Event Planners Entering a Period Of Technology Consolidation Says Forrester
Mike Fletcher looks through the findings of a new report on how organisers are coping with the digital demands of in-person event programmes.
In-person events remain critical to achieving top business goals due to their scale and high-touch characteristics, according to a newly released report from Forrester. And yet, attendees now have much higher expectations for digital features as part of the overall event offer and this is causing an extended period of assessment and technology consolidation.
Forrester surveyed 509 global events and meeting strategy planners. Respondents told the consulting firm that in-person events are still vital for increasing engagement with attendees (71%), improving lead generation (58%), and deepening customer relationships (51%).
When asked why they choose to return to hosting in-person events after the pandemic, planners ranked the ability to expand their organisation’s customer base, build their reputation more broadly, and deliver great experiences as their top three reasons.
However, the digitalisation of event formats experienced from 2020 to 2022 doesn’t appear to have been diluted by the return of in-person. In fact, 77% of respondents admitted that their in-person attendees now have much higher expectations for in-built digital elements.
These expectations include on-site features such as event apps and check-in capabilities, as well as the ability to give remote attendees access to content either synchronously or on demand.
Moreover, 73% told Forrester that serving virtual event attendees will continue to be a key part of their ongoing in-person event strategies.
As a result, Forrester says that planners are now looking to consolidate technology in order to gain a more holistic view of their meetings and event performance.
Despite becoming more confident in choosing the right event format to match their required goals, problems with capturing and activating data, measuring ROI and delivering more engaging experiences have now made streamlining their technology stack and supplier relationships a priority.
This is hardly surprising when you consider that over one-third of respondents currently use six or more technology or service providers to produce their most complex events.
The rapid adoption of new platforms to support virtual experiences during the pandemic — and to now support events in a greater number and types of format — has left companies with more event partners and platforms than ever before.
With data flowing between more systems and being used by more stakeholders, event leaders are apparently struggling to effectively integrate and make sense of this accelerated flood of information.
A majority (59%) told Forrester that they really struggle to capture the right data and leverage those insights that would support stakeholder demands, namely customer acquisition, sales growth and marketing.
These days, companies have far more access to first-party customer and employee data than ever before. Yet Forrester finds that most have not been able to integrate event technology with their wider sales and marketing infrastructure. Some 86% of respondents claimed it’s ‘important’ or ‘critical’ to track cost and performance across all events, yet only 42% can do so today.
Moving forward, respondents shared their future intent to invest in a single platform in order to ‘enable a more holistic view of performance’ (81%), ‘improve experience delivery’ (72%) and ‘serve their needs across all event formats’ (76%).
At the same time, the global event technology market is maturing with leading suppliers offering broader functionality to support in-person, virtual, and hybrid events, along with improved integration with more enterprise systems.
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Forrester’s ‘Level Up Your Event Platform Capabilities’ report, which was commissioned by event technology supplier Cvent, concludes by making the following four key recommendations:
1. Benchmark your technology and services choices with an eye towards consolidation
Using point solutions that specialise in virtual or in-person formats separately won’t engage audiences consistently. Delivering an engaging and valuable experience across formats will require slimming down technology options and integrating an event platform more seamlessly with your firm’s marketing technology (Martech) stack. Achieving this will also enable a more holistic view of event performance and make it easier to demonstrate event impact on the business.
2. Make event data quality and analytics a primary requirement
Digital capabilities let event teams gather richer data than ever before and put it to work, not just improving event impact but building a deeper understanding of buyer needs and how the entire events portfolio shapes customer engagement across their lifetimes.
Whether investing or consolidating, ensure technology choices support the right kind of event data capture and management for your business.
3. Select partners based on their proven experience, connecting both digital and in-person formats
To succeed, marketing teams must support new business objectives and goals for the events they host across a broader spectrum of formats and event types.
This requires new thinking about the overall role of the event portfolio in driving demand and building customer relationships. Top event teams will work with design partners and technology providers who can help them determine which physical or digital experiences deliver the right value. The best choices will be partners who can create innovative ways to blend physical and digital activity to create always-on, measurable experiences anchored by in-person events and using virtual/ webinar formats to connect and engage audiences consistently over time.
4. Evaluate event ROI based on upfront goals and objectives
What marketers and planners thought was a temporary situation with digital formats and capabilities has permanently changed how firms build and evaluate their event programmes and how audiences experience them. Event ROI can only be determined in relationship to the goals and results organisers expect events to deliver. Before thinking about format, content or logistics, event teams should determine which audience outcomes they expect to achieve.
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