The next generation of events is here—the result of a seismic shift in the industry and two years of digital acceleration during the global pandemic. With the template reset, opportunities abound for marketing leaders.

But there is a learning curve. The fact is, even as the return to in-person events gains momentum, business events still need to have an “always on” approach.

Next-generation events span several formats: virtual/webinar, in person, hybrid, and other types, including conferences, trade shows, road shows, and customer groups. This range represents very good news for marketers, who now have the opportunity to improve their event strategy and execution for the foreseeable future.

In “Aligning Strategy, Teams and Tech for Success in a New Era of Events,” a new CMO Council report created in association with Cvent, we queried marketing leaders about this new era and uncovered several insights:

  • 60% of surveyed leaders say restarting in-person and hybrid events is very important, even critical
  • 65% say insights from the first two years of the pandemic will lead to a more holistic view of events that are better aligned to marketing outcomes
  • 71% of marketers are experimenting with new event formats

Virtual Events Are as Relevant as Ever

While virtual fatigue is a fact of life, the chief marketing officers (CMOs) surveyed understand that virtual events will continue to play an important role in next-gen events. In fact, 20% of marketing leaders say virtual events continue to deliver tremendous reach.

Yet after more than two years of virtual-only events, marketers are champing at the bit to restart in-person events. Makes perfect sense. While virtual events are great for expanding brand reach, in-person events offer the unmatched ability to nurture customer relationships that results in higher conversion rates. Three out of five marketers surveyed say it’s very important, even critical, to restart in-person events.

Two Years of Learning and Innovation

Before the pandemic, the events industry for B2B marketers was an entirely different world. Silos were in place that prevented event leaders and marketing leaders from having little more than a passing connection.

The lack of collaboration among event planners and their partners in marketing led to inefficiencies and missed opportunities. A full 66% of event managers planned events independent of marketing campaigns, Forrester Research found.

“Because event planners and marketers tend to operate in silos, in-person event planners struggled to adopt the virtual technology and digital practices that effectively engage remote attendees and deliver value to sponsors and partners,” Forrester reported.

But marketers are learning lessons from the pandemic and fixing these problems.

In the CMO Council report, 57% of marketers surveyed now say events are owned and managed by marketing, orchestrated across the company, and aligned to a holistic marketing plan. It’s a major shift, and a successful one. The future looks even brighter, too: 65% of respondents say event marketing will continue to mature and incorporate a holistic view of all events that are better aligned to marketing outcomes.

Hybrid Events: The Unvarnished Truth

Pulling off a successful hybrid event isn’t easy. Only 36% of marketers rate their ability to execute hybrid events as “effective” or “very effective”—the lowest effectiveness rating among the other three major event types (in person, webinar, and virtual). No real surprise here, as the added complexity and technology that hybrid events need mean planners and marketers must more fully commit to the execution of these types of events or risk their falling flat.

Yet even with its complexity, hybrid events are attractive to marketers. The potential value of a hybrid event is exponentially greater now than it was for pre-pandemic hybrid events, making “hybrid” the new catchword for the next-gen event channel. Combining the breadth of virtual events with the depth of engagement at in-person events, hybrid events are uniquely situated to offer event organizers the best of both worlds. The secret to success here is to carefully scope the goals of your event to make sure the effort of executing a hybrid event will truly result in returns on investment for your organization.

Reimagining Events: Next Gen Is Here

For organizations planning their event calendars, simply returning to pre-pandemic strategies for in-person events isn’t an option. Two years of virtual events have heightened attendee expectations for focused, immersive experiences. Next-gen in-person events now require digital components like online event platforms and on-demand content, even if they’re not full-blown hybrid events.

As the marketing world brims with excitement over the return of in-person events, CMOs need to strategize and prepare to maximize the value of this next-gen event channel. It’s a golden opportunity to reset and reimagine events in 2022 and beyond.

Learn more by downloading your free copy of the new CMO Council report “Aligning Strategy, Teams and Tech for Success in a New Era of Events.”

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