Association Events as Part of an Omnichannel Strategy

22nd June 2022

During IMEX in Frankfurt, Boardroom had a chat with Karen Carter, Director Enterprise Marketing Europe at Cvent, about the digital transformation of associations.

Words Vicky Koffa

The pandemic brought up the need for extensive use of digital solutions. But how to meet the new needs of associations?

When associations entered the digital world for their conferences, the need for an experienced event professional who is using such technology on a daily basis became clear. Before the pandemic, the marketing and events team was the big rock star for live events, while the digital teams were good at handing online requirements. Suddenly, all those experts in the digital area were helping the live events teams to bring that experience together to create hybrid events. 

We, as a company, grew from merely selling event technology for live events to creating a virtual platform using all the expertise our digital teams already had; in this sense, we were lucky enough to have the resources to do that. We have brought together the best of the two worlds, accommodating all kinds of needs, from organizing a webinar to the execution of a full event: a one-stop shop. 

The first thing we ask associations is: what’s your goal? After identifying specific objectives, we can make suggestions on the use of one platform or another, or even the value of organizing a live, fully virtual or hybrid event.

From your experience, what are the advantages associations enjoy from hybrid events?

There is definitely an additional lift to doing events in a hybrid construct. A hybrid format is an opportunity if you think not just about the moment in time, but what you do before, during and after. For example, content that you could set up within a platform ahead of time for delegates to pre-read or pre-watch; those are great marketing teasers for the event. During the conference clients can be flexible with live streaming and time zones, attendees get to choose to be in the room or not and perhaps even enjoy different advantages depending on that choice. By doing hybrid events, you’re getting the best of both worlds. 

Also, when including a digital component, you get access to all the data touchpoints which give you measurement and information on the clients. What are they watching? When are they watching it? What do they care about? What are they looking at? To get to the result of a lively interactive hybrid event, you need to learn from best practices. We have been building content and experience using our events and technology to be able now to offer associations personized advice for different needs. 

It now seems as we have tried it all: we started from live events, moved on to fully virtual through the pandemic and tried our luck with hybrid? Where do you see associations going from here?

After conducting research among our clients, we discovered that, in many cases, the leaders know that virtual is a good way forward, but their employees aren’t as strong with it. How do we bridge that education gap? Associations want everyone back in the room, but there’s still that bit of nervousness about physical presence. 

On the other hand, with digital fatigue accumulating, virtual is only being used for smaller things, like webinars and small topical meetings, while main events tend to take place in person. I think that, as the tech gets better, we as an industry will start thinking about that shift back to an element of hybrid. I think all three types will still exist in the future and associations will base their decisions about which format to use on what they are trying to achieve through their congress. 

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