Why live events remain your most important marketing tool

Rick Stainton, founder of Smyle, discusses the marketing benefits of hosting and attending business events.

a conference audience

The majority (80%) of marketers believe live events are critical to their company’s success.

This statistic should not come as a surprise to many – live experiences allow people to learn in a more engaging, face-to-face way, touch and try the products they are considering buying, ask questions about a product directly, and more. They provide a full sensory experience.

As the most tried and tested marketing channel, live experiences foster face-to-face interactions that allow brands to shore up trust. Now, hit by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, brands are missing out on the benefits of these experiences, but the technology and know-how is available to build safe and Covid-secure live experiences ready for 2021; companies should not be ruling them out of their forthcoming marketing plans.

The marketing benefits of business events

Unlike with virtual events, live experiences enable marketeers to engage directly with prospects’ feedback, gauging emotional reactions in real time. The psychological environment of such events is crucial when delivering high-level strategic content and getting people to buy into it. Global brands like Samsung and BMW curate live launches for their new product models because the presentation is a performance that relies not simply on the content on display, but on the atmosphere and sense of a shared emotional experience that is generated.

Research from psychologist Professor John Drury at the University of Sussex suggests that people undergo a positive emotional experience as part of sharing an event with like-minded others.

Recent research on live events finds these experiences include validation from seeing others react the same way as you, recognition in being seen as part of a group, and support in experiencing a shared identity with others. Clearly, attending a live event provides a powerful experience that is difficult to fully replicate virtually, when a shared sense of cooperation and collaboration may be diluted.

Meanwhile, workshops and networking further enthuse attendees and add context to the content being presented, providing further value and sparking idea generation, while the sensory experience of physically interacting with a product builds better impact. The multi-sensory live experience that delivers an extension of a brand in a physical environment is difficult to recreate over a video call or webinar.

Why the events industry is perfectly placed to provide safe experiences

Even before the pandemic, event professionals have always been global leaders in managing organised audiences, overseeing every detail to ensure attendees have a flawless experience, from coordinating crowd management, to logistics, security and catering – it’s in their DNA.

For years, events have been building technology into such processes to improve the efficiency and safety of the experience, and much of this technology is perfectly suited to making live experiences COVID-secure. For example, registration processes are digital, meaning track & trace can be easily built in. Likewise, non-touch signage is already in use, and QR codes are regularly used to sign people in and out of buildings and rooms, enabling event leaders to monitor crowding and the movement of people, and implement Covid-safe protocols.

The events industry already has the skill sets in place to oversee and implement such processes as coordinating travel plans to reduce crowding, and organise staggered arrival and departure times for attendees. Further, events professionals are well accustomed to putting in place strategies to minimise queuing, and implementing one-way systems to maximise the use of space. These tactics can be easily overlaid with strategies to ensure sanitation and testing.

Simon Hughes, chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership, recently spoke of the new technology being developed to make events Covid-safe. “Innovative air filtration systems are being developed to eliminate transmission of the virus via the air, as it is increasingly understood that it is via aerosol particles that viral transmissions largely occur,” he explains. In tandem, a research project by University Medicine Halle in August 2020 tracked participants at a concert in Leipzig and found the number of prolonged moments of contact was actually very low during the event, meaning that as long as safety protocols are observed, such events can theoretically be kept Covid-safe. It found
poor ventilation can increase the number of people exposed to a risk of infection, but to tackle this,
companies are already installing air technology, such as luxury hotel groups.

Looking to 2021

Live events will make a comeback in the new year as cases reduce. By that time, rapid testing is likely to be available to further safeguard such spaces – we’re already seeing the start of it in Liverpool. In Europe too, events are already being used to pilot such protocols, with the first rapid test for large-scale events trialled at the Austria Center, Vienna.

As such, business leaders must keep in mind the numerous benefits of their live events, and reap the rewards by planning them for a successful 2021. The events industry has invested in the best technology, and already has in place the management, skills and experience to ensure live events can be hosted in a Covid-secure way.

  • Rick Stainton, founder and group executive director at leading creative agency Smyle and One Industry One Voice spokesperson for the #WeCreateExperiences campaign.

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