Project Description

April 2020

The World of B2B

James Myers
James MyersHead of Strategy, B2B

Online events – a superior good?

The idea of hosting major multi-vendor events and annual conferences online has been around for a while. And at the time of writing it is obviously very much at the forefront of people’s minds once again.

Online events have never really taken off. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, many still look like a virtual world from the early 2000s. Secondly, and more importantly, there is a framing problem. We still place them in the same competitive set as offline events.

It’s a bit like airline economy plus tickets. It’s economy, with a ‘plus’. It’s not even business with several minuses. And the longer you are in the air the more economy plus loses its plus and feels more like economy.

Online events have a similar problem. They are designed as virtual versions of off-line events. And just like economy plus, they suffer by comparison.

“It is like you are there”

Of course it isn’t. It’s nothing at all like being there. Hence disappointment. It’s just a cheap version of not being there. You don’t even get to fly business class to be there.

But what if we looked at it the other way around, and positioned online events as premium versions of offline, or designed the proposition around the customer and not the cost efficiencies? If we did that we might look at them very differently

‘Upgrading’ online events

There are a number of ways we could achieve this:

  • Booking leading category speakers, not just the ones who are available.
  • Inviting delegates to the content council, and giving them the opportunity to design the content programme
  • Providing recommended programmes, designed for each attendee (personalisation)
  • Broadcasting a TV channel showing premium content
  • Putting together a bespoke highlights package created for delegates based on analytics
  • Providing a personal intermediary to assess and introduce to vendors.

This list is not exhaustive, and all of this stuff is pretty much available across different platforms currently, it’s just not promoted very clearly or coherently.

Footfall, visits or dwell time?

Sales and marketing also need to think differently about the value they generate. Would you rather a prospect came to your event or they and their colleagues spent an hour on your digital properties with all the analytic opportunities that offers? There isn’t a right answer to that but it might get you to think differently about online. Perhaps thinking about the quality of engagement, rather than the quantity.

And as for the style and look of online events. That’s easy. Just get the Fortnite designers in.

It is no surprise to anyone given what the world is going through today that we are becoming more reliant on technology. It is a daily diet of Whatsapp, Zoom, Webex and Teams. Events have been cancelled across the board. This has in itself created a new norm. Online events will benefit, even more so if we learn to ‘premiumise’ them. And yes, this will leave money to spend on more important things than flights, dinners you don’t want, and hotel stays.

We are currently working with a client on being a little more innovative in how we deliver online events. Think TV channel. Let us know if you want to find out more.

Finally, and most importantly, I do hope you and your families are doing ok. COVID-19 is a human tragedy, creating a world where it is difficult to see beyond tomorrow, let alone next week.

But the show will go on. Albeit virtually, for now.

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