In April, we released our fourth episode of the BrightGen Media Podcast. I came back to Vicky Nisbet, Senior Area Vice President for Comms, Media & Technology at Salesforce UK.
This time we talked about the resurgence in post-pandemic corporate live events and why meeting people face-to-face is critical in our industry. We discussed the B2B events industry, live conferences, digital experiences and the future of events.
I’ve summarised a few of my favourite parts of the podcast in this blog post. You can listen to the podcast in full on Spotify, on Apple Podcasts, or watch the video on YouTube. Our next podcast episode will be out next month with another leader in the media industry. Contact us if you’d like to participate in a future episode of the BrightGen Media Podcast.
Would you say that the face-to-face B2B event industry within Media, Comms & Tech got long COVID? Will it recover?
I think we’re already on the road to recovery. At Media, Comms & Tech, we are a people business and we famously like to party!
I was lucky to be able to travel to Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress run by GSMA this year. There were more than 60,000 people in attendance this year. Because of the COVID rules, we kept our masks on the whole time, all through the venue, but genuinely people didn’t mind. Everyone was happy to get back together.
We, as sponsors of the event, had an outdoor garden area with separate sectors where we could run panels and interact with our customers. And there was a real enthusiasm of people within the telecom world to get back together and discuss the issues that are facing them.
There is always going to be a need for in-person events. We’re people people! From a business perspective, I probably had three months’ worth of meetings in a two and a half day period. And the feedback from all of the customers was very, very good.
What is the real business benefit of those kinds of events?
The way that companies within the media industry that run these events is changing. There’s a definite increase in the need for good data to help sell these events. The pressure has increased on the event and exhibition, sponsorships, and sales teams. There’s a real need for them to provide more data-driven insight.
Sponsors want to know the attendance numbers, to see what footfall they’re going to have. But it’s also critical for these businesses that run those events to get under the skin of their attendees. What do they actually do after the event? Everyone needs first party data, because of the cookie issue analytics and the provisions of ROI. So it’s good that we at Salesforce can work with them to provide this.
The overriding factor is the need for creativity. We’re humans, we like to socialise.
There is absolutely no substitute for the sort of trust and the relationship that you can build with your customers if you are having dinner with them in an almost informal environment. When you’re not on the clock, you’re not on a Zoom call, you’ve not got your kids running around or the Amazon man at the door trying to deliver something… It’s a very calm environment where you can get to know each other on a totally different level, and then have further conversations when you’re back in the office. That really is invaluable.
In addition to that, the overriding factor is the need for creativity. We’re humans, we like to socialise. Personally, if I want to be creative, I need to be in a room with people, get their energy, bounce ideas off of them.
What do you think about a ‘live plus’ format, an additional event experience for the future of live events?
We have just lived through two years where everything has been digital, so we’re proof that it can work, but the essential part of it would be a hybrid solution for the future, rather than an either/or situation.
There are certain benefits to virtual events. It requires a lot less commitment from the customers to turn up for a 20 minute, half an hour meeting. So you get more access to more senior people, more often. You get less fallout rate. The networking capabilities are really increased. And you get access to more content that is completely reusable! In the end, you’re able to rerun that content and provide it to those people who weren’t able to attend.
At Salesforce, we were able to help – by creating round tables for our customers. We have our own platform that enables us to have virtual breakout rooms that mimics getting a round table with five or six people and having in-depth conversations, as if it were a face-to-face environment.
From a business perspective, we have to look at the commercial impact. We need to marry off the high margins of virtual events against the more costly in-person events, those that keep your brand strong and give a totally different experience to your customers.
So, in summary, I would say, we need digital, but I think we need it combined. To give people the option to be there in-person or take part from wherever they are.
How far do you think we all are from realising things like Metaverse?
If I knew the answer, I would be bottling it and selling it! But, from a serious perspective, I do think it takes things to a whole new level, where we can’t even foresee what the possibilities are. They’re endless and the ways we monetise them are endless.
Once the content is out there, how do you control who consumes it and how do you monetise it? I think the answer is bringing virtual experiences to real life events. You bring people together, and those ‘physical’ attendees immerse themselves into a different virtual world to augment the real life experience. So if you’re a sponsor, you can offer simulators that are going to give you a virtual experience of whatever product it is you are selling or exhibiting at that particular event. It could be an experience of driving a car at a car event, for example. There could be so many different ways to be able to monetise those events, it just blows your mind!
We’re grateful to Vicky for an insightful conversation and to be able to share her thoughts in our podcast! If you’d like to get involved in a future podcast, please contact us today: [email protected]
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