Event marketing is in for some challenging times. The current hot topic is digital media and everyone seems poised to
jump on the mobility-commerce bandwagon as soon as applications become available and carriers engage in price
wars. On the heels of a recession-driven decline in event attendance, clients who haven’t already done so are taking a second look at their meetings and conventions budgets. In this environment, there’s little evidence to suggest that event marketing budgets will rise in the near-term.
And yet, almost every recent survey of marketing challenges presents a very different picture based on what marketers see as their most pressing need. Regardless of industry or geography, “the need to build long-term customer relationships” and “increased brand awareness” are two of the top three concerns. In B2B arenas, the need to generate
sales leads is the number-one issue. In sectors like automotive and financial and professional services, the big issue is “aligning employees with brand and business goals.”
The common denominator between marketers’ ‘priority needs’ is that they can all be served via event marketing. As such, recession or not, there is no reason to believe the potential market for events will be anything but robust. The only question is whether events will be recognized by clients as the best medium for what ails them.
Two keywords in gaining that reputation are ‘innovation’ and ‘experience.’ The traditional tools of event marketing — great destinations, keynote speakers and networking opportunities — are, of course, necessary. But they are not, by themselves, sufficient to generate large audiences nor ensure client goals are achieved with whatever audience they attract. Successful events will be differentiated by whether they find a way to incorporate new technologies in programmes that generate opportunities for one-to-one connections with customers, employees, channel members and anyone else of influence.
For example, some events have already experimented with the following:
- The use of social networking to maintain contact with attendees during the event. Announcements, promotional messages attached to sessions, perhaps even summaries of speaker comments could all be posted in real time.
- The use of scanners or RFID technology to keep track of who attends what sessions, or visits which trade booths, can assist in evaluating the ROI performance of event elements.
- Real-time polling during speeches or seminars to assist speakers in dealing with the immediate issues and opinions of attendees: all of which can build relevance into the programme.
- Greater use of webcasts and videoconferencing to bring input and expertise from around the world and allow for real-time interaction with customers or holders of specialized knowledge.
- The combination of GPS and mobility commerce to provide a foundation for new ways of achieving networking or social goals.
- Blogs and other digital communication to canvas attendees prior to the event, to ensure that programme and session content is appropriate.
- Modelling, computer simulations and electronic games to allow clients or employees to interact with products or services in a way that factorsin their specific situation and allows for sensitivity analysis.
The key here is not just to use new technologies as isolated innovations; that would be just another gimmick. The real key is to use these technologies in a way that encourages and facilitates interaction in a one-to-one manner.
There are ample new technologies that can be incorporated to make conference themes come alive and elevate audience involvement. Those who seize the opportunity will flourish; those who don’t will become “just another meeting.”