This article was originally written for, and published by, New Business magazine in June 2022.
In the digital age, people crave connectivity. This has catalysed a burst of innovation within the B2B events industry, with hybrid and virtual events multiplying around the globe. Today, it is important that the industry sustains this level of innovation. By unlocking the full potential of events, businesses will be able to form relationships to drive growth and create environments that enable them to thrive. Chief Strategy Officers can play a key role in helping to achieve this goal.
Chief Strategy Officers, with their broad outlook and deep insight not only into their own business but also often into their clients' businesses, can play a role in helping business leaders to re-calibrate their view of events. They can help them see events less as one-off occurrences and more as central parts of extended marcomms strategies. They can help to clarify messaging and use audience profiling and insight to create environments and enriched content, which bring people together, and where moments of real engagement can happen.
Creating environments of true connectivity
People have become used to instant connectivity thanks to the rise of virtual events and a wider range of ways to socialise via digital means. The ability to connect with others at the click of a button is now entirely normalised - but, particularly in the case of B2B events, does this enable truly meaningful engagement?
Real connections are built when delegates feel secure to be the truest version of themselves. Event environments should foster this sense of security, for example by providing an accessible mix of virtual and in-person content. This improves connectivity among audience members, but also among delegates and sponsors or the host company. This is very beneficial for both businesses and marketeers.
Chief Strategy Officers plays a key role in achieving this goal, as they prioritise the focus to be on understanding the needs of an audience before an event has event started. This could be, for example, through a simple questionnaire that attendees submit as they register for a ticket, or data gathered from online profiling ahead of the event. Using this information, as well as material gathered throughout the event, a Chief Strategy Officer and their team can design an environment of true connectivity.
Building truly engaged communities
Businesses need to reassess their view of events and see them as opportunities to build truly engaged communities, which will be long-lasting and contribute to their success. Chief Strategy Officers are well placed to oversee this process with their focus on initiatives that help to drive business' long-term growth.
This ability to build supportive communities is in part due to the ever-increasing capabilities of event platforms, which collect huge amounts of invaluable audience data and gather it into a central pool of insights. If events - both in-person and virtual - are considered as part of a series, this data can be used to ensure that the connection between brand and audience is deepened and sustained.
Post-event reports can show where interactions happened at an event, what topics were popular in Q&As, how long attendees spent viewing content, if any warm leads were developed, and much more. These insights can be deployed to make sure that a company's events are constantly evolving and improving. They can also inform how messaging and content is delivered to have maximum impact.
Delivering more effective engagement
Chief Strategy Officers can also help develop events as an arena for connectivity that will drive interactions among all levels of stakeholders. Both in-person and virtual events provide great opportunities to make this happen.
In-person events have the great advantage of face-to-face contact with few boundaries to the interaction of the host, clients, and other delegates. On the other hand, virtual platforms have the unique capability of allowing attendees to engage with each other in whichever manner they feel most comfortable - and location isn't a barrier.
In both cases, several separate audiences can come together, across many locations and in different formats. This builds a connected community, all of whom will have a much more meaningful relationship with the host business as a result. A Chief Strategy Officer will keep this as the guiding principle of delivering effective events - all of which contribute value to a longer-term communications strategy.
Deepening connection with internal stakeholders
Another aspect of the role of Chief Strategy Officer in the context of events, is deepening connections with a client's internal stakeholders. With each of our clients, we establish relationships with a wide range of departments. This makes it much more likely that the vision for a single or series of events and their role in a company's communications strategy will be understood, embraced and shared throughout the company.
Recently, this has meant connecting with our clients' HR departments, or people who oversee employee engagement. Collaborating with these departments means that internal communications are crystallised and harmonised to match any external messaging. This consistency will feed into the improved external engagement, which events can deliver.
Delivering enhanced networks and connections
The knowledge that we have gained throughout the pandemic should not go to waste. Innovation has seen virtual and hybrid events flourish, with emerging technology helping to gather an unprecedented wealth of rich audience data and insight. Coupled with the efforts made to make events as inclusive and accessible as possible, the sector's landscape has transformed. Rather than thinking of a return to the past, events businesses should be assessing how they can make the events of the future even more relevant, even more effective and even more central to their corporate clients' business success.