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The Live Event Lives On

Recently, live events have had to roll with some powerful punches – but they’re still on their feet, and they’re coming back swinging.

Claire Weekes’s feature on virtual events in this month’s issue of B2B Marketing has made me think about virtual vs. live events, and which offer more value to B2B marketers today.

It’s true the recession wasn’t kind to the live event. Yes, key conferences and tradeshows maintained their presence, but attendance was down, and virtual alternatives grew in number and popularity. Reports of the live event’s demise, however, have been greatly exaggerated. As the economy creeps toward healthier times, the idea of business professionals getting together in the real world seems to have successfully weathered the storm. In fact, from our offices in Singapore, San Francisco, Sydney and London, we’ve noticed a global trend towards the development of brand new conference facilities – an investment that no one would make if they didn’t think live events had a bright future.

Why has the live event endured? Personally, I suspect it’s because there’s nothing quite like being sat in front of the industry’s leading specialist as he /she addresses a hushed, expectant auditorium – or meeting the developers of a product or service face to face, and building a relationship as they answer your questions.

I think the threat posed by virtual events has also been exaggerated. Webcasts and Webinars have now been with us for over a decade. As they continue to increase in popularity and practicality, the future will not see the virtual replace the ‘real life’, but augment it: hybrid events will proliferate, with few live events failing to offer a range of virtual elements.

Here are my top three tips for making sure your events are part of the recovery:

Look after your delegates

Some things will never change – the importance of looking after your delegates is one of them. Contact your delegates early on (within 24 hours of registration), make them feel valued, and keep them reminded and informed. Have your team on hand to offer support throughout the event, and follow up with those who don’t make it. (You can read more about ‘loving thy delegates’ in my colleague Melissa’s post, here.)

Embrace technology

As mentioned above, the most talked about live events now incorporate strong virtual elements. Streaming your event live online will not only expand your present audience, it‘ll help raise awareness of your wider event programme and drive attendance at future shows. Equally, offering a range of post-event, on-demand assets will both enhance your delegates’ experience and act as a set of ready-made publicity materials for any similar events you have planned.

Tweet

There’s already been some discussion on the B2B Marketing site about the dos and don’ts of tweeting when attending and exhibiting at live events. When you’re hosting, however, there’s really no room for argument – Twitter is an excellent way to generate buzz around your show. Create a unique event hashtag and let your attendees do the talking.

While the live event looks here to stay, the next 12 months will almost certainly witness some new trends in event purpose and delivery. With competition in the marketplace still so fierce, I’m expecting to see a rise in the number of smaller events – events whose focus is on nurturing existing client relationships rather than gaining new prospects. What do you think the future holds?

 Lilah Walker, Diretor of International Events, Marketing Options International