The run-up to an event is an exhilarating and packed time, but the pace shouldn’t stop after an event has passed. In many ways, the period after your event is even more important than the event preparation itself as it begins a long-term journey with your attendees that can pay dividends in the long-run. Especially because we live in a demand-driven world. The likes of Amazon and Netflix have created instantaneous gratification, with a few clicks, consumers can see and buy whatever they want. The same should apply to the event business model.
The evolving industry
The events industry, as a whole, has been moving towards more holistic and value-added services for a while. Although this has recently been accelerated with the global shutdown and numerous event cancellations. At Zapnito, we have seen this first-hand as many event companies and associations have quickly pivoted to online-only events and virtual communities.
This has enabled them to weather current challenges as well as build resilience long-term. They are providing value-added activities and services that transform delegates, speakers and sponsors into an engaged online community. Developing discussions and learnings from single events into a 365 affair.
Key to this is moving away from short-term decision-making that’s driven by sudden pressures. Having a long-term plan for delivering value and generating strong ROI will put your events organization in a much stronger position for any unforeseen circumstances and to facilitate sustainable growth.
The current circumstances provide a valuable learning curve. Business leaders are fast-shifting in-person events online, dubbing them ‘virtual events’. But what happens after each event? The real value of a virtual event extends beyond delivering webinars and videos. Engagement and value from a virtual event has to match-up with what a delegate would receive from an in-person event - otherwise it’s incomparable. The emotional aspects, excitement and curiosity, are difficult to replicate virtually via a webinar or event technology solution.
That said, now is the perfect time to offer a virtual membership space which consolidates most experiences into a single platform that can run independently or alongside in-person events. Providing a digital home for the community which unites all content streams in a single place: for webinars, podcasts, online chats, articles and virtual event streams. Complemented with dedicated spaces for community members to share experiences, knowledge and feedback about the membership space.
Moving to a subscription model
This also makes it easier to sell a subscription-based model to attendees, generating revenue far beyond a single-ticket event. If attendees know that they can gain value from being part of an exclusive and insightful online community, they will be more likely to sign-up. They will also feel like part of something, which is something that a once-a-year event cannot offer them consistently.
Therefore, the focus for event leaders right now, should be on building membership services around an event through seamlessly joining different experience channels. Creating a cohesive experience across video, calls, online discussions and content that establishes a dialogue throughout the year - and beyond.
Tailoring content to different levels
When you take this approach, it’s vital to have a predefined set of goals and to tailor the experience to different knowledge and professional levels. Everyone is at different stages in their personal and professional lives. The same applies to organizations. Different levels mean differing needs, and therefore what individuals will find most useful. By tailoring content, discussions and webinars to different levels, you can serve several groups of members with insights that add tangible, relevant value to their lives.
Thinking back to my time running a membership network for senior procurement and supply chain executives, this was an approach that delivered the most returns for the network and its members. We took a model where we offered one membership pass for access to various channels, including events, advice, networking, content and workshops. Member journeys and their experience were defined based on specific maturity levels of each individual and their organizations. Providing each member with content that matched their role, their challenges and their organization’s needs and goals.
This led to a 147% increase in new client acquisitions over the first 6 months of the approach being implemented, compared to the previous year when events and community membership were kept seperate. Proving that our attendees wanted to be part of a longer-term proposition,
The same rings true for your audience. When business strategy and planning is long-term, running for anywhere between 2-5 years, it makes sense to offer a solution that can run alongside this. Where people can engage with their peers and experts, whenever they need advice, networking or knowledge - instead of rushing to ask a speaker questions in break-out spaces and post-seminars.
The future of events
By nurturing a digital community, you provide an experience that delivers all year round. Attendees can benefit from closer engagement with experts, tailored discussions and timely knowledge-sharing. While your organization will shift to a business model that doesn’t rely on a limited series of events taking place. It’s a win-win for everyone and therefore, a clear indicator of where the industry should head.