2020 was a year we all want to put in our rear-view mirror. COVID-19 had a large impact on nearly all industries and businesses. Examining the PR and marketing industries, companies were forced to adjust workplace settings, budgets, upcoming announcements, and many other aspects due to the pandemic. As marketing and communications professionals, we know that in-person events, trade shows, and conferences like CES, SXSW, MoneyShow, FinCon, and SALT are important activations for brands to help showcase new innovations and thought leadership in front of media and the general public.
Now that we are in 2021 and events and conferences are coming back, what can we expect? As COVID continues to exist, how will conferences and these events be different? Let’s look at what we can expect and what questions should be considered when we vet future conventions.
The Hybrid Approach
Think of your most recent in-person experiences at these conferences. At times you may have listened to keynotes in large spaces with thousands of people crammed in a room or walking around a large convention center with a wide variety of booths and demonstrations. In other instances, you may have been in more intimate showrooms experiencing a one-on-one showcase or briefing.
Events in 2021 and beyond will likely stick with a hybrid model of in-person and virtual options. Take FinCon as an example. Canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, the widely popular convention will take place in September and offer attendees the option to attend virtually or in-person in Austin, Texas.
With committees having to navigate health and safety protocols and a growing interest in virtual attendance, it is important to have conversations with your clients or internally as a marketing team on whether in-person attendance adds enough value. With fewer in-person attendees, is it worth paying for booth space or on-stage speaking opportunities? It certainly varies for each brand and client, but this should be discussed well ahead of time in order to execute your goals around conferences and events.
We all hear about how attention spans are getting shorter, but during the time of the pandemic, we heard plenty about a serious phenomenon – Zoom Fatigue.
When it comes to these trade shows and events transitioning to more of a hybrid model, it is important to note that event organizers and participating brands will need to consider the length of virtual sessions. The hybrid approach certainly has its pros where consumers and media members can absorb everything in the comfort of their own home or office, but can you expect consumers to stay engaged over their video screens for the entire duration?
The same concept of shortened engagements at conventions can also be a new reality. In addition to having fewer amounts of in-person attendees, reducing the amount of time for meetings to help minimize the risk of exposure to the virus may be recommended by local and state agencies.
If your client or brand is partaking in activations or speaking opportunities, consider the length of your session and prioritize getting your top talking points and messages across as quickly as possible.
One of the best parts about conferences and events like CES or FinCon is the interactive experiences. Think about all the amazing innovations and products showcased and demoed on the show floor. The face-to-face interactions are certainly desired by most people following the pandemic, but so are the opportunities to share unique demos.
As we continue to navigate the realities of the pandemic, reducing the number of shared touchpoints is a method for slowing the spread of the virus. With the existence of vaccines and sanitizing products, this may not be too much of a worry, but is still an aspect that must be considered by the entire team ahead of the event.
Are you adequately prepared for hundreds of attendees coming to your space and interacting with your latest products and technologies? Does it make sense to work with creative and video crews for an online presentation to avoid the potential concerns of in-person health risks?
When planning for upcoming conventions and your events calendar, think and plan creatively on how you want to convey your next big announcement or product in the marketplace.
Embrace the Experience
No matter if conferences are being hosted in-person, virtually, or in a hybrid fashion, embrace the experience. Coming off a year where conventions were placed on hold, it is important to recognize factors such as your budget and goals to help determine the best course of action when submitting yourself as a presenter or speaker for upcoming conferences and events.