Our ascent from COVID and omicron has been swift — we are now largely mask-free, back in offices and planning furiously to deliver in-person events. At the same time, we are overwhelmed — by information, changing circumstances, executive scrutiny and the need to make timely decisions. The following are four critical priorities to guide your return to live.
Priority #1: Invest in Audience Research and Acquisition Efforts
The Great Resignation and the pending elimination of cookies to track online visitors means we must work harder to attract and engage audiences. It’s time to invest in audience research to identify key care-abouts, personalize messages and create compelling calls to action. In so doing, you will be able to center your content, community and commercial engagement around audience priorities.
Priority #2: Appoint a “Connections Curator” (aka Networking Chief)
Getting face to face with the right people is a primary benefit of the live channel, yet few organizations make connections an organizational priority — complete with goals, curation and measurement. Now is the time to appoint at least one dedicated staff member who will focus on:
- Understanding how attendees connect today by using ethnographic research to understand how they interact and analyzing attendee tracking/scanning data.
- Curating different types of meet-ups that are designed for varying audience needs, such as problem-solving workshops, mentor-mentee interactions, crowd-sourced feedback, peer to peer exchanges, roundtables, etc.
- Selecting technologies that make it easier for attendees to find and connect with peers — versus legacy AI technology, which has a mixed track record of matching work titles only.
- Setting goals for audience engagement and monitoring results.
Priority #3: Optimize the In-Person and Online Channels
More than ever, we are competing for our participants’ time and attention. Plus, technology is enabling audiences to participate where and when they want based on individual priorities and accessibility. How do we stay ahead?
First, optimize in-person engagement:
- Highlight what is truly new, novel and cutting-edge and make that available only on the show floor. Enable attendees to engage and immerse — with each other and in hands-on demonstrations.
- Provide short, impactful and inspiring talks — by experts or by peers.
- Deliver high-impact, exclusive and captive experiences that cannot be replicated anywhere else.
Next, optimize the convenience and access of being online:
- Enable attendees to learn and certify on their own time.
- Provide exclusive livestreams to expert speakers.
- Facilitate peer-to-peer dialogue or meetups on dedicated topics that provide practical ideas and solutions to pressing challenges.
Priority #4: Create Win-Win for Corporate Partners
While some companies continue to rely on the time-tested exhibit model, major players and disruptors want new and different participation options:
- Develop experience “zones” driven by content and engagement that are complementary to a company’s booth.
- Offer sponsor activations in nontraditional spaces, whether in the entry courtyard, hallway or through creative food and beverage experiences.
- Provide content partnerships that capture on-site presentations or launches and are amplified through livestream or sponsored white papers distributed post-event.
- Capture and analyze audience engagement for companies seeking to increase awareness or consideration.
- Another area we recommend is revisiting legacy practices — from priority points to sponsor requirements and renewals. Many of these practices were sound at the time but could be holding you back from new partnerships and opportunities today.
A version of this article originally appeared in PCMA Convene.