When the pandemic hit in early 2020, most in-person events went by the wayside, and, as marketers pivoted toward digital, virtual events and webinars quickly grew in favor. However, even after nearly two years of managing virtual events and webinars, a report [download page] from CMO Council and Cvent indicates that marketers have more confidence in their ability to deliver value with in-person events than digital alternatives.
When asked to rate their effectiveness at executing events that deliver value to their organization, about three-quarters claimed to be very effective (44%) or effective (32%) at doing so with in-person events. By comparison only about half said they were very effective (14%) or effective (35%) at delivering value with webinars, while even fewer were able to say the same for virtual events (12% very effective and 24% effective).
The Future of In-Person and Hybrid Events
Before the pandemic, in-person events were considered the most successful top-of-funnel B2B demand generation tactic. While more recent research shows that webinars are the most-cited tactic for lead nurturing, marketing leaders indicate they are eager to restart in-person or hybrid events. In fact, more than 7 in 10 say that it is very important (39%) or important (33%) that they do so.
The desire to return to in-person or at least hybrid events could be, in part, due to online event fatigue. A survey by Activate Marketing Services in partnership with MarketingCharts found that a large majority of B2B tech marketers felt that buyers were becoming fatigued with online events. This more recent report points to this, as well. Although a plurality (44%) of respondents say that webinars and virtual events engagement have slowed down but still deliver good value, another 36% say that webinars and virtual events are experiencing severe registration fatigue and a loss of connection with customers.
While marketers feel that it’s important to restart in-person events, it doesn’t mean that everything will return to how it was prior to the pandemic. In fact, many envision some potentially positive changes such as events being smaller in size, having deeper engagement, better content packaging and delivery, and richer attendee profiling and ROI measurement.
Lessons Learned and Measuring Success
Fewer than one-quarter (23%) of respondents say that events for their organization are owned and managed by a centralized team with limited involvement from other teams. Instead, the majority (57%) say that events are owned and managed by marketing, orchestrated across the company, and aligned to a holistic marketing plan.
The past two years haven’t been wasted. Marketing leaders surveyed say that the learnings of the last two years will mean that event marketing will mature to include a holistic view of all events — virtual, in-person or hybrid — and will be better aligned to marketing outcomes (65%). Some say that cross-departmental event teams will be consolidated or better aligned (45%).
To determine how effective their events have been, marketers are looking to many of the usual metrics, including lead volume and conversion, engagement rate scores, or duration and finance impact metrics (pipeline, close won/lost, revenue). However, the most cited metric was actually attendee satisfaction — selected by two-thirds of respondents.
The full report can be found here.
About the Data: Findings are based on a survey of 150 global marketing leaders.