We covered a lot of ground during our first season of Event Horizons, a podcast all about the events industry. Over the course of six episodes, we interviewed some amazing industry leaders like Courtney Stanley and Jason Koop, and we shared our behind-the-scenes experiences at events like the Experiential Marketing Summit (EMS) and Hubspot Inbound.
With the industry rapidly changing over the last few years, our experts had so much knowledge to share about how event professionals should adapt to the new era of events. While I definitely recommend catching up if you missed any episodes, I’ll let you in on our key takeaways.
1. Consider the attendees above all else
At the heart of what we learned is this: put your attendees first.
This starts with making sure your event is accessible. Select an all-in-one event platform that’s easy to use and comes equipped with the features your guests need to stay engaged, network, and access content.
From there, plan an event that truly resonates with attendees and gives them actionable takeaways. Collect and use data to inform the agenda, speakers, and format of your events.
And while content is king, how you deliver it matters, too. With a heightened value on personal time, attendees have higher expectations than ever before. For virtual events, organizers should offer a production value more like a TV show than a flat Powerpoint presentation. Elevate the production value with videos, GIFs, lower thirds, and more.
When time and travel is required for attendees, event organizers should strive to offer a truly immersive event experience that wows their guests. Think on-site activations, like hosting a session at a local attraction, playing a hands-on interactive game, or guiding guests through a meditation or stretching break.
No matter the event format, use event tech to keep attendees connected and engaged. Consider incorporating social networking, chat, word clouds, polls, Q&As, and breakout rooms (physical or virtual).
2. In-person events are back (but don’t close the door on virtual)
After a couple false starts last year, we’re seeing organizations across the board getting back to in-person for internal and external events. But we can’t just go back to business as usual when it comes to hosting in-person events. Successful modern event experiences should incorporate virtual elements, such as:
Onsite check-in and badge printing: Streamline the check-in process by allowing attendees to quickly check in, print their badge, and move on to the rest of the event. With the Webex Events Onsite, you can integrate registration details, so attendees can self-serve, even if there are different badge types based on tickets. It also allows you to customize badges with your organization’s branding.
Mobile event app and web app: Whether fully on-site or hybrid, event apps provide a central hub for on-site and remote audiences. After the event, they offer a place to house on-demand content for attendees to access at any time. And throughout the app, there are ways to incorporate sponsors, capture data, and track the attendee journey—resulting in rich insights your event team and sponsors can leverage.
Live display: Elevate the on-site experience with a digital display that pulls in real-time content from your event app to make the experience more connected and immersive. Not only does this give more real estate for sponsor creative, showcasing a social wall or networking game leaderboard encourages participation.
Now that you have the tools in your toolbox to host virtual events, leverage them to stay in front of your audience throughout the year.
Once your flagship event wraps up, dig into your event data, social and email performance metrics, and survey results to figure out the content your attendees want. Use those learnings as a way to craft content for smaller virtual experiences throughout the year.
3. Drive continuous engagement with communities
Empower your attendees to stay connected with your organization and each other even after the event. An online community—whether led by your organization or your users—provides an always-on space for members to access live and on-demand content, share with and learn from other members, and stay in the know about your upcoming event experiences.
Incorporating engagement tech into your community experience is just another way to provide value to your members. As a bonus, it allows you to have a pulse on what’s top of mind for your audience, which informs future content.
4. Reuse, repurpose, recycle (your content)
The days of event organizers producing content all on their own are over. Now’s the time to get close to your content and creative team, and see how you can repurpose and recycle content they’re already creating. For example, ask them what blog posts garner the most traffic and time on page. Repackage a popular blog into an eBook that you can offer as a resource at your next event.
5. Leverage learnings from the past few years
The last few years have been a rollercoaster ride, and we were inspired by our season one guests who learned and adapted to the changing industry.
From pivoting to virtual, hosting hybrid, and going back to in person, event pros learned so much about all the formats—and the planning and technology required to execute them.
Now, it’s time to take the best elements from each format to create and market a well-rounded, engaging event program that delights attendees and drives ROI.
Event professionals are our heroes
Throughout this season, we of course wanted to provide event professionals with actionable takeaways, because we respect your time and want you to gain something tangible. But we also hope this season seemed like a love letter to the professionals in this space.
The logistics required to run a successful event were already intense pre-pandemic. But then overnight, event pros became data analysts, virtual event producers, IT specialists, and so much more.
I’ve never seen a more passionate and flexible group of people. We have so much respect and love for the industry. This podcast is our gift to you.
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