It's no secret that the Canadian landscape offers some of North America's best-known landmarks, but did you know there are also dozens of event venues in Canada?
2020 and a large part of 2021 were clearly a disappointment for the events industry and those who attend in-person events. Everyone in the industry had the challenge of adapting to new ways to bring people together. While some strategies were successful, there is just something to be said about the value coming together in-person provides. And, now that vaccines and booster shots are now more readily available, in-person events are returning.
We recently returned from the Canadian Meetings + Expo (CMEE). This two-day event is designed for business professionals to meet suppliers, network, learn, and be inspired by the latest technology and trends. It was a fantastic time, and we hope to help other sales executives with the lessons that stuck with us.
Lesson 1: Relationships, Relationships, Relationships
What was most evident was how excited people were for networking and peer-to-peer conversations the moment we arrived. Perhaps this could be partially blamed on the lack of quantity and quality of networking at virtual events, but the common desire to mingle was a top priority. The events industry is already an extremely tight-knit group, and the conference seemed like a reunion for everyone.
The pandemic brought even more of a shift towards online meetings thanks to software like Zoom and Skype, but while that can make things more convenient, it is not a substitution for being in the same room. Meaningful relationships are strengthened by being face-to-face, and this conference was a great reminder of that. The desire to continue conversations was powerful, and this isn’t always the case with virtual gatherings from our experience.
Lesson 2: Quality Trumps Quantity
We know, we know what you are thinking. Our job as sales professionals is to go to conferences and trade shows to gather leads. But, in today’s environment, you have to temper your attendance expectations. Crowd sizes may never revert to their previous numbers, and that’s ok.
In theory, it’s not a bad idea to focus on the quality of attendees as a driving factor rather than trying to fill an exhibition hall to the maximum quantity. And as cliché “Quality over quantity” is, it’s a cliché for a reason; with fewer attendees (and not lines of people), you can have more in-depth conversations and identify their specific needs without worrying about scanning everyone’s badges that walk by.
With fewer attendees, you remember those conversations too, making follow-up much easier and more focused. You can pick up the phone and have a meaningful conversation right where you left off.
So don’t be discouraged if a conference or tradeshow doesn’t have the crowds you remember. Step back and commit to having deeper conversations which could ultimately pay off in the long run.
Lesson 3: In-Person Events ARE Safe
CMEE's staff went above and beyond to make sure that all attendees felt safe. They required a negative test or proof vaccination before arrival, and if you were going back home from an international event like this one, they also offered onsite rapid COVID tests.
Participants could communicate their comfort status in terms of elbow nods to hugs on their badges, and masking was also required at the event. Six feet separation during sessions was required for any person who entered a room with an open door--greatly reducing the table seating space available. And hand sanitizer supplies were readily available so everyone could stay healthy!
You could really get a sense of CMEE’s careful planning of every part of the onsite experience, from finding and managing the physical space of the venue to how attendees checked in. And from what we are hearing, this is the main priority for event organizers, which certainly makes us feel more comfortable returning to in-person events.
Even though the pandemic is far from over, the events industry is starting to pivot from virtual events and preparing for the return of in-person trade shows and conferences, albeit safely. Rich Vallaster, Director of Marketing and Tradeshow Wonk at Personify, recently sat down with Susan Newman, Senior Vice President of Conferences at the National Retail Federation (NRF), to discuss the decision points for moving forward with their largest annual event in January of 2022.
Did you come out of quarantine feeling like everything has suddenly gotten way more expensive? You’re not the only one. Costs are up everywhere, and it’s especially true for event planning as we start returning to in-person events. We’re thinking to ourselves, “Did everything really cost this much before?”
One thing that can be said about the Great Covid-19 Lockdown is there has been no shortage of webinars to attend. From how-to’s to top tips, there has been plenty of content to keep us busy as we navigate a chaotic and confusing landscape and adapt to the ever-changing “new normal.”
COVID-19 affected the events industry in a multitude of ways. From being forced to cancel events entirely to switching to virtual and reduced staffing, it seemed like new obstacles were popping up daily. Now, as cases caused by the Delta Variant rise, event professionals continue to face the unknown problem. As we have seen, many professionals have had to adapt to doing more with less. So, what do we do? Conclusion: there are technology solutions that can help now and in the future when things return to normal.
In the event planning world, you always want to ensure your exhibitors’ success. Successful booths mean a high ROI, and a high ROI means happy exhibitors. Providing value is critical in building long- term relationships with the organizations that invest time and resources in your events. One of the ways you can do this is by providing them with email marketing tips to help drive traffic to their booths.
We are halfway through 2021, and the event professional’s rollercoaster has yet to pull into the station. While I don’t have statistical evidence, I can share a growing number of events (even large tradeshows) have started to stage successfully in more significant numbers. At the same time, many organizations have remained entirely virtual due to timing, COVID, or other reasons. With the future still unclear, organizations must continue to plan and strategize for the future of their virtual or hybrid events.