The State of the Industry Town Hall at last week’s CEMA Digital Summit 2020 focused on the future of digital events. Following the 75-minute session, a consensus emerged that while everyone misses live events, digital platforms have opened up exciting new avenues for communicating with customers.
Kavin Schieferdecker, senior vice president of sales and services for Philadelphia CVB, moderated the event, which included presenters Angela (Angie) Smith, head of events and field marketing for Atlassian; Ben Nazario, division president for MC-2; and Sherrif Karamat, PCMA president and CEO. More than 300 people made up the engaged audience (based on the busy comment chain).
Addressing the huge shift to digital events due to COVID-19, Karamat pointed out that while he didn’t want to underplay the devastation caused by the pandemic, it has opened up unprecedented opportunities. “There is no returning to normal,” said Karamat, “but there will be a new and exciting tomorrow with the customer at the forefront and events shifting to an omni-channel format.”
This gives planners the opportunity to try new things, Nazario added. “Storytelling and objectives [haven’t] changed, but how we are getting there has changed,” said Nazario.
Smith said that at Atlassian, they had already been expanding their digital strategy before the pandemic hit. One of the things they learned was how much it enabled them to increase the breadth of their coverage.
“I love the connections made at a live event,” said Smith, “but you can’t argue with data and the ability of millions to engage in an online community.”
All three presenters emphasized the importance of a customer-centric approach and finding the platform that makes them most comfortable. “You never want to get too far from the customer,” said Smith. “It’s about getting the right content at the right time to the right people.”
Sending messages through multiple channels, then, is key. “One size does not fit all,” said Karamat. “You have to deliver on every channel.” When those channels again include face-to-face events, digital advances can complement those gatherings.
And, in the meantime, new options abound. “The tremendous opportunity in front of event professionals is the chance for all of us to expand what we are doing, learn more about digital marketing and help move the needle,” said Nazario.
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