In a BrightTalk webinar, co-founder and editor-in-chief Joel Harrison spoke with events consultant Carolyn Morgan about the future of physical, hybrid and virtual events, with Covid-19 being very much present going into 2021.
Tell us a little bit about your experience of running events in 2020, and how you’ve had to respond to changing circumstances?
CM: I’ve had many years of experience in publishing and events businesses, including EMAP and launching my own media conference. I now work with a range of media businesses as a consultant and NED. This year, two clients had to make a quick pivot from in-person events to virtual, and I worked with them to rethink their marketing. Almost every other B2B media business I know is on the same journey.
Whether you run your own events, or you invest in third-party events, they are ultimately tools used as part of the wider B2B marketing and sales process. What impact has all this had on wider marketing and sales programmes and activities?
CM: B2B brands are the sponsors of most commercial events. There has been a shift in the type of leads generated by virtual events – higher volume but earlier stage, and lighter touch/ less engaged – so requiring more nurturing than those from an in-person event.
How have buyers responded or reacted to changes, in terms of using events as part of their decision-making processes, or relationship management with suppliers?
CM: Virtual events have perhaps accelerated the move of B2B buyers towards researching purchases in some detail online before approaching a ‘live’ salesperson.
Where do you think we are now with B2B events coming towards the end of 2020, looking forward to 2021? What expectations can brands and event organisers have for running/attending events in the next few months?
CM: Most corporates are now encouraging their staff to work from home till January 2021 and so it is hard to justify attending an in-person event unless it is really exclusive information or a hard to reach group of people (and Covid-19 safe). Even in January 2021, when we might have a vaccine available, it may take some time until enough of the business population feel safe to attend conferences again. I’m hearing from organisers that they don’t expect to be running large scale (>100) in person events until next summer.