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NextGen events: rebooting your program in 2022

If you haven’t noticed, the events industry has undergone a dramatic makeover. This isn’t a negative, think of it more as a glow-up, powered by ingenuity and technology. As multiple industries and organizations settle into the new normal of hybrid workspaces, events have also gone hybrid. While borne out of necessity, the benefits of virtual and hybrid experiences are too numerous to abandon. 

The simple fact is, event attendees have become accustomed to convenience, high production values, and greater engagement in virtual settings. This goes for conferences, meetings, trade shows, and even webinars. A new bar has been set. 

Virtual and hybrid events are here for good, but event leaders and marketers are still on the learning curve. 

In the just-released CMO Council report, some key findings from their research include:

  • 60% say restarting in-person/hybrid events is very important, even critical 
  • 65% say learnings over the last two years will lead to a holistic view of events that are better aligned to marketing outcomes 
  • 71% of marketers are experimenting with new event formats

A mix of old and new

While there are some signs of virtual-event fatigue, CMOs surveyed in the study understand that digital experiences will continue to play an important role in the NextGen event channel. In fact, 20% of marketing leaders indicate that virtual events continue to deliver tremendous, at times unprecedented, reach. As audiences become more comfortable with virtual as an option, this is a positive for event leaders.  

“When it comes to the top of the funnel and you want to reach more people, digital events will stick around,” says one of the report’s CMOs surveyed. “The ratio of digital to live will be skewed toward digital, because digital has proven it will get you those numbers.” 

Yet, after nearly two years of virtual-only events, marketers are champing at the bit to restart in-person events. While virtual events are more about brand reach, in-person events are about nurturing customer relationships that result in higher conversion rates. 60% of  marketers say it’s very important, even critical, to restart in-person events. 

Learning lessons from the past two years

One of the more significant insights found in the CMO Council report was the shift in ownership of the events programs in many organizations. In the survey, 57% of marketers now say events are owned and managed by marketing, orchestrated across their organizations and aligned to a holistic marketing plan. Plus, 65% believe event marketing will continue to mature to include a comprehensive view of all events that are better aligned to marketing outcomes. 

Some of this new cooperation between planning teams and marketers can be attributed to the working conditions many professionals experienced in the past couple of years. With workforces moving to virtual environments and collaborating online, the necessity of connections to drive business became imperative. For instance, one large company surveyed indicated event planners created a global communications calendar where everyone involved in events could coordinate with each other. This led to synergy and efficiency in event and content management.  

The NextGen of events: a learning curve

While the NextGen events are upon us, there still are plenty of unknowns. Which event formats (in-person, virtual, hybrid) best match which event types (conferences, seminars, trainings)? What digital components and content produce a more immersive attendee experience? Which event activities lead to attendee satisfaction, higher engagement rates, and lead volume and conversion? 

The answers to many of these questions lie in testing and experimentation. 71% surveyed in the report said they plan to trial new event formats, agendas or designs. 2022 looks to be a year of learning. 

“In 2022, we’re going to be testing and learning about different event types and technology to see what’s working and to track how we’re doing,” a CMO stated. “We need to be smarter in the formulation of ROI.” 

The bottom line

With so much uncertainty, it has become even more important than ever for organizations to have a clear understanding of all the events happening in their portfolio in order to gain complete control and a clear picture of their total event program. Including what’s happening now and what lies ahead. In order to capture the right event data and quickly activate it for sales and marketing teams a comprehensive event platform capable of handling all event formats and that integrates into your existing tech stack will be key.

To dive deeper into these insights, we encourage you to download a free copy of the new CMO council report, “Aligning Strategy, Teams and Tech for Success in a New Era of Events.”