Amid a "precipitous drop in demand" for virtual events as face-to-face meetings return, how are industry professionals using event technology differently than a year ago?
This was the overarching question driving discussion in the recent "Assessing Event Tech Needs in 2023" webinar from Northstar Meetings Group, which examined the role of event tech providers in the current landscape, what lessons have been learnt from how technology was used during the pandemic, and how planners can best develop relationships with technology providers. The webinar is now available to view on demand.
Moderated by Michael J. Shapiro, executive editor at Northstar Meetings Group, the discussion featured insight from: Julius Solaris, founder of consulting and research company Boldpush; Nick Borelli, president of Borelli Strategies, which provides marketing strategy for event companies; and Anh Nguyen, head of customer success at software platform Twine and principal/cofounder of Spark Event Collective.
“Virtual events is a category that was born during the pandemic – because even if we had virtual events before, nothing compared to what we experienced from 2020 onwards. It's a new tool,” said Solaris.
“Nobody was expecting such a fast comeback for face-to-face events," he continued. "But the [virtual] technology is not going anywhere and there will be different ways and formats in which we engage with it.”
Borelli highlighted how event technology companies are increasingly looking to exploit content over experiences, targeting marketing departments rather than event planners, while Nguyen said there has been a gap in the last couple of years between what event planners wanted and how event technology companies have delivered.
“Neither side listened to each very well at all – event tech companies were forcing planners to take their live event and cram it into this virtual box and planners were just hoping for an easy fix,” she said. "For those event technology companies that are still in the market, it’s going to take a little more intention.”
Participants also discussed different expectations of hybrid, with Nguyen saying that on the event management side, the industry as a whole is still learning the nuance of hybrid and what it means.
“Does it [hybrid] have to be at the same time [as the event]? If I have an in-person event and then a week later a webinar, that is still a hybrid experience,” she said. “But a client sees the word ‘hybrid’ and they want to do it, but it can be really challenging with the additional costs and resources. It’s hard to educate clients about hybrid – all they know is that it costs more.”
Nguyen said that hybrid may see greater levels of adoption "when we get to a point where technology can support this in a more cost-effective manner, when it’s actually truly a platform that’s meant for hybrid and not just a virtual platform that you have to set up in addition to planning your in-person event."
It’s about connecting your people. It doesn’t have to run at the same time as a live event, it doesn’t have to be video content, and it doesn’t have to be livestreamed.
Head of Customer Success at Twine and Principal/Cofounder, Spark Event Collective
Until that time, participants agreed, the job of planners is to educate clients on different hybrid models. “It’s about connecting your people,” said Nguyen. “It doesn’t have to run at the same time as a live event, it doesn’t have to be video content and it doesn’t have to be livestreamed.”
Borelli suggested that sales and marketing departments need to work more closely with event planners, and spot opportunities to use post-event content to attract sponsorship and generate additional revenue.
It’s a view that was shared by Solaris, who said that understanding the business model of events is one of the biggest challenges that has yet to be solved.
With both in-person and virtual meetings here to stay, clients were urged to be open about their needs with their event technology providers, their AV providers and the venues they use.
Bring technology providers into the design strategy as opposed to seeing them as a vendor selling a widget.
President, Borelli Strategies
“Event technology and its ability to pivot is a big deal, now is the best time to have an open conversation and to challenge the technology from a design perspective. Bring technology providers into the [event] design strategy as opposed to [seeing them as] a vendor selling a widget,” said Borelli.