Just as many B2B companies have taken marketing, product development and other cues from B2C companies, B2B event and meeting planners are seeing increased attendee demands influenced by their experiences at consumer events.
That’s the key word: experience. No matter what industry you’re in, event attendees want an engaging, immersive, even emotional, experience. This helps them get more excited about what they’re seeing and learning, and more likely to stay engaged after the event concludes.
To help you identify opportunities to deliver this sort of experience, we’ve highlighted three key attendee expectations. We’ve also included some insight on how to implement these expectations within your existing event framework. Let’s dive in!
A More Exciting, Engaging Experience
We’ve already mentioned attendee experience multiple times, so let’s dive in and examine some experiential attributes. To start, it’s how an event looks and feels. Think lights, music, eye-catching displays and interactive elements, for example. Many consumer events tend to have high production values, and B2B events can certainly follow suit (and many already have, especially in the B2B technology space).
Does that mean you need to dedicate your entire budget to AV production? Not at all. Look at the different elements of your event or meeting and identify opportunities to increase excitement and engagement. How can you set the tone when attendees arrive? Pipe in some upbeat music, to start. You could even crowdsource attendee music suggestions ahead of the event, then create a playlist that you use throughout the event’s duration.
If your event or meeting includes a keynote, see if there are opportunities to enhance the production of this particular session. After all, keynotes often serve as an event kick-off, a chance to energize attendees and get them excited about what’s ahead. Adding music, lights and even an unexpected element — a stage in the round, for example — can help make a big splash.
New Event Formats
It’s easy to get stuck in the traditional “keynote-presentation sessions-networking” format that’s become a B2B staple. By shaking up your event format, you’ll make big strides in delivering a better attendee experience that can also help with attendee education and info retention.
Try interspersing presentations with smaller, more interactive opportunities like breakout sessions and focus groups. This is also a prime chance to introduce attendee customization, another key event trend. You could group attendees with similar interests, challenges or professional roles, then facilitate a discussion or even a hands-on activity that gives them a chance to share, learn and connect.
If you’re looking to make a big departure from your existing event format, try an unconference, a more informal, immersive approach. Rather than an agenda filled with passive presentations, unconferences use elements like unexpected event venues, activities and workshops to spark collaboration and discovery. Unconferences also tend to be driven by participants, giving them the chance to lead discussions and also share thoughts on large discussion boards or with other interactive elements.
Departing from traditional event formats in favor of more interactive, collaborative agendas can also help with another attendee goal: making connections. Let’s be honest — not all of us love networking, but that doesn’t make building professional relationships any less important. By focusing more on connecting and less on traditional networking, you’ll help attendees foster these relationships while also deepening their connection with your company.
More Effective Event Tools
Tools like websites and mobile apps not only help your attendees navigate your event, but can also help them stay in-the-loop outside of the event or meeting.
Take a look at your event website (if you have one — if not, now’s the time start building!) What updates can you make to create a more user-friendly experience? And how’s the mobile version? Most attendees will likely access the website on their smartphones, especially during an event, so you want to ensure the integrity and usability of your responsive design.
A mobile app can also help attendees navigate your event agenda, connect with other attendees and get other pertinent event details. Before you start building, approach your mobile app like you would any other business initiative and outline your strategy. What sort of experience do you want your mobile app to deliver? How can it reflect and extend your brand? What functionality do your attendees prioritize? And what elements could you include, like polls, so that your attendees can share feedback and feel more like event stakeholders?
Consider other tools, as well. Do you have company social media channels and a branded hashtag so that attendees can easily interact with you and share takeaways and photos throughout the event? Are you keeping attendees informed and engaged before, during and after your event with strategic communications like emails? These are just a few examples of how you can use technology to improve the overall attendee experience.
Remember this: you don’t need to transform your B2B event overnight to make a big impact. Instead, take a close look at your event from start to finish and decide where you can make a few strategic improvements. Let attendees help guide that process, too, by weighing in on what changes they’d like to see. Then, continue to build on that momentum by staying dialed in not only to industry trends, but also on your attendees and prospects so that you continually deliver on — and even exceed — their expectations.
If you want to chat about any ideas based on our experience with both B2C and B2B clients, we’re always here to listen and help you brainstorm. Send us a note and we’ll be in touch!