5 Tips for an Effective Return to In-Person Corporate Events
The world is opening up. Teams are excited to reconnect with prospects and customers face-to-face. According to the meeting industry trade journal, Convene magazine, 68% of organizations are either increasing their upcoming events budget or keeping it the same, compared with 2019.
There are many facets to consider when planning to return to in-person events. From small dinners to corporate events, all the way to trade shows, each type calls for its own strategy. Marketers and sales teams are faced with the challenge of ensuring each event not only runs safely and effectively but is engaging for an audience that's transitioning from digital-first experiences.
Here are five tips to help you strategize and execute events that will generate more meaningful relationships and leads:
1. Make sure the experience fits the audience
Each type of event calls for a unique balance between learning and entertainment. You want to provide value in a way that engages your specific audience, so they both enjoy their time and leave with a deeper relationship or understanding of your business that drives deals forward.
To achieve this balance, start with understanding your audience. The way you would host an event for individual contributors, front-line managers, or the C-Suite will differ.
How can you quickly understand how to engage your audience? Tap into your most valuable resource: Your people.
Meet with your field sales, customer success, and product marketing teams. They've dedicated time getting to know your prospects and are in active conversations with them.
Ask these teams questions like:
Where do they get their news?
What are their top challenges?
What are their interests?
Who are the influencers they follow?
What would drive them to attend?
Use their answers to inspire your pre-show marketing, activities, and sessions. This ensures you'll understand the nuances to provide the best experience.
2. Create a comfortable event environment
The return to in-person events is a relief, but it can also be intimidating. While we yearn for a return to the old ways of networking, it's normal to feel uneasy about safety and uncomfortable with face-to-face interactions.
As you plan your events, keep in mind structure and flexibility:
Example: Clear communication around safety measures.
Example: Inside and outside location options, time slots, digital offerings, touchless sign-in.
It's essential to create an event environment where attendees feel comfortable leaving their homes. Casual fire pit parties on the beach, rooftop bar, patio, outside and inside venues, settings with comfortable seating areas, etc., are some examples that can help draw hesitant attendees back in.
3. Make it easy for people to connect
One of the most significant drawbacks of digital events is the lack of opportunity to spark spontaneous connections that become long-term relationships.
While a convention app is a great way to connect attendees, our digital-first world offers many other opportunities to explore. During a more extended event, like a tradeshow, encourage folks to connect casually in person by hosting activities like coffee or happy hours with spaced-out tables and seating.
Use social channels and hashtag competitions to entice attendees to engage with you and one another. Twitter threads and LinkedIn groups are also popular methods for engaging with people before, during, and after events. You can run a social competition like 'post your picture together with some of your insights using the #EventName for the chance to win a $100 gift card.'
Don't forget about serving digital attendees too. Social media platforms like Instagram Stories or Snapchat Live can also be used during the event to engage your audience members who are not able to attend in person. This helps you generate more leads while maintaining long-term relationships between companies and their customers/prospects after the conclusion of trade shows.
4. Prep your staff to sell
During your event, everyone is a sales rep and the right person for the prospect to speak to. That means that even if they're in the marketing department and not the one closing the deal, they know they are at the show to transform booth interactions, speaking sessions, and any experiential activity into revenue—and are enabled to do so.
Before the event, set up sales coaching with all staff so they are up-to-date and can confidently answer questions. Speech coaching is the secret key to bolster your staff's inflections, power, presence, or even set up scenario training—or dry runs—across departments. Training will remind them not to force sales pitches too early in any conversation and empower them to let it come naturally.
Even non-sales colleagues will find immediate and future value in this practice. Unit cohesion goes a long way in the world of sales & marketing.
5. Ask for feedback and stay flexible
The next few years are going to be a learning curve for everyone. Make sure that after every event, you are hosting an internal post-mortem to get feedback from the staff and send out surveys to your attendees. Be open to listening to their needs so you can continue to improve your event experiences.
Ready to launch your next in-person event?
Following these steps will help you execute events that provide attendees the right entertainment and value—and we are here to help.
Project Augustus is a full-service events team dedicated to helping marketing leaders establish or scale their B2B event program. Let us help you provide unique experiences that actually make your prospects bat an eye when they need to be accelerated. Set up a consultation today.