One of the hottest issues in the events industry today is what to do about returning to hybrid and in-person events while still embracing the convenience and unique opportunity virtual events provided during the pandemic. As many organizations begin to return to hybrid and in-person events, they are looking for opportunities to continue to embrace the virtual connections that occurred during the pandemic. That’s where event communities come in.
In a recent webinar, Rich Vallaster, Director of Marketing and the Tradeshow Wonk at Personify, discussed innovative strategies for successfully implementing event communities and connecting audiences at your next event. This webinar covered building event communities to increase satisfaction and retention, create additional revenue opportunities, and drive higher attendance to your hybrid events.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the discussion.
Your Audience Wants to Connect
As Vallaster stated early on in the webinar, “We were really good at in-person events. But, then Covid-19 happened, and Covid-19 taught us that communities matter more than ever.” People want to connect with like-minded professionals and engage in meaningful industry topics. Networking is essential for establishing vital relationships—and that is where event communities come into play. They have built-in trust thanks to familiarity, privacy protection, and ownership.
Event communities are not a new concept. Audiences have been asking for them for a while. Vallaster noted that he often heard that attendees wanted to stay in touch with the people they met at in-person events after they left. Event communities provide an outlet to keep the conversations going.
Audiences are conditioned and accustomed to utilizing digital tools to feel more connected and engaged. “We need to diversify the investment and risks associated with in-person events, and event communities do just that,” said Vallaster.
Event Communities Are the Hybrid Solution
In-person events will be the centerpieces of the digital experiences surrounding physical events. Vallaster stressed that that is “where we are headed in ‘Hybrid 2.0.’”
Webinars and online communities are going to drive people to in-person events. In-person events generate the most revenue, and digital will continue to facilitate networking opportunities and awareness around those physical events.
In a recent survey of 500 associations, Personify asked, “What is becoming more important for association members?” Personify found that 45% of respondents want to network with others in person. Still, 43% want to be able to network with others via digital platforms and communities. Thus, the data supports the importance of having an event community for your tradeshow and conference. “This truly is creating the total package,” said Vallaster.
How You Can Maximize Event Communities
Content: Your event community is your private audience. The data is yours. It is designed and scalable for your event. You can host live and on-demand videos for pre-, during, and post-event activities. Vallaster stressed that these communities encourage thought leaders to interact on relevant topics, which creates and fosters engagement. “It’s not just a virtual event; not everything is happening in a certain timeframe, “he said. It’s a year-round opportunity to solicit real-time feedback to improve your overall content initiatives.”
Revenue Generation: Sponsors, exhibitors, and industry partners are eager for opportunities to get involved year-round. Online marketplaces, sponsor advertising, and galleries for products and services are increasingly of interest for year-round exposure. The more networking that occurs online year-round, the more valuable your events will be.
Return on Investment: Event communities grow the value of your events. They foster and accelerate connections. They not only broaden your audience but also increase engagement among all audiences and offer new and exciting revenue opportunities. “The great thing about member-only areas is that they create exclusivity and desire to level up,” Vallaster remarked. “The general trend is that people wait until the very last minute. Habits have changed. That is where event communities can drive registration benefits. They create excitement to influence attendance at other events.”
Vallaster offered a lot of valuable information during the webinar for any organization interested in reaching its audience through event communities. From growing the value of your events to increasing engagement among all audiences, he made it clear that as organizations begin to stage hybrid and return to in-person events, the desire to connect is stronger than ever.