Event Leadership: 4 Key Takeaways from the Event Experience Summit
On May 17 and 18, 2022, thousands of event professionals gathered for the flagship Event Experience Summit. In this article, we’ll explore four key takeaways from the event that can help you level up your strategy as you plan your next event.
The events industry constantly evolves to meet challenges (the pandemic and a remote workforce) and innovation (wearable tech and virtual reality) head-on. Whether you’re a seasoned event organizer or landed in the industry during the pandemic, you’re also constantly evolving as an event professional.
Event Experience Leaders have to prepare for absolutely anything. The Summit covered so many topics that are important to today’s event leaders and participants, including the following:
- New event technologies (metaverse)
- Virtual attendee expectations
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I)
- Equitable pricing strategies
- Meaningful networking opportunities
- Event data and analytics
- The power of gathering and community
Read on for the top four takeaways from our Summit, which we hope you’ll watch on-demand to get the complete picture.
1. The Importance of Creating Meaningful Event Experiences
Creating impactful event experiences requires a mix of art and science, particularly today when events live at the intersection of in-person and virtual (aka hybrid). Attendees are savvy; they don’t need or want virtual to be an unfulfilled carbon copy of the in-person experience.
This is why it’s essential to focus on delivering equitable, meaningful experiences rather than trying to ensure equal experiences. Here are some tips to consider for your next event:
- Pin down your event’s purpose and goals, and build your attendee journeys around that purpose. This will also impact your venue, agenda, technology, and more. For example, you may uncover that your event has several goals, leading you to create micro-events catered to specific audiences.
- Break out of your event-planning routine by having honest conversations with your team and partners, exhibitors, and sponsors. Ask questions to get to the “why” of your event so you can collaborate effectively and plan more intentional and thoughtful event experiences.
- Be thoughtful when debriefing, and ensure everyone invited to the meeting brings detailed and constructive feedback. Ask everyone to bring a creative, problem-solving mindset to the discussion, plus ideas and recommendations for future events.
Your organization’s goals are paramount, but don’t forget to ask yourself: “What does our audience hope to get out of the event? What do they need, want, and expect?” If your purpose and goals don’t align with what your attendees want, you may need to reassess your event strategy or format.
“Hybrid is a spectrum. Hybrid is about flexibility and options. Hybrid is an opportunity. It’s not an event feature.”
CMO and Cofounder
2. The Lasting Impact of Fostering Meaningful Connections
With the increasing amount of noise online, events remain one of the most potent ways for professionals to build relationships today. But there is immense opportunity for creative thinking when strategizing networking and community-building opportunities.
Looking at Q4 2021 and Q2 2022, we found a 255% increase in the number of in-person and hybrid events, while virtual events dropped by 1%. (These events are using Bizzabo’s event experience management software.) Although solely virtual events aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, it’s clear that there is a hunger for in-person events with a virtual component.
But how do you create an ecosystem that fosters meaningful connections before, during, and after the event? Here are a few tips:
- Ask attendees what they want before the event. There are endless apps and tools for collaboration online, and these tools are excellent for gathering feedback from your participants before the event even begins. Ask folks how they want to network and who they want to network with. If you find your virtual attendees are desperate to connect to in-person attendees, build experiences around that need.
- Create opportunities to keep the conversation going. Whether you invite your speakers and sponsors to leverage their own online gathering spaces (e.g., a Facebook group) or create your own to ensure attendees can keep up the momentum. These groups can be leveraged before, during, and after the event and for months to come.
- Create meetups for specific participant groups. For example, if your event occurs annually or more regularly, create a meetup for first-time attendees. Or, you could create a gathering for veteran attendees to reconnect.
Also, don’t discount the registration process as a “step one” for encouraging attendees to network and connect. Whether you task registrants to send a 1:1 message with someone after they complete registration or you provide them tips for updating their professional profile in your virtual venue, there are countless ways you can engage folks early and often through your event management software.
“Trojan horses for gatherings are conversations people have been avoiding, decisions people have not been making, and assumptions that were not shared.”
3. The Undeniable Value of Event Data
The event experience you want to deliver and what your attendees end up experiencing often isn’t the same. At Bizzabo, we call this the Event Impact Gap™ — that chasm between vision and reality.
Closing this gap is often the most challenging aspect of event planning. How do you close the Event Impact Gap? Data. But you have to know how to use the data, which is why you probably hear daily about taking a data-informed approach to your event strategy.
