The Power of Industry Events
The pandemic has made some people sceptical about doing face-to-face events again. But handled smartly, in-person events can have immense influence in the B2B world.
Businesses are built on relationships, and people like to do business with people. Face-to-face events are not going anywhere despite the cultural changes the pandemic has influenced. Rather, anyone hosting or attending a B2B event should have concrete goals and KPIs to define their value.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) found that companies have massively tightened travel budgets, but this is likely to be temporary. And that means that businesses are going to be looking much closer at the value the events will offer and who they will be sending.
Over the next couple of years we will see more senior decision makers making the rounds, travelling and representing teams and multiple budget pots - and this is great for sales people. This gives them a chance to speak directly with the economic buyer, but it means that the sales team needs to be armed with the right insight to engage this type of buyer, compared to the end-user.
Attending and visiting events not only provide you with an understanding of the main themes and trending topics of the day, help build your network of connections, but also help build brand and awareness.
So why should you get involved in an industry event?
To thrive as a business, you need to understand what is on your stakeholders’ minds. Take time ahead of the event, or in conversation at the event to ask the poignant questions:
What are they concerned about?
What are their priorities?
What are they focusing on?
What is the current decision making process?
What are their challenges and pain points?
What are the core topics and themes being discussed in your industry today?
Information like this is gold to any business. It enables you to react and respond better as a company. But you need to have these conversations, connections with the right stakeholders, and immersive experiences, to get to the heart of what is happening in your industry.
This helps you inform your sales pipeline, the purchase barriers you will face, and the level of intent among your contacts.
So what are the key event types you could attend or host?
Large scale exhibitions and trade shows
These are events such as World Travel Market (WTM), when representatives from the travel industry descend on London each year. For some businesses, this is where they make a year’s worth of deals and partnerships in just a couple of days. The year before Covid-19 struck, £3.75 billion in deals were made at WTM.
Attending a large scale exhibition means you can connect with all aspects of an industry. The key is to identify who is important to your business and to set up meetings in advance of going. In general, events like these are also opportunities to raise your profile in the industry, build brand awareness and gain referral sales.
Some of the key events we attend of this nature are:
These events are designed around specialist themes and topics, so attending an event like this for a topic that is very relevant to your business can be both useful and fruitful. If you’re looking to connect with experts and specialists in your field, and perhaps identify new partners, a specialist conference is probably the right route for you. It’s also likely you’ll build up your wider industry network and find a few possible sales contacts.
Hospitality Leadership & Design Conference, Delivering Sustainable Travel Conference, Travel Technology Initiative Spring Conference, NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, Phocuswright Europe, Future Guest Experience
Industry association events
If your area of business or expertise aligns with a particular industry association, it can be beneficial to partner with them for an event. Subject matters are often very specific when it comes to industry bodies, and being part of an event with one is more about contextualising your offering, rather than pushing your product. For example, discussing how you are working with the industry and enabling it to move forward, could spark useful connections with others.
Network community events
In recent years we’ve seen the explosion of dedicated and focused communities being formed to support specialist areas and deliver best practice, or to support a cause. In particular LinkedIn has been a great place for building these networks, we’ve seen them for holiday rental owners, Airbnb hosts, tour guides and even for revenue managers. As we come out of the pandemic, they’re moving their virtual webinars and conferences to the real world, meaning like minded professionals can gather and share ideas. Note - that sometimes these are run by businesses
One-to-one hosted buyer events
These types of events are carefully curated so that decision makers from different companies are pre-selected to attend. The idea is that decision-makers, with a budget of the right seniority and title, can meet the right suppliers to have one-to-one conversations. Although they can be expensive to attend if you’re a supplier, the likelihood of walking away with new business relationships is much higher than at other events. The key aim of attending one of these is to build your sales pipeline.
These can be sponsored or hosted by your business but it’s best to go in for collaboration with either industry associations, networking groups, or join forces with business partners to add real value for attendees. The great thing about roadshows is that they’re very focused events with specific buyers in mind, and the environment feels a little more casual. This can be useful for promoting the business by associating itself with a specific theme or problem area, and thus enable you to promote product without taking a strong sales approach.
Roadshows are also brilliant if you want to meet some hard to reach markets. It means you are travelling rather than asking your prospects to travel to you, and they’re more likely to be able to take half a day out of the office to meet you if you are nearby
Hosting webinars could be an opportunity to educate, inform and create a community around the topics you have expertise in. Letting people into your world to become a little more knowledgeable – rather than always trying to sell to them – can be refreshing and great for brand-building.
Trends in events post-pandemic
At Haynes MarComms, we attend as many events as we can, for all the reasons we’ve outlined here. While many people are yearning to get back to events as they once were – and more companies are giving their employees the go-ahead to do so – things have definitely changed in terms of the way that events are being approached. Here are some of the things we’ve picked up on in recent months.
Quality over quantity. Resources have been cut, meaning more decision makers are attending events. Time is precious and they need quality. Event organisers must absolutely add value!
Event metrics. Individuals attending events have a lot more performance metrics in order to demonstrate the value of attending. Companies are looking into ROI for event attendance a lot more closely.
Tighter schedules. People don’t want to travel for events unnecessarily now. Work-life balance has become more important, so they’d prefer to have a tighter event schedule that takes a day, rather than a drawn out schedule that keeps them away for a few days.
Wellbeing. Event attendees want healthy food options and a general recognition that their wellbeing is important when they are away at events.
Digital connections. Video conferencing doesn’t stop when people are attending events now. Attendees need workstations to connect, work and Zoom from their laptops.
Flexibility. Most people are only booking onto events a week or two before; some are even booking a couple of days ahead of time. Life has become a lot more spontaneous since Covid-19, and event organisers need to accommodate this. Equally, flexible cancellation policies are still a must for people who become unwell at the last minute.