Freeman future forecast: Why event success is no longer about quantity

We are all looking forward to when in-person events become the norm once more. Human beings love making connections — being physically distanced from one another has people hungry for the simple pleasure of being in the same room, experiencing the same thing.

But when in-person events do return, we know that they’ll be a lot different. The biggest change? Events can no longer be all about the numbers.

A sea change for success

Contrary to what that sounds like, it’s actually a step in the right direction. In the past, big registration numbers and a packed convention center were considered a hallmark of success. The assumption was that the more bodies in the door, the more opportunities for the bottom line to get a boost.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but success has never truly been a numbers game. That’s why we have to completely rethink how we approach events and stop making them all about the quantity — number of registrations, bodies in the door, people packing the keynote hall, visitors crammed in a booth — and more about the quality.

The true marketing value of in-person events is really about creating opportunities and moving business through the pipeline. Event numbers don’t mean much when they’re not actually paying off as generated leads and influenced revenue. That is why having events featuring a smaller but more targeted pool of attendees will be the way of the successful future, leading to better overall ROI and less time sifting through non-qualified leads.

An increased focus on health and safety

One of the biggest and most obvious factors that will result in smaller events is the important focus on health and safety. Social distancing, venue restrictions, and governmental and safety regulations are all factors that will keep numbers lower out of sheer necessity.

And even when restrictions aren’t in place, attendees will have different expectations so they have a baseline of personal comfort and trust. Having a safe event will be extremely important — but making that safe event successful means that a more focused, targeted strategy will be paramount in reaching the right audience.

A data-fueled strategy overhaul

The real pathway to success is having an event that resonates with every single attendee, exhibitor, and sponsor, right? Every person who registers is a perfect fit, every message they hear makes sense, sponsor offerings resonate, and every exhibitor on site is well-suited to their needs. That’s a win-win scenario for everyone that drives audience loyalty, delivers on sponsor/exhibitor satisfaction, and generates positive ROI.

If you want to connect the right people — attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors — with the right messages, at the right time, in the right way, it’s more important than ever to truly understand your audience. Refocusing event strategy on a smaller, highly targeted audience not only takes the numbers game out of the equation, but it positions an event to better serve all the needs of those involved.

The approach of quality over quantity goes hand in hand with the integrated experience model we see taking precedence in the future, where events are just one part of a larger puzzle. If we have learned one thing from the pandemic, it is that how we connect people matters. But connecting the right people matters even more — the decision makers, the influencers, your next best prospects.

And that approach requires a much more targeted strategy to pull off the right mix of in-person and online events and a supplementary content marketing strategy that keeps people in the conversation year-round. Diving deeper into data will be key to inform your audience acquisition and integrated experience strategies, bringing the right mix of people together in person and using digital to create community online and deliver content to a broader audience.

Exhibitors and sponsors can feel good about making an investment in an event that offers them a targeted audience that has a higher opportunity to generate leads and new business. Attendees can feel good about investing their limited time and resources in an event that truly meets their needs for education, networking, and entertainment; an event that connects them so deeply, they become its biggest fan — not only returning, but engaging with the event community, content, message, and more long after the event itself is over.

Want to learn more about the new outlook for events?

Read the Freeman Future Forecast!

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