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Organisers have ‘responsibility’ to deliver personalised events

Organisers have an opportunity and “responsibility” to deliver personalised Smart Events through data, according to an industry leader.

Liz Irving, executive vice president of Clarion Events, believes the huge volume of information now available presents great avenues for planners who know how to use it.

ExpoPlatform research suggests there are now 20 times more data points available since the digital transformation our industry has witnessed over the last two years.

In this exclusive interview, she also explains how planners can take advantage of community engagement and use this information to curate better in-person experiences – known as Smart Events – while not being afraid to make mistakes.

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She said: “We have a real opportunity to use data to help tell a story – use data to guide what your customers want. Always ask what they want and do that first, but also see how they’re engaging and responding to it.

“It’s allowing us to open our eyes and see there’s a much bigger audience out there that we can reach, and even more tailored and bespoke opportunities – and we can do it differently. 

“We have to ensure that the content is right, the platform is right, the experience is right in order for them to be able to get value.”

Event data management helps organisers understand which parts of their event resonates with audiences so they can create more relevant, personalised experiences.

It also provides actionable insights into audience behaviour, allowing marketers to make informed decisions about future campaigns and product development.

Key benefits include:

  •       Understand where your target market spends time online
  •       Identify areas of interest within your content
  •       Gain a deeper understanding of user behaviours across multiple channels
  •       Create customised marketing strategies based on individual interests

Liz added: “It’s okay to not get it right the first time, the idea is that you want to try and the more you truly understand what your customers want you can deliver and iterate from there.

“This is an area that we’re still learning and you have to be a little risky by being okay with not having all the answers.

“It’s okay to try but learn what’s working – do more of it and where you see something not working, or customers not engaging, move quickly to let it go. 

“We’ve done that over the last year, that’s a hard thing personally to do as a leader but what is so rewarding as you learn as you go, you improve as a team but most of all you deliver new value to delight your customers providing the product they need.”

Concentrate on client’s concerns

A wealth of options to help improve experiences have revealed themselves amid the digital transformation our industry has been through since 2020.

This includes extending the lifecycle of your in-person show through online content, driving up digital revenue and engaging with communities year-round. Research suggests planners will be shifting their budget model to place more emphasis on digital monetisation.

It is expected this technology-driven component is going to rise from just 2% before the pandemic to 25% moving forward. Stand sales are also expected to drop from 78% to 50% of the revenue mix. 

But Liz highlighted how an organiser can use these technology advancements to improve the live experience for customers through immediate behaviour data.

She said: “It always starts with the customer first – your stakeholders, your target audiences. Understand what their needs are, understand what they want to see and how they want to see it, then go and help create it.

“One of the things I’ve learned over the last 18 months is it always has to be about what the customers want or what your market needs.

“The great thing with digital is you have immediate results, you’re not waiting until after the show – you actually have that data at your fingertips and you can improve as you go and be dynamic in your approach.”

Benefits of digital

Liz identified two areas in particular where the digital landscape has been working well for Clarion.

The first of these is through hosted buyer programmes, which include pre-set appointments between a set of pre-qualified people and interested sellers to facilitate business quickly. 

Exhibitors get to interact in a more efficient manner for an allocated time period, allowing for maximum sales potential while helping the buyer make better purchase decisions.

Liz added: “We’re finding sponsors are willing to pay for the right meaningful connections – you can give them an opportunity to talk to people who are very well vetted.

“They’re open to buy and they have more information about what they’re looking for. Customers will pay to have those meetings.”

Another area brands have been keen to invest is in thought leadership. This helps promote a company’s image and builds a community which is more likely to buy into products.

Liz described it as making sure they are “being part of a conversation where people are coming to hear what’s going on in our industry.”

She added: “Again, it’s about not creating huge nets, but creating the right net to capture the right target audience and help personalise the experience. But then even go further and move into an individual conversation – I think that’s a huge win. 

“As organisers we have such a great opportunity and, honestly, responsibility to deliver personalised experiences for all of our customers.”

This can mean a planner concentrating on bringing in an audience who is best suited to their client, rather than focussing on higher numbers.

Clarion has done this where thought leadership sessions have happened digitally before holding small breakout rooms with keynotes. 

Liz added: “It’s a great way to keep targeted conversations happening, but get the right people in the room. 

“It’s not about quantity of audience, it’s about the quality. You have the right people together and as an organiser you can help them make the connections they need.”

Driving year-round revenue and engagement

Online communities have emerged as a way to drive year-round revenue and engagement with audiences, as well as improving the experience of your event.

Many in our industry were cautious when their businesses were forced to shift to the digital space due to the pandemic.

However, the benefits with online components became all too evident – flexibility, accessibility, lower operational costs and year-round opportunities.

Liz said: “For years I’ve been talking about community and events. Now we’ve got a real opportunity to build it, whether it’s taking on what we’ve learned from live and repurposing pieces or new online discussions. 

“But really that accessibility is what organisers can really leverage to provide customers a different digital experience.”

smart events journey

Clarion has been developing their own 365 communities as it provides the business with opportunity to keep conversations happening outside the few-day lifecycle of an event.

The organiser is now capable of giving its clients room to continue talking through a platform after the show has finished.

Furthermore, they can engage before the in-person experience so the ice is already broken when they meet. This allows them to move “closer into the sales funnel towards real business”.

Liz Added: “We’ve become the platform where connections happen, where information is shared, where we come together with exhibitors to learn and share ideas.

“You can have conversations during a show and then as an organiser you can provide a platform and continue those conversations after the event.

“Or vice versa – you can start that conversation digitally and then when you come together face to face. That conversation is much different and much more meaningful, because you’ve already done the pre-screening of each other.”

Reshaping your team

This digital transformation of our industry saw Clarion adapt the skillset of its team so they were in a strong position to make a success of it.

Liz said they needed to ensure their teams had what they needed to be able to not only interpret the new data they were acquiring but also use it to improve a customer’s journey.

She added: “We’ve added new skill sets  – with data, with digital skill sets, customer journey mapping that is rounding out an already strong marketing team. I think those are big things that we as event organisers have to leverage.

“It’s no longer that just running a multi-channel marketing plan, we also need to augment our team to be much more data centric and be able to harness insights and trends to deliver more personalised results for our customers.

“We have to really understand the customer journey and how to define it and make it better every time. We use a lot of our digital skill sets to help us get there so I think it’s huge for us.”

Influencer marketing online

Liz believes one area where digital has an edge over in-person for marketing is through the use of influencers.

Research from Statista puts this market size as having grown from being worth around £1.25 billion ($1.7bn) globally in 2016 to a projected £10.1bn ($13.8bn) in 2021.

Influencer marketing uses endorsements and product mentions from people who have a dedicated social following. They are often viewed as experts in their field. 

This model makes use of the high amount of trust that social influencers have from their following. Recommendations from them can be great for promoting your brand to potential customers.

Liz said: “When you’re in digital you’ve got such a great opportunity to use your platform, your speakers, your sponsors, your exhibitors and even other attendees to help get the message out there. It’s an untapped piece for us.

“When we did influencer marketing with live events it wasn’t always as successful as it could be. I think now as we go into digital we’ve got so much more at our fingertips – and people are willing to share and talk. 

“That’s a great thing for organisers to think about as they start to leverage both going back to live but also their digital platforms.”

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.