Flexible and agile aren’t just words used to describe the USA gymnastics team – these are words we can also use to describe event planners and marketers. From shifting to virtual events overnight to transitioning back to in-person events, marketers have had to approach event planning with extreme flexibility and agility over the past year and a half. And like with gymnastics, it is an art form that takes experience, training and (we might add) a natural talent. Many marketers are finding that planning in-person events today is quite different than it was pre-COVID. Here are three considerations for your next in-person event that’s gold medal-worthy.
Gauge Your Audiences’ Appetite
And we’re not talking boxed lunches. Before planning your next event, consider polling or surveying your audience to understand their appetite for attending in-person events. There are varying comfort levels with gathering in-person and multiple considerations to take into account. Before investing significant time or dollars in your next in-person event, ask your audience what their preference is and deliver on it.
Make Your Content Compelling
The bottom line is this: your audience will invest their precious time in what they find valuable. For some, that might be connecting with you or their peers in-person. For others, that may be having access to insightful thought leadership via a webinar or written articles. However, the secret sauce here is to discover what makes your audience tick.
If a population of your target audience is not comfortable with attending in-person events, part of your overall strategy should tailor to their needs and provide them with a way to engage with your brand outside of in-person events. By providing other opportunities for engagement on your audiences’ terms, not only will you promote an environment of inclusion, your audience will walk away knowing that your organization truly cares.
Plan for More Intimate Crowds
Depending on the above-mentioned comfort levels, you can expect to see that your once-crowded events don’t quite draw the numbers that you had in the past. And that is to be expected. Realign your goals and become comfortable with smaller headcount numbers. Seize the opportunity to make more meaningful connections while you have your target audiences’ undivided attention. This will also inform more hyper-targeted follow-up strategies, which could increase your overall return on investment.
Despite the challenges marketers face today, you have a real opportunity to create more customized (and engaging) event experiences for your target audiences. Someday, we might return to large-scale conferences and tradeshows that pack in the crowds. Or, we might see that audiences continue to prefer to engage with brands via a mix of formats. Regardless, for the foreseeable future, event planners need to be flexible with your event approach and work hard to understand and respond to varied audience preferences. Those that do will take home the gold.