On Wednesday 24th November, we welcomed over 450 delegates online and in-person at Central Hall Westminster for EventLAB 2021.
For this interesting discussion, we were joined by Lizzy Eaton, Founder of Oddity Events & Marketing, Mike Kershaw, Founder of Kershaw Partners, Beth Nicholas, Account Director at Cheerful Twentyfirst, and Martin Fullard, Editorial Director at Mash Media. Our expert speakers delved into the new attendee experience, how expectations have changed and the implications for planners.
Watch the full session below and read on for the key takeaways.
Table of Contents
Watch The Discussion
Attendees now have a choice
Event planning, in current times, is about allowing people the flexibility to choose whether they attend in person, virtually, or whether they access the content on-demand. Initially, the desire to attend virtually was a result of not feeling particularly safe to travel yet, but now it's become a mentality in how people live their lives: they weigh up what they will gain by attending in-person vs virtually.
It all comes down to what an event sets out to achieve. For example, if your event focuses around networking, people will be more likely to attend in-person, and as planners, we should be encouraging in-person attendance as much as possible and selling the benefits of why live events work so well, provided we do so in a safe way. However, if your event is purely focused on content, a hybrid event could be a good option, despite the higher cost.
The industry must create the solutions
Many organisations no longer allow (or give budget to) their employees to travel to a live event as they did before, so for many attendees that choice may have been taken away from them. Not only do the organisations save money by doing this, there is also a sustainability element too; a 'why fly when you could tune in at home' mentality. This therefore means that planners need to respect this and adapt to ensure they provide a high-quality digital component as a solution.
A different approach to events?
With a whole new range of tools in our arsenal to help deliver experiences for our audiences, event organisers are able to pick and choose the best medium/s to achieve their event objectives. Whether that is adding a hybrid element to an in-person event, or repurposing your annual conference into a webinar, or even taking a step back to look at the impact a planned event might have and deciding to deliver that message as a piece of online content instead.
As always, focusing on the event objectives is key here. We are better enabled now than ever before to deliver our messages in an effective way, so don't shy away from reimagining your events.
Technology - a requirement for a great event?
Technology isn't necessarily a requirement for a great event, but it certainly gives many more options than it did before. However, Mike argues that events are more impactful without a virtual component. There is certainly a place for virtual and it has kept a lot of companies afloat during the pandemic, but it can never be as good as a live, in-person experience.
Lizzy offers a midway solution, saying that we need to make it easier for people to come in-person and then keep the virtual element as a backup option if people can't make it last minute.
Is there potential to offer delayed content for the virtual audience?
BETH: What we're starting to see is that people who commit to attending a virtual event spend longer watching the content than people who opt to do it in their own time, so you still want people sitting down to watch it live. This brings them into the event more, however on-demand is also a great thing to offer for people in different timezones, or those who cannot make it on the event day.
How do you see measurement coming back in a live environment now that we've had access to virtual data?
MIKE: We'll have to go back to what we used to do in terms of delegate and exhibitor feedback, and making sure we capture it that way.
What are the best ways to keep your virtual attendees engaged throughout the day?
LIZZY: Address them by name if possible to bring them directly into the conversation.
MIKE: Make the content interesting - there's always an audience for good content.
BETH: Communication is key - make sure attendees know what they're signing up for.
MARTIN: Encourage debate and disagreement. That way you're representing different views and opinions in the audience.
About The Speakers
Lizzy Eaton, Founder, Oddity Events & Marketing
Lizzy is the founder and Director of Oddity Events & Marketing, an award-winning small agency which specialises in designing events with personality for high-level audiences (e.g. MPs, business leaders, academics, civil servants and journalists). In her 13+ years in the events industry, Lizzy has recruited, managed and developed event teams with a focus on delivering excellence in fast-paced and high-pressure environments. Lizzy has recently been recognised in the C&IT 35 under 35 A-List of UK Agency Planners.
Mike Kershaw, Founder, Kershaw Partners
Mike is former Chairman of leading integrated events company The Concerto Group & former President of the UK Chapter of ILEA. A very experienced event professional & venue marketeer, he led Concerto through several acquisitions & the development of numerous venues across London. Having recruited a new CEO in 2013 he stepped down in 2015 and has set up Kershaw Partners to bring his extensive experience to bear on emerging event companies and venues.
Beth Nicholas, Account Director, Cheerful Twentyfirst
Beth Nicholas is a creative and strategic Account Director at global brand experience agency Cheerful Twentyfirst. With more than 10 years’ experience delivering integrated campaigns, Beth oversees one of the agency's largest accounts across UK, EMEA, and the US. As the agency lead for measurement, Beth works collaboratively across the business to strengthen two-way partnerships with clients, with a real focus on building transparency and trust.
Martin Fullard, Editorial Director, Mash Media
Martin Fullard is the editor of Conference News and editorial director at Mash Media. Martin is a leading figure in advocating for the UK’ events industry, having appeared on the BBC, LBC, CNN and in other national titles. He was also a central figure in the creation of industry coalition One Industry One Voice and its public campaign #WeCreateExperiences. As a journalist, Martin has previously covered breaking news, sport, automotive, and travel.
If you're looking to plan an event of your own and need a little help, our event experts are on hand to share their advice and help you create the perfect experience. Book a call below to get the ball rolling.