By Josh Baez, Client Engagement Manager at Heinz Marketing

The State of B2B Events

Since March 2020, the in-person event playbook has been thrown out the window – along with most other ideas of predictability and normalcy. But in the absence of physical events, virtual events have risen to fill the void. The question is: Have they succeeded?

In the time since, businesses have not only transitioned employees to work from home – but entire business models have also been adjusted to effectively operate digitally as well. According to Gartner, the response to COVID-19 has accelerated both the speed and scale of digital transformation, “escalating digital initiatives into digital imperatives.” And as more and more people adopt and adapt to remote and digital workplace practices, habits, and cultures; the more important it will be to grow and refine our digital ecosystem to accommodate the newest evolution of buyers.

Cue virtual events.

There’s undoubtedly been a growing adoption, acceptance, and acknowledgment of virtual events as a powerful revenue channel in our digital-first world. And as today’s buyers grow weary of sifting through pages and pages of static, non-interactive content; the need for new, dynamic experiences is amplified; and the spotlight on virtual events has never shone brighter.

What are those advantages and disadvantages of virtual events? And post-COVID, how will events as a whole play a role in an organization’s quest to generate revenue? To begin answering those questions, read on below.

👉🏻 But first: If you want to share your own voice, experiences, and insight, complete our 7-minute survey! After the survey is complete, you’ll get invited to a respondents-only webinar where we’ll discuss the results, answer questions live, and talk through actionable next steps to help you successfully prepare for the future of events!

Now, back to the blog post.

The Pros of Virtual B2B Events

No one would blame you for believing virtual B2B events have outshined their traditional in-person counterparts this year. Especially when it comes to planning, implementing, and managing a virtual event program.

Focusing on the experience – and less on the noise

No longer do organizations need to book event venues months in advance; pay for airfare, travel, and accommodations for their on-site staff, guests, and speakers; or invest nearly as much into a single, large-scale physical event for the sake of optics.

Going forward companies could reinvest those physical event budgets and resources into their virtual event program. And this allows them to focus more on the actual event experience and less on the noises that distract from it.

  • Rather than manage caterers, troubleshoot A/V, and fix printer jams, event teams could manage the event’s content.
  • Instead of scrambling to book and coordinate high-end, in-person meeting locales, sales teams could focus on booking meetings remotely.
  • And rather than wonder what topics attendees are truly interested in, marketing teams could track exactly what an attendee clicked on, read, and engaged with.

Virtual B2B events allow hosts and attendees to focus more on what makes a memorable, meaningful experience – rather than having to focus on the menial tasks that detract from it.

And as the use of virtual events in B2B – and the investments supporting them – continue to grow, so too will the advancements in virtual event technology to give event teams smarter, more intelligent capabilities that in turn enable better, more dynamic experiences for the attendees.

Virtual event experiences are accessible from anywhere

In a virtual event setting, attendees can join from wherever they are; get instant access to session content, resources, and recordings; and are able to enjoy the event at their own pace without the fear of missing something important just because it’s on the other side of the venue.

It’s a kind of accessibility that just isn’t available with in-person events. And because virtual experiences are accessible from anywhere, no longer do revenue teams need to wonder how to get their top customers in the same place at the same time. Now, all that can be done remotely. And it makes registering, joining, and participating in virtual events and meetings that much easier.

Automation makes tracking performance easier

While not perfect, tracking and reporting on event performance is made even easier with virtual events. Since everything an attendee could do happens within a virtual console, every click, question, and action gets tracked automatically. And this automation makes it a breeze for the virtual event, operations, marketing, and sales teams to determine what an attendee is interested in and what needs to happen next.

The Cons of Virtual B2B Events

However, it would be disingenuous to say virtual events offer a complete, comprehensive replacement for in-person events. Because while virtual events do possess a lot of great, innovative qualities, there are still certain aspects of physical events virtual events simply cannot provide or compete with.

A reliance on event technology

Unfortunately, much of what you’re able to do with virtual events is heavily reliant on the event technology currently available. This can make it far more complex to have certain aspects of your virtual event present at the actual event. Virtual booths, interactive attendee components, attendee-level data – what you’re able to do with these is dictated by the event technology you have at your disposal.

A lack of networking opportunities

It’s clear there’s still no digital replacement for in-person networking opportunities. And while many organizations may attempt to provide virtual alternatives, the results typically just fall flat. Empty virtual meeting rooms, a lack of dynamic conversations, and that feeling of meeting new people organically are all lost with virtual events. And this directly impacts your “on-site” staff and sales rep’s ability to make new connections during an event.

Virtual booths are lackluster

Unfortunately, virtual booths just don’t offer the same experiences for attendees. For one, it’s incredibly laborious for an attendee to go through a list of sponsors and click on each logo individually in order to access their “booth.” But virtual booths also just lack that incentive that physical B2B events inherently possess. 

Part of the allure of a tradeshow or conference was walking through the exhibitor hall to discover new brands organically. And you knew if you visited a booth, chances are you’d walk away with some good information, a business card, and some sweet event swag.

But in a virtual setting, those incentives just aren’t there. Traditional virtual event booths are completely static and unmanaged. And there’s no real incentive or draw to get you to visit them. They’re simply part of the virtual event because “they’re part of in-person events.”

It’s hard to beat a really good in-person experience

Honestly, it’s hard to beat the magic of a really good in-person event. And the dynamism and blend of an in-person event’s content, people, and location is something no virtual event can replicate (yet).

The Future of B2B Events

The landscape of B2B events continues to shift. Virtual events haven’t just become popular, but essential in revenue generation. But that’s not to say virtual events are perfect. And while they offer a solid alternative to in-person events today, that doesn’t mean there’s not still ground to make up.

Will in-person events make a return post-COVID? That future is still unclear. With October behind us, there’s no better time to start planning for 2021. And part of that is understanding how events will play a role for your business. From virtual conferences to workshops to fireside chats – events can be a strong force in your demand gen engine. How will you keep that momentum going into 2021 and beyond?

If you want to share your own voice, experiences, and insight, complete our 7-minute survey! As a thank you, you’ll get invited to a respondents-only webinar where we’ll discuss the results, answer questions live, and talk through actionable next steps to help you successfully prepare for the future of events.