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Attract ‘the right event attendees’ with a 365 Community

Building “strength and depth” in a 365 Community can make it easier for an organiser to attract the right event attendees, according to an industry leader.

Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group, told how pursuing this year-round approach can create a “foundational layer” which will boost numbers at an in-person show.

This 365 model is a way of keep audiences engaged year-round using the Three Cs of community – content, connections and commerce – on an online platform.

She told ExpoPlatform: “The important thing is to build strength and depth in your community to help people build these connections. That will have a positive effect, but it might take a while to kick in. One of the difficult things about a community is it’s hard to measure the success.

“There are of course some measurements you can try to do, but I think you’ve got to spend three to five years building before you can expect to see a real direct impact.

“Exhibitors are paying us to meet new clients – we can measure that. We can do a lot of things to make sure that happens. But there’s a foundational layer underneath that which means it is easier for us to attract the right people to attend the show over time.”

It is important to think about the ecosystem of events and communities you are creating so visitors and exhibitors can move seamlessly between experiences.

Hub and spoke model

The needs for most event-led communities will be something like this:

  1. A strong central digital hub.  One community per vertical should be the goal. A portfolio of fragmented event brands may make sense, it is far better to focus your precious resources into one community when it comes to digital. A single 365 destination for your community will perform better than lots of small sites. It will be a more comprehensive user experience, with a better chance of performing well on search engines. More content and more company profiles will make a better user experience and bring more advertising inventory.
  2. Various events connected to this hub. Exhibitor information and products get uploaded once and can go into each of the events they are participating in. The community and event websites should be able to be on different website URLs if that’s the most logical user experience.
  3. SSO. This should all be connected with Single Sign On so users do not have to login multiple times. Remember: you’re trying to create a seamless experience.

Carina added: “You can’t be a true community just by having a KPI to bring more people to an event – you have to build true value for that community.

“You’re going to have to have passion projects that are important to them and be a true part of the industry with them. Otherwise, you’re communicating at them rather than with them.

“Successful communities are communities that have a life of their own. They’re run by the community for the community. If you can foster a community like that, all you can do is provide a platform for it. You never control it – it’s community members helping community members.”

Growing with your community

Carina, who also contributed to our Community Blueprint, set out how IMEX offers eventprofs a platform to connect so they can grow professionally and personally within the industry.

The group has also placed a focus on providing information about topics they believe are important to the development of our sector.

She said: “IMEX really is a platform for the global business events sector. That community is very broad and diverse, but really it is anybody within the sector who is interested in development – whether that’s professionally, personally or business development.

“Because we have supported and run a lot of industry initiatives throughout the year, that has led to us having a community of people around the world that we work with all the time for more than just bringing them together to do business and trade.”

A value proposition should be an easy-to-understand reason why your product meets a customer’s needs. Too often the 365 value proposition is simply connecting any type of industry together. You need to go deeper to find something that resonates.

Download your free copy of the Community Blueprint for more expert insights.

IMEX Group now has two shows each year across different continents – one in Frankfurt, Germany and another in Las Vegas, US – with the aim of educating, innovating and helping build powerful connections.

But it also offers initiatives outside of those shows which span advocacy, CSR and sustainability, career development and the recognition of excellence. This has led to it having an engaged and loyal following.

Carina said: “We’ve always made a conscious effort to invest in different areas that we knew were important for the industry to develop and work beyond what we were doing at our trade shows. We are dedicated to this sector. We’ve always seen ourselves as business event professionals first and then tradeshow organisers second.

“As a result of that, we’ve always been thinking about how to develop the industry – and of course that’s good for us as well. We’ve also had our passion projects that we believed in, that were important to us and that we felt would it be important to the industry.”

An efficient event experience

The role of an event organiser at its core is to bring people together for business. But our industry has witnessed a drastic digital transformation which means the traditional serendipitous approach can be made better.

Carina believes the pandemic turbocharged a lot of trends which were already emerging in our sector. One example can be found in McKinsey & Co findings which show 94% of decision makers think an omnichannel sales approach is at least as effective as the traditional model – up from 65% in 2020.

Another area can be seen in how the amount of data now available to organisers is around 20 times higher than it was before the first lockdown, according to ExpoPlatform estimates.

The IMEX CEO now believes event technology must place a real focus on using this information and digital tools to make great connections – rather than focussing on “gimmicks”.

She said: “Technology enhances live events. If we do well utilising event technology, it won’t be the gimmicky things. The real key will be how it can improve the connections that are made at an event and extend the life of the event.

“People want to have an efficient experience at an event, they don’t want to just leave it to chance – they do want to make sure they meet the right people, they do want to keep that contact afterwards and I think that will be where event tech can definitely help.

“That’s the future of how tech can really enhance an event over and above the gimmicks. Some of the production that you can do – with things like hologram technology – it’s all amazing, but ultimately it’s quite fleeting. The real value is in increasing the connections.”

AI is fundamental to the success of these data-driven businesses and should be just as important for exhibition organisers moving forward. It is an approach which can be applied to people, content, products and exhibitors.

This allows for targeted recommendations in your community year-round and at the physical event. A community can do this by pulling together information from a variety of data sources.

Carina believes in-person events will now need to up their game in creating “shared experiences” so that buyers will feel much more comfortable with transactions online.

She added: “There are some people that have never been to an in-person live event that suddenly you can attract into your broader community. That’s a great benefit of virtual and also improves diversity. But there are also huge amounts about tradeshows that are just not very viable online. 

“People have voted with their feet about how they want to do business – people want to do business face-to-face. 

“In-person events will need to do a really high-quality job of creating shared experiences for people. The desire of people to have a shared experience – to really get to know each other – so they can be more transactional online is going to become more and more important.”

We hope you enjoyed reading this article and found it useful. At ExpoPlatform, we want to help you build better events and communities. Please get in touch and ask for a demo here. Thank you.