The current economy is unpredictable, but businesses must still find a way to survive and thrive. Events are no exception, especially when it comes to technology. Event tech can make or break your event’s success, but the economic landscape changes constantly, making it difficult to keep up. To ensure your event tech is future-proof, consider these three strategies to stay ahead of the game and guarantee a successful event.
1. Look at the long game. Seek out stability
Many of the larger event tech providers over-invested on unrealistic valuations during the pandemic. They went on hiring sprees and now are facing huge cutbacks and downsizing which makes their business unstable and their service unreliable. This year alone there have been dozens of companies in the sector announcing job cuts and even going out of business altogether. Glisser was one such high profile closure, leaving their clients’ teams highly disrupted at the start of an important events season.
Larger companies are also the target of private equity buy-outs. Cvent announced an acquisition by Blackstone valued at $4.6bn recently, a move that should send their client base scrambling to review their commitments. Having posted ever increasing losses in recent years, $86.1m in 2021, and $100.3m in 2022, a heavy restructuring or asset sales could be coming around the corner for the grandfather of the event tech world. Private equity firms serve the shareholder first, with the customer tending to come in last place. The decisions of a private equity firm will ultimately be determined by the shareholders’ interests, as their investments are the primary source of income for the firm.
Smaller, more agile event tech providers are well positioned to take on new clients that have been let down in this choppy market. Look for businesses with high staff to client ratios, who are growing at a steady rate and didn’t over-extend or over-invest in recent years. Find a supplier that can grow with your ambitions, who cares about your brand, your events and your success.
2. Think beyond virtual or in-person. Offer your community choice
There’s no question that customers and brands alike have flooded back to in-person conferences and events. There’s always going to be a huge amount of value borne from face-to-face communication and interaction. Above all, the experience factor is still far stronger when it comes to travelling to exotic destinations to do business. That said, virtual and hybrid has been hugely successful in engaging a far broader audience than the few who can travel to attend events. The return to the office has been far slower and met with far more resistance than was predicted, and many teams work from home at least part of the week. In the UK, 44% of people polled between September 2022 and 2023 said they were either full remote or hybrid (Source). The numbers in the US stand at around 25%. You need to provide a range of options for how people can interact with your brand and your team, and that means having a hybrid strategy. Use the right channels for the right segments of your audience.
When it comes to the cycle of nurturing existing clients and increasing the connection people feel with your product and brand, the hybrid strategy holds true. There is a huge value in running training and onboarding in a content rich virtual space that reduce the need for in-person workshops or meetings. When your customer base is global but you want to have a local feel, you need to focus on building a consistent customer experience no matter what territory you are operating in. Virtual or hybrid components give you complete control to do this in a cost-effective way. Giving people the choice of how they attend and interact with your brand increases conversions, engagement and longevity across your audience.
3. Start with the user-journey, not the platform. Stay flexible
Avoid getting locked into using a single supplier. The newer players in the market are often far more innovative and their products are more secure and powerful. Older tools tend to be frankensteined together after multiple M&A rounds over the years, and the end result is difficult to use, inflexible and watered down.
Being flexible means being ready to adapt to changes and needs quickly and easily, as well as utilizing multiple platforms to ensure that your event tech workflow is always up-to-date. Attendees expect a high level of event experience, and are ever more discerning when it comes to the tech behind the events they attend.
Picking the wrong tech supplier for your event can have a huge impact on the impression you’re trying to make with your audience. At a recent event we attended the check-in and badging system failed leaving exhibitors and attendees queueing for up to an hour to get in! For the rest of the show, what was the first thing people talked about? How bad the badging experience was, rather than the amazing speakers and brands in attendance. DO make sure your supplier gives you the focus and support to run the event at 100%. DON’T feel you have to use your incumbent supplier to provide a solution outside of their comfort zone.
There are hundreds of different types of event or meeting you can arrange, whether it’s a casual networking session in a shared office, an experiential pop-up on the street, or a hybrid conference for thousands around the world. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits all event tech platform, so tailor the suppliers your work with around the user journey you want to create. Work with software partners who want to play by your rules, not the ones who force you down a copy-paste path.
Plan for the year ahead, whilst leaving room in your plans for flex. Don’t tie yourself down with fixed workflows and multi-year contracts. Successful events are about flexibility and keeping up with the latest and greatest, and that includes the technology that powers those events. The market changes rapidly – in 2020 event planners were stung by non-refunded organizer fees, and being tied into platforms cobbled together by organizers who weren’t geared up to offer the best experience for virtual attendees.
This year has seen the pendulum swing back, and the proliferation of content generation tools such as GPT-3, Dall-e and others. The pace of change will continue to accelerate. Work with an event tech provider who’s riding the wave, not one who is busy patching the boat in the shallows.