Customer experience is emerging as a top driver of growth and brand differentiation for B2B events and eCommerce merchants in the post-pandemic world, a Forrester-led webinar recently concluded. How diversity and sustainability play into that will be interesting to see unfold as we enter a new year—and new era.
I was reading a story on INMA by Minh-Y Tran, manager, program management for Dow Jones, about the success of their Future of Everything event in May. The four elements that she said made it work so well were: newsmaking programming; immersive activations (including a “drive-in movie experience”); a connective platform; and engaging sponsored moments. (“Year after year, we collaborate with our sponsors to deliver best-in-class experiences and programming.”)
It definitely went along with everything else I’ve been reading. “Providing custom experiences—not just events—is more emotionally compelling,” said Derrick Johnson, chief diversity officer and director of event strategy at Talley Management Group, Inc., last year. That’s more meaningful than “cookie-cutter events that are designed for a broad audience.”
When it comes to events in 2023 and beyond, whether in-person, hybrid or virtual, event designers will have to think audience first—and that means designing an experience. That’s how we looked at our return of our BIMS summit, Feb. 23-24, 2023, in Orlando. Yes, we’ll have newsmakers—Tim Hartman (GovExec) and Chris Ferrell (Endeavor) represent the two most acquisitional media organizations of the last couple years—but the event is designed for attendees to talk, collaborate, ask questions of one another, engage with innovative sponsors, and start dialogues that will continue post-BIMS.
So while content may still be king, it’s all the better if part of an overall experience—even if you can’t do a drive-in movie. Here are four examples:
Create a video experience. A 2021 Neal Awards finalist for Best New Product, FreightWaves told its audience: “You haven’t experienced an event until you’ve been to a FreightWaves Event.” In a promo video on their site, CEO Craig Fuller said that “the idea of the FreightWaves Live Experience is to bring you into the action, make you a part of the experience—letting you see how technology is going to shape the future of our industry.” Their events featured Fireside Chats, WavesTalks. Rapid-Fire Demos and immersive networking. At BIMS 2023, Fuller will tell How FreightWaves Created a One-Two Punch with Marketing Services and Subscription Data.
Devote a brand to experience. Last year, Questex relaunched and expanded XLIVE, “a brand at the nexus of the event experience.” XLIVE provides year-round engagement via newsletters, website, events and virtual solutions. In fact, this week XLIVExLDI will take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center. “It’s where industry leaders, change makers and planners in entertainment, destinations, and event technology convene to reimagine extraordinary experiences…” “As we return to in-person gatherings, this is the perfect time to rethink how professionals can deliver better experiences,” Paul Miller, CEO, Questex, said late last year.
Align with a sustainability experience. “Today’s organizations are understandably nervous about associating their brands with unsustainable practices that might inspire a Twitterstorm, said Ben Wielgus, Informa, head of sustainability,” wrote Kathy Monte on the Trade Show Executive site. It came on the eve of the just-released report, “Finding the Future, Together,” a collaboration between 14 organizations “to support the B2B trade show industry’s transition towards a more sustainable, low-carbon economy.” “There’s also a huge upside to doing the right thing,” Wielgus said, insisting this has created the need to collaborate together as an industry.
Sustainability will also be a big topic at BIMS, where more of that collaboration can take place. “The communications industry connects brands with people and, through events and experiences, we have the power to shape a narrative to drive positive behavioral change across a breadth of audiences,” said Anna Abdelnoor, co-founder of ISLA, a not-for-profit organization focused on accelerating the events industry’s transition to a sustainable future.
Build it (specifically) and they will come. “We are looking at all the shows individually—so in some markets we’re beefing up and certainly continuing to invest in the content that we’re producing, the types of demand generation offerings that we have for our exhibitors and sponsors…” Brian Cuthbert, group vice president of Diversified, told me earlier in the year. “We want people to consume the content in the way that’s most comfortable for them. You want to come to an in-person event, you want to go listen to something on-demand, you want to engage with people online in networking chats. I’ll give you all of those options, but I don’t think it just exists tied to a single show anymore. It’s really around how you build it out over the course of a year.”