After overhauling their event strategies to navigate the pandemic rapidly, event professionals are more or less returning to normal. According to a new report from Bizzabo, The state of in-person B2B conferences, 52.1% of event organizers reported increased attendance at their events over the past year. Moreover, 86.4% of organizers plan to maintain or increase their in-person events in 2024.
This is mainly because 80.4% of organizers say in-person events are their organization’s most effective marketing channel. Looking ahead, 75.9% believe in-person conferences will become critical to their organization’s long-term success.
Event professionals are feeling a diverse range of sentiments regarding B2B conference planning. To help you plan your next B2B gathering, Frankson, Bauer, and Nguyen discussed meeting long-standing challenges and fresh hiccups head-on to stand out from other events.
How To Make Your Events Stand Out
Attendees can choose from many conferences — and they’re becoming increasingly picky about where they spend their time and money. There’s also a shift in focus from mere attendance to a more thoughtful selection of events, in which attendees are more likely to consider factors like value and relevance.
As Frankson sees it, event teams need to be committed to innovation. They must always focus on strengthening in-person conference strategies and trying new ways to entice attendees by embracing innovations like hybrid events, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.
“What we’re seeing overall is some of the same things in your report, which is that even for a strong brand — even if you’ve really got a strong foothold in your market — you have to reinvent,” Frankson said.
Because people attend conferences to network, one way to do this is by offering unique networking events that create unforgettable experiences. As an example, the Money20/20 team featured an “off-the-record” stage, where participants put their phones in a pouch as they entered a networking room where “anything could be discussed” — making for a “really fresh experience.”
Frankson, Nguyen, and Bauer underscored the need for engaging experiences, interactive sessions, and creative content formats to drive registrations, deliver a memorable event experience, and achieve your goals.
Ways To Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck
For Nguyen, one of the luxuries of working on the agency side is getting to experience and view so many events across different sectors and industries. Shiloh Events works with various tech companies, and many of its clients are struggling with the uncertainty surrounding things like attendance, event ROI, and sponsorship revenue in a challenging economic climate. To this end, Nguyen has seen many clients dealing with a reduction in budget.
I used to have $2 million. Now I only have $1.5 million, but I need the same experience.
In other words, there’s even more pressure to do more with less. So rather than hosting one massive conference, Nguyen recommends that her clients break up their events into several smaller regional programs — also known as micro-events or satellite events — while offering a livestream to blend intimacy, engagement, and technology to amplify networking opportunities.
“You can have higher ROI by targeting a more specific audience,” she said, adding that smaller events provide space for intimate connections, enabling event teams to connect with their audience on a deeper level. “A smaller regional program might have a higher yield on return.”
Of course, you can still use technology to reach the top of the funnel. Just because you’re doing smaller events doesn’t mean you have to lose out on massive promotional opportunities.
How To Ensure Your Events Meet Evolving Attendee Expectations
During the pandemic, Bauer felt confident that events would come back even more strongly because everyone felt what it was like to be stuck at home and missing out on in-person human connections. Over the last year or so, there’s been a lot of chatter about whether in-person events would return or the industry would become virtual.
“We understand now that the mix is so important,” Bauer said. “The pandemic allowed us to break things and remake things.”
However, she stressed that events teams can’t revert to pre-pandemic strategies because attendee preferences have shifted over the last few years. Additionally, registrations and sponsorships are coming in later in the event planning cycle, which suggests a need for event professionals to be prepared for variations in the planning timeline.
As an attendee, people’s expectations have changed. Focus on experiences — how to increase human interactions — and think through how people engage together, bringing in design and behavioral science. That’s how you make it engaging and fun.
Additionally, Bauer said: “In terms of thinking through how people engage together and bringing in design and behavioral science … that’s how you make it engaging and fun while ramping up what people want from an in-person event, which is engagement.”
Watch On-demand: Get Event Planning Tips and Learn How To Overcome and Solve Current Challenges
As an event professional, you need to keep pace with what’s happening in your industry to understand what your competitors are doing and get ideas for making your next conference the best one yet.
Read our full report to learn more about the state of in-person B2B conferences and what events teams are doing to get ahead. Then, tune in to the on-demand webinar to hear more insights and actionable strategies to transform your event strategy for 2024 and beyond.