After all, all the data in the world is useless if you don’t know what it means or how to put it to work, right? Here are a few tips for harnessing the power of data as you plan your next event:
- Prioritize hiring an event technologist and data analyst. Even if you hire contractors, you’ll find these folks are worth their weight in gold and will save you hours of headaches. It also prevents you from devoting resources and time to becoming an expert in data integration, analytics, and technology.
- Experiment, experiment, experiment. With data in hand, you can start testing everything from your registration forms to the timing of in-session polling to the subject lines on your follow-up emails. Data is a game-changer — if you know how to use it. But don’t go overboard. Pick three to five key metrics to test based on past event data, and be sure you evaluate, pivot, and plan accordingly for your next event’s experimentation.
- Keep collecting qualitative insights. Numbers are great, but the anecdotal feedback you’ll get about your event is priceless. You may find that one-on-one interviews provide richer insights into what the numbers say, or you may discover that your numbers don’t match what sponsors, attendees, and exhibitors are saying in interviews. Make sure you’re collecting data specific to your event format. If your event is in-person with a virtual component, you’ll need to collect data for both audiences. Not all software lets you measure audience engagement on the floor and through the screen, so be sure to vet your platform and pick a solution that enables you to measure Return on Attention (ROA) holistically.
- Leverage technology to make data collection easier. We live in a brave new world of wearable technology that takes us beyond Fitbits and Apple Watches. Today’s wearable tech for events has the power to help inform how you organize your venue in the future, where you put key networking opportunities, how you layout the trade show floor, and so much more.
Also: Don’t use data in a vacuum. You need to measure every event and touchpoint for your event and create a thread that ties every event together. Revisiting data from past events can help drive future decision-making, including what technology you need to deliver better, more successful event experiences.
4. The Unsung Hero: Post-event Content
Last — but not least — is a topic that we found discussed in every chat and session at the Event Experience Summit: post-event content. Gone are the days when attendees showed up for your event and expected nothing after the event (except maybe a follow-up email with the sessions on-demand) until next year.
Today, attendees want community, connection, and continued opportunities for learning. Herein lies the power of post-event content. Yes, creating more content may seem like a colossal undertaking after planning and executing a major event. But it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Whether you use event content or pre-existing marketing content, the content is already there — you just have to convert it into bite-size pieces that you can then drip via email or another medium until the next event rolls around.
Here are a few ideas for extending the value of the unique content you shared during the event:
- Use speaker quotes to create a social media content engine. At the Summit, bestselling author Priya Parker gave a keynote address, and practically everything she said was quoteworthy. We collected her quotes in a shared document and are creating beautifully designed, on-theme graphics to share on social in the coming weeks to keep the conversation going. When sharing on social, always include a CTA, such as a link to watch on-demand.
- Create custom lead nurturing email campaigns based on session tracks. Let’s say you have a personalized track for social media marketers. Create an email campaign that drips out every five days featuring blog articles, ebooks, videos, and, ultimately, a demo request, to those who attended that track’s sessions. Whether you have pre-existing content for the nurture campaign or take content from the sessions they attended and repackage them, this strategy is personalized and highly effective for pushing leads through the buying journey.
- Leverage video to create short, shareable clips. Most event sessions are 30 minutes or longer, but most folks have the attention span of a goldfish. Take your longer on-demand recordings, find notable moments, and cut those down to shorter 30-second or 1-minute videos for social sharing. You can also use a free animated video creator like Animaker to use your audio in a creative, compelling way.
- Use session audio to build out your podcast library. Remember that different folks consume content differently and cater to those preferences. Some people like attending a live event, others like watching on-demand, and some just want to listen while running in the park or making dinner. Take your most compelling or engaged-with sessions and use the audio to build out a podcast, so you’re catering to all learning types.
Take the Reins and Master the Art of Event Experience
Were you able to attend the Summit? Whether you missed it or want to rewatch each session to discover actionable tactics for leveling up your event strategy and skillset, you can watch the entire event on-demand simply by registering. (Available on May 24.)
Or, if you want to learn how we used our Event Experience OS to orchestrate and deliver the Summit, schedule a demo, and we’ll walk you through the features we used for the following:
- Event design and promotion
- Organizer and speaker experience design
- Attendee experience and content formats
- Partners and integrations (including Captello, Braindate, and Snapbar)
- Data capture and reporting