Events and communications professionals were forced to innovate under the immense pressure of the pandemic. Companies around the world successfully adapted their operations to produce ever-improving hybrid and online events that made sure people could continue to connect as restrictions came into force.
Now, it’s vital that the industry continues to strive for events that create environments, which foster communication with no barriers and enhance connectivity. A chief strategy officer is probably best placed to deliver this objective and will play a pivotal role in ensuring it is this at the heart of how future events are designed and delivered.
Growing Need for Chief Strategy Officers
Businesses should now begin to view events through a different lens. Firstly, they should be seen as integral elements of long-term communications strategies, rather than one-off occurrences. Events can be a powerful tool for delivering sustained engagement when they are considered as part of a series, with each individual function feeding into an invaluable central pool of content and audience data. Appointing a chief strategy officer not only helps to develop a company’s vision and strategy, but also gives a focal point to drive and oversee this process.
Secondly, it is increasingly being recognized that the primary strength of events is that they provide an arena for connectivity. Regardless of the format—virtual, in-person or hybrid—each brings important value to audiences. Aside from the benefits of face-to-face interactions and the resultant rapport firms can build with their audiences, in-person formats provide fantastic data collection opportunities and insights to aid continued improvement of a firm’s event offering.
Equally, sophisticated virtual event platforms can create an environment where communication can be most effective among all levels of stakeholders. There is mutual interaction between several audiences, including the host business, potential clients, and other delegates. This is crucial for driving return on event investment.
Desire to Connect
The desire for connection has developed slowly over the course of the pandemic. More people have used technology for both personal and professional interactions: from 2019 to the end of 2021, an estimated 782 million additional people went online. This “connectivity boost” has meant more than just an influx of new internet users. It has also resulted in audiences becoming accustomed to making instant but important social connections via digital channels, increasing expectation.
The events industry is in a prime place to take advantage of this behavioral shift. A high level of connectivity has now been normalized. As part of a long-term communications strategy, events are the best environment for satisfying the need for consistent and meaningful interactions. Crucially, this can be among all levels of audiences.
Wide Stakeholder Engagement
It is increasingly important to engage with both internal and external stakeholders to ensure that safe environments can be created where communication can thrive. For a chief strategy officer, this means engaging with departments outside the traditional ‘marketing and events” teams.
Recently, I have been speaking much more regularly with our clients’ Heads of Employee Engagement, who would perhaps fall under the HR department. By partnering with these colleagues, we can ensure consistency of messaging and clarity of communication that will be crucial to both workforce retention and—in the long-term—expansion of our audiences.
Moreover, we can work with these teams to ensure that messaging is delivered effectively during events like company town halls and new starter onboarding. This will ensure that communications have the prolonged impact that is so important to business growth.
A New Opportunity
The new level of connectivity that we became used to during the pandemic is now part of our DNA. So, it is vital that businesses recognize this fundamental change and use it to their advantage. This is an opportunity to recalibrate how we view events, so that they can be used to drive more meaningful interactions and deliver messaging with a much longer and greater impact.
The events sector has typically been resistant to change, comfortable with tried and tested formats and the option to return to these traditional platforms will be considerable as the pandemic recedes. This will be a huge waste of the knowledge and skills gained over the last two years.
We have seen how events innovation can build global communities and harness invaluable audience data; now is the time to challenge ourselves to continue this momentum and strive towards the enhanced connectivity that can help businesses build those commercial relationships that help drive their success.
Stephen D. Pickett is chief strategy officer at the U.K.-based Live Group, an events and communications agency that creates powerful communication strategies designed to bring audiences closer together.