Erica Spoor Dec 11, 2020 10:18:24 AM 7 min read

Digital is Here to Stay: How to Adjust Your Event’s Content Accordingly

With each promising news story about COVID-19 vaccinations, the event industry—and businesses in every sector—can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

As the return to in-person events comes into focus, we expect audiences—who have been working remotely, social distancing and generally hunkering down—to be cautious about attending large gatherings. Plus, unprecedented attendance and engagement with digital events during periods of shut-down have taught us there is much to be gained from offering digital or integrated experiences in tandem with in-person events.

Digital is here to stay

We believe events in 2021 will deserve a different classification. We’re not talking about "hybrid events” but rather an “integrated experience” that cohesively blends both live and digital components.

For some individuals, large, multi-day corporate events are out of reach due to lack of budget or time or low interest (think: introverts and executive audiences). What better way is there to make the experience more accessible than to continue to offer digital content? 

However, the key to success (or sure way to failure) is how thoughtfully you design the content strategy and delivery.  With digital fatigue setting in with force, it’s harder than ever to capture your target audience’s attention. Being selective with what you offer will be key.

Here are our thoughts on which aspects of the event experience are best served digitally vs. in-person

IPG Integrated Event Design_FINAL2

Still Better In Person

  • Social interactions
  • Professional networking
  • Hands-on product exploration and demos
  • Peer and expert one-on-ones
  • Interactive sessions and activities
  • Engagement with sponsors
  • Relationship-based sales activities

Working Well For Both (In-Person + Digital)

  • Executive keynotes 
  • Thought-leadership content
  • Product launches & roadmap sessions
  • Guest expert speakers 
  • Celebrity appearances
  • Educational sessions
  • Q&A (must be moderated!)
  • Facilitated, high-touch experiences
  • Social media engagement

Better Digitally

  • Customer involvement/case studies
  • Executive-level attendee engagement
  • Introductory- and beginner-level content
  • Conversation or chat feeds
  • Podcasts and other media
  • Click to connect or contact features

Educational and traditional “sit and learn” sessions can be offered simultaneously to a remote audience and we’re seeing academic institutions embrace this model at scale. The ease of access to digital content has emerged as a key value proposition for executive-level audiences. Similarly customers have been more willing to do case studies and present if they can do it without the extra effort of travel.

Conversely, anything social will—hands-down—be better as an in-person experience. As will anything relationship-based. For this reason, sponsor engagement has not gained traction digitally to date. There is just no substitute (yet) for unplanned spontaneous interactions with meaningful contacts. Platforms may accelerate development of features to meet this need, but to date it’s severely lacking. 

On demand will remain a key cornerstone in most team’s event strategies as many brands are already effectively utilizing this approach to extend the shelf-life and repurpose content as part of a year-round, effective engagement strategy. 

What will come back first?

We’re betting that we’ll see a movement toward exclusive, high-touch in-person experiences for very-targeted audiences. This will open the door to new approaches, including account-based marketing events for a very distinct set of customers or prospects. Similarly, events with a strong, established brand will likely move to attract their loyalists first—as the barrier to convince them to attend is lower. These new types of events will require next-level creativity and fresh, forward-thinking strategy, design and execution.

With thoughtful ingenuity and a bit of risk-taking, the integrated experience has the potential to become even more engaging than we ever imagined it could be. 

If your team needs direction navigating these uncharted waters in 2021, take a look at Impact Point Group’s event strategy consulting services— we can help you find your way.