Smart Chat: Will B2B Adopt B2C Strategies to Retain Post-Covid Audiences?

Woman giving a speech on a podium and people sitting in the audience at a conference

Tony Lorenzheadshot of tory lorenz

  • Global Head of Corporate Development
  • rEvolution: a collective of marketing experts leveraging integrated sports marketing techniques to create rabid fans
  • Former CEO of PRA Business Events

When in-person events emerge from the current phase of attendees furiously booking airline tickets to make up for missed face time over the last 30 months, Tony Lorenz, veteran events executive and now global head of corporate development at rEvolution, thinks many meeting professionals should consider borrowing a few pages out of consumer event playbooks to drive attendance and engagement. We asked him what that would look like.

Why do you see B2C as the new model for B2B events?

At the end of the day, B2B event attendees are consumers. They expect business to business (B2B) experiences and transactions to be delivered at a user experience (UX) level commensurate with their Business to Consumer (B2C) experiences and transactions. Consumer event level experiences will be tablestakes for business event stakeholders.

There will be no more copy and paste of agendas from 2019. All generations of attendees, my generation included, may come back once after two years away, but they won’t engage on a sustained basis with what are now at times obsolete event delivery models.

Read More: Why Event-led Growth Is the Key to Long-term Success

Will content delivery methods have to change?

Over the last two years, attendees learned they can access content online on their own schedule. Many who enthusiastically returned to in-person events found themselves asking, ‘Why am I in this dark room in an uncomfortable chair if I can get this content online?’

While many people cannot wait to get back out there, many others had a taste of staying home and spending time with family and friends and they liked it in comparison, as they only have the reference point of event delivery models from 2019 and prior. Investment in the in-person experience will now be weighed against the benefit of another night at home with family and friends. And if there is a recession, the cost-benefit analysis will be examined even more closely.

Will putting content online eliminate the need to attend in person?

“Covid has changed expectations forever. If B2B event stakeholders aren’t delivering content interestingly to their audiences, it is going to be tough sledding for them, sooner than later.”

Face-to-face is and will always be the most powerful media. Period. You absolutely do not get a commensurate experience online. But the cost-benefit equation has forever changed.

Consumer events have successfully used broadcast and digital content to drive business models for decades. Sports have delivered broadcast and digital content forever. We need to learn from them.

People who watch sports on television and/or online are even more interested in seeing the game in-person. It has been my premise for many years, and the data supports that fact that digital does not necessarily cannibalize strong in-person events and experiences. It actually expands the reach and value of event content.

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Delivering some content in advance of an event will allow people to jump right into the interactive networking portion of the conference.

Networking doesn’t mean dropping a bar and some hors d’oeuvres into a ballroom and ushering people in to spend two hours together around high-tops. Let’s borrow from experiences delivered in consumer activations and make B2B interactions more memorable, more fun, and more meaningful on a more consistent basis.

Have expectations changed on the event producer side as well?

We are seeing the end of the blank check from an event owner simply because an event had always been delivered in the past. Stakeholders are finally demanding relevant data and insights about attendee behavior and how it drives the business, similar to what stakeholders experience through their investment in digital channels. Let’s focus our analysis on business impact. Data must necessarily support every dollar spent, or that dollar will be redeployed elsewhere.

The value proposition must work in an inflationary, recessionary environment. There is no avoiding market forces. You can only manage to them.

We have a first-ever, zero-based budgeting environment in the events industry when it comes to face-to-face. After shrinking event investments to almost nothing in the darkest hours of Covid, meeting designers over time will have to justify and earn back every budget dollar.

All event stakeholders have a need and opportunity to innovate. Those who do so successfully will win. Those who revert back to 2019 likely will not.

This article appears in the October 2022 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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