Bruce Rose, Head of Audience at Live Group, explains why events must be focused on audience expectations if they are to succeed.
Events can only succeed if they deliver what the audience wants and needs, and those wants and needs are changing thanks to COVID, technology, generational shifts, and an expectation for personalised experiences.
During the pandemic there was a mass transition from in-person to virtual events. And that was a real lightbulb moment for employees who realised they could attend events and be more productive while also enjoying better balanced lives.
Post-pandemic, people are now more discerning in how they spend their time, especially with the adoption of hybrid and flexible working. And that extends to events. People want to choose which events to attend and, more importantly, how they attend them.
Our workforce is changing in other ways, too. By 2025, millennials will represent over 70% of the workforce, and Gen Z a further 27%. These people are the “swipe right” generation. Thanks to entertainment apps, they are acutely aware what technology can do and they expect the same instant access, easy to use, personalised, engaging experiences from events.
This has made it trickier for event planners to attract audiences and I believe the answer lies in better engagement. Through personalisation, events can be tailored to individual people, rather than be created as a one-size-fits-some approach.
This is only possible if event managers understand what their audiences want and give it to them, and this is why I’ve been spearheading a team at Live Group to develop and launch a new product called AudienceDNA. It’s an audience profiling tool that helps planners deliver events that really captivate people’s attention.
Data rules. But only if you use it properly.
Data is absolutely the best tool to increase engagement. Used correctly, it can remove guesswork, and increase relevance and ROI. Unfortunately, some organisations collect data – even analyse it – and then do nothing with it.
The other mistake I see is using data to plan an event’s content but forgetting that audience engagement shouldn’t be limited to the duration of an event. It starts with the very first email and only ends when the community fades out and data can help you create engaging communication throughout the entire process.
My team analyses data to work out the personality breakdown of an audience and, by applying strategic insight and creativity, we can create an event that is tailored to everyone.
That means choosing between in-person, virtual, or hybrid but it impacts so many more decisions, including venue, location, dates, duration, and format. It also extends to the balance of networking vs learning, what type of speakers and sessions will resonate best, how many rest and reflection breaks are needed and for how long, what information do they want to receive and how should it be delivered, do they want to socialise with peers, and so on.
Our pilot stage showed, for example, that leaders react to events entirely differently to most of the workforce. In this instance, organisers are advised to opt for physical, keep it short, use stories not facts, and build in opportunities for them to share their voice.
For an event to truly deliver tailored content to an entire audience, creating multiple layers within an event may be the best option. It’s similar to offering shoppers a genuinely omnichannel experience, or football fans different ways to watch the World Cup. Some people watched it on their smartphone, some
in a bar with friends, and others at home on the big screen with family and snacks. Those people were all enjoying the same content, but the delivery mechanism changed.
I believe events must offer the same level of customisation if we’re going to succeed in increasing engagement and the good news is this doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in cost, but rather allocating budget in ways that deliver better results and a greater return on investment.