The event channel has undergone a dramatic makeover. This isn’t a bad thing, think of it more as a glow-up powered by innovation and technology. As multiple industries and organizations settle into the “new normal” of hybrid workspaces, events have also gone hybrid. While initially borne out of necessity, the benefits of virtual and hybrid experiences are now too numerous to ignore.

Event attendees have become accustomed to convenience, high production values, and greater engagement in virtual settings. This goes for conferences, meetings, trade shows, and even webinars. Higher expectations have been set. A recent study of chief marketing officers (CMOs) by CMO Council and Cvent found that:

  • 60% of CMOs said restarting in-person/hybrid events is very important, even critical
  • 65% said learnings over the last two years will lead to a holistic view of events that are better aligned to marketing outcomes
  • 71% of marketers are experimenting with new event formats

 

Blending the Old with the New
There are some signs of virtual-event fatigue, but CMO study participants said digital experiences will continue to play an important role in the NextGen event channel. In fact, 20% of marketing leaders indicate that virtual events continue to deliver tremendous reach.

“When it comes to top of the funnel and you want to reach more people, digital events will stick around,” said one of the CMO respondents. “The ratio of digital to live will be skewed toward digital, because digital has proven it will get you those numbers.”

Yet, after nearly two years of virtual-only events, marketers are chomping at the bit to restart in-person events. While virtual events are more about brand reach, in-person events are about nurturing customer relationships that result in higher conversion rates.

Lessons Learned
A significant insight found in the CMO Council report was the shift in ownership of events programs in many organizations. In the survey, 57% of marketers now say events are owned and managed by marketing, orchestrated across their organizations, and aligned to a holistic marketing plan. Plus, 65% believe event marketing will continue to mature to include a comprehensive view of all events that are better aligned to marketing outcomes.

Some of this new alignment between planning teams and marketers can be attributed to the working conditions many professionals experienced in the past couple of years. With workforces moving to virtual environments and collaborating online, the necessity of connections to drive business became imperative. For instance, one company in the study implemented a global communication calendar where everyone involved in events could coordinate with each other. This led to synergy and efficiency in event and content management.

The NextGen of Events
While the NextGen events are upon us, there still are plenty of unknowns. Which event formats best match which event types? What digital components and content produce a more immersive attendee experience? Which event activities lead to attendee satisfaction, higher engagement rates, and lead volume and conversion?

The answers to many of these questions lie in testing and experimentation. 71% of CMOs surveyed in the report said they plan to trial new event formats, agendas, or designs. 2022 looks to be a year of learning.

“In 2022, we’re going to be testing and learning about different event types and technology to see what’s working and to track how we’re doing,” one CMO stated. “We need to be smarter in the formulation of ROI.”

The Bottom Line
With so much uncertainty, it has become more important than ever for organizations to have a clear understanding of all the events in their portfolio to gain complete control and a clear picture of their total event program.

For a deeper dive into these insights, we encourage you download your free copy of the new report from CMO Council and Cvent, “Aligning Strategy, Teams and Tech for Success in a New Era of Events.”

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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