B2B events offer an unparalleled experience, unmatched by any other B2B channel.
Events create an engaging platform where we connect directly with our audience, hearing about their experiences and challenges firsthand, and fostering genuine conversations. These interactions help us understand our audience better, build trust, and establish meaningful relationships, leading to the best possible outcomes and results.
The (recent) event evolution
The world of B2B events has transformed significantly over the last few years due to the impact of COVID-19. Everything had to pivot at short notice, and we saw a complete shift to virtual platforms which fundamentally changed how events were delivered. In turn, this provided a steep learning curve for event providers to consider how best to serve attendees and event partners in this new, online setting. However, we’re now seeing a shift back, and a return to in-person events again.
In Foundry’s 2023 Role and Influence Study, 68% of ITDMs say virtual events will continue to be an important source of information, delivering key content without the need to travel. But 58% of respondents also say they are likely to increase their attendance at physical events over the next year.
Proof, therefore, that despite the new normal of remote and hybrid work models, there remains a strong desire for face-to-face interactions.
However, there’s a catch. With remote work as the norm, attendees are more discerning and selective about the events they invest their time in. The mindset now is, “If we’re going to attend, it has to be worth our while.” This shift has created both challenges and opportunities. Events must work harder than ever to deliver value and content that audiences are interested in. It’s no longer just about showing up; it’s about showing up with a purpose.
If that’s the case, what makes an event worth it?
What makes an in-person event worth the time and commitment?
What makes an event truly worth attendees’ time? What gives it that impactful edge? The foundation is always the same – it’s about driving authentic in-person connections and engagement.
At the heart of that lies content (content is king, as the saying goes). While fancy venues and trendy coffee carts are nice, worthwhile events are not about gimmicks. Valuable events are all about substance, content that can’t be put into an email, and expert insights that can’t be easily found in a google search. Take roundtable sessions for instance. These are more than just discussions; they’re open dialogues where real experiences are shared.
For example, at a Foundry event I recently attended in Singapore, a delegate openly discussed a digital transformation project that had gone very wrong. Others chimed in with their own similar challenges and solutions. It became almost like a therapy session, with everyone learning from each other. The value of that session was a frank and honest exchange, industry peers learning from one another, feeling like they are not alone and hearing practical solutions to their business challenges. Leadership and subject matter experts left genuinely saying, “OK, that was interesting.”
The true “it factor” of an event is delivering a level of openness that you wouldn’t see in any other format. This authenticity is incredibly valuable for both attendees and organizers, creating an off-the-record environment where genuine conversations can unfold among peers and our partners can understand what pain points they can help to solve.
The role of events
Creating authentic touchpoints
When we think about events, it’s not just a standalone occasion—it’s a vital part of a broader strategy. You’ve already identified your target accounts, crafted tailored messages for them, and now you’re surrounded by them at the event.
During an event, there are numerous touchpoints, each revealing valuable insights. Attendees can engage in various ways, like choosing sessions or participating in polls and Q&A discussions. These interactions provide a window into their interests or priorities, a pivotal part of events’ role and how they fit into your broader marketing strategy.
For instance, when crafting a content piece, you can intuitively direct readers to related events covering the discussed topics. Or post-event, insights and outcomes can be incorporated into content write-ups, creating a seamless connection between live interactions and digital content.
By incorporating these insights into your content, you establish a seamless connection between the live interactions during the event and your digital presence, fostering genuine engagement and brand advocacy. A few years ago, I worked on an event panel and created writeups from the event that then fed into the content element. The results were exciting, with many event attendees becoming advocates for our brand and sharing that content to their own social networks, thus creating a much larger footprint than the event alone
Building audience trust
Trust is something that has to be earned, and a key component in building audience trust is through events. Attendees trust that when they attend an event delivered by a brand such as CIO by Foundry, they will receive high-quality content and have genuine networking opportunities with like-minded peers. For example, we make certain that roundtable discussions, especially those involving top-level executives like CIOs and directors, are genuine and meaningful.
Another way to nurture audience trust is through the event agenda. Ensure a balance between various session formats, incorporating keynotes, fireside chats, breakout sessions, and ample time for networking and relaxation. Giving attendees a break from presentations, a chance to stretch their legs, check emails or step outside for fresh air. Even something as simple as keeping the agenda on track and finishing at the agreed end time is important, you earn trust by being respectful of your attendees’ time.
As you implement these strategies, you’ll start to notice trust with your audience strengthens. For example, we have quite a loyal audience to our events, and have repeat attendees at large flagship events like CIO 100 globally. Earning your audience’s trust goes hand in hand with the integrity of your events.
So much work goes into events, ensuring that you forge great connections, working to deliver the best content, and creating valuable touchpoints for your marketing and sales teams. However, the work doesn’t end when the event does, but neither does the value. Sustaining post-event momentum is crucial, although it’s an admittedly challenging task. Focus on initiatives geared towards maintaining the conversation, building awareness, and keeping the community alive and thriving. The central role of events is to encourage genuine engagement, provide valuable content, and inspire knowledge that your audience can implement within their own organizations.
Inspire To Connect 2023
Want more demand generation ideas for B2B tech marketers? Inspire To Connect 2023 brings together industry leaders and Foundry experts to provide you with deep insights and practical solutions to influence each stage of your demand generation strategy. Gain fresh perspectives and actionable tools from understanding what matters to your customers, to identifying buyer intent, to delivering exceptional brand experiences at Foundry’s free-to-attend virtual conference.
Watch Inspire to Connect 2023 on-demand now.