own email list and social followings should also be engaged with to determine who is going and how you can engage with them ahead of time, and set up meetings if interest is indicated. If an attendee list is provided, certainly take advantage of pre-show emails to get on their radar.
In the months or weeks leading up to the event, having additional social posts and content will also help with pre-show and real-time engagement. Attendees that come across blog posts, interviews, and tweets about session topics and event themes are more likely to engage with you. If you need to have marketing materials created for your booth, or simply for your employees to give out on the trade show floor like pens or stickers, consider how many attendees the event organizers expect to be present and how much promotional goods it's feasible to travel with.
For large amounts of marketing materials, it may be worth it to have the printer send them directly to the venue if you plan to set up a booth there (or your hotel if traveling).
Once you have an idea of the types of vendors and attendees that will be there, make a short list of vendors and sponsors with who you want to engage more closely. Make sure that your meeting times are set up at least 1-2 weeks in advance of the event, to ensure that there are no schedule conflicts. If it's an event where meetings are likely to be proposed on the sly, leave some wiggle room to schedule additional meetings and follow-ups to take advantage of being there at the same time.
Remember to post about the event while it's taking place so that other attendees can easily find your team, and if possible, use geofencing if there's an event-specific app that attendees are using to set up meetings and be informed about the session schedules. You may be able to enable some kind of push notification that talks about your brand.
After the show, personally follow up with the attendees you engaged with and blog about your takeaways from the event.
Technologies Available to You
If you're organizing or attending a virtual or hybrid event, what technologies are available to your team?
Video sessions can be recorded and revisited later, but the chief draw of events is the live element. If virtual meetings are enabled, it would be wise to take advantage of them. Resources like timeanddate.com have simple "time zone translation" tools that streamline setting up meetings with attendees in multiple time zones, who must find a time that works for all of you.
Make sure that employees have the latest versions of video conferencing software and appropriate equipment, like functional microphones and headphones that don't create any interference.
Training that is offered through the event should also be considered if you or your employees are looking to learn new skills and tools. Look into whether the training is included with the event price or must be purchased separately, and if any additional materials or technology is required so you can have these items prepared in advance.
Why You Need LAIRE
LAIRE is a B2B marketing agency that can help your firm get the most out of your event marketing plans for 2022. We can optimize your plans with a killer digital strategy that contributes to your overall brand awareness. We’ll teach you exactly how to close the most deals at in-person, virtual, and hybrid events. Contact us today to set up your free 20-minute marketing assessment.