We recently sat down with a panel of industry experts during our Event inspiration: Trends and ideation workshop to discuss the most pressing event trends and challenges, and just like DJ Grafitti, who kept us dancing during the breaks, our Q&A section was on fire 🔥.

Our panelists gave valuable insight into some of your most pressing questions, so we wanted to recap them here. Our audience also asked some great questions we didn’t get to during the event, so we asked them for their answers and provided them as a part of our recap.

Get to know our panelists below, then read on to hear their answers to some of the event industry’s most pressing questions.

What are you looking forward to for our industry in 2023?

The event industry has changed a lot over the past few years, and we can’t wait to see how it continues to evolve. Our panelists all agree that 2023 will be an exciting year for events. Here’s what they’re looking forward to the most in the coming year:

Creativity in the events industry

Melissa Jones Clark: What I’m really looking forward to is how event formats change over time. Is the pendulum gonna swing back to virtual events? Is hybrid going to be the new format all of the time? And with that, just how people get creative. I mean, this is such a creative industry and people have such good ideas and we’re pulling from other places as well. And I’m just excited to see what meeting planners do because meeting planners are superheroes to me.

How event technology evolves to create a seamless experience

Keaton Watson: I’m most excited to see a recovery from some of the inflation challenges that we’re seeing in the industry, which is causing really budget-conscious efforts around the organization of events. More than that though, I’m really looking forward to more holistic inclusions of a technology stack that really does help facilitate people’s meetings, not just single events, but just helps them execute their entire event.

I’m just really excited to see how some of these tools evolve and integrate with each other to be able to create that seamless experience.

Asynchronous communication

Amanda Warren: Something I’m really looking forward to and working a lot about…is that asynchronous communication. I really hope [it] comes to fruition, because I think there are pieces of the puzzle, some crumbs you can drop leading up to things that are really advantageous. They drum up some excitement and get people knowledgeable about the tools that you’re using and what you’re going to discuss.

It’s also a time saver. It doesn’t require everyone to be at the same place at the same time. We know that time is our most valuable resource. So asynchronous, I’m all for it. Can’t wait.

Hybrid events that don’t feel like two completely separate experiences

Nolan Ether: I just think that we’re still very early in kind of the retooling and reskilling of this industry. And I think that this next year we’re going to see that rush back to in-person. And then I think we’re going to really see people evolve and grow and mature in the way that they approach these events and figure out what the right balance is between in-person and virtual, and how to do hybrid in a way that doesn’t feel like two completely different events or doesn’t cost as much as two completely different events.

And [also] ways to integrate content in and extend your event life cycle and just make it a more engaging overall experience. I think the evolution of event technology just makes it that much easier to measure, attribute, and prove ROI to exhibitors and stakeholders, and just really gives events, in general, a bigger seat at the table.

What can we do about the decrease in attendees for virtual events?

Many companies have seen a decrease in their registrations and attendees over the past year. Here are our panelists’ tips for combatting the trend and getting attendees excited about your events:

Add a surprise factor to your events

Melissa Jones Clark: Look out into the world at people. Look at your data. Look at speakers that have really drawn a lot of people in that have interesting content. We talked a little bit about Ted Talks and like, why are Ted talks so interesting to people? It’s because they often have a surprise factor. How do you get people a surprise factor when they get to your event? And get them excited to learn a new perspective or challenge their worldview and have a diverse opinion.

Include on-demand elements

Keaton Watson: I think you have to implement a content-on-demand strategy as well. So even if they missed the actual event, they need to be able to consume that content in the same way that they consume TV shows on Netflix or something like that. So your content delivery strategy really has to include that on-demand element.

Don’t make it boring

Nolan Ether: If you show people [through] your emails and your social media… in all the places that they’re going to see without having to register and show up [to your event] that you’re delivering value with your content, then they’re going to be more likely to show up to an event and expect that they’re going to get a similar level of quality and action, like actionable takeaways and things that are useful to them.

And if you don’t… if your social is boring and your email is boring and your blog is boring, don’t be surprised when people don’t show up to your event.

Try out a shorter event format

Lisa Vogel: I think that’s why we’ve seen a lot of these shorter events. Like you talked about Ted Talks, Melissa, and yes, it’s the surprise factor, but it’s also, ‘Oh I have five minutes to learn something new or to make me think and have some kind of takeaway.‘ I mean, I loved watching [Ted Talks] all the time when I would be on a flight and I would just go through tons of them.

So maybe thinking about it that way and delivering those shorter pieces of content during your event, whether it’s a long event with lots of sessions or it’s just short sessions.

How do you keep attendees engaged after the event ends?

According to Markletic, 78% of businesses that use an event application say it contributes to a positive event ROI. With that kind of impact in mind, it’s important to keep attendees engaged throughout your entire event lifecycle, not just during your event. Check out our panelists’ tips for keeping attendees engaged once your event is over:

Ask your attendees for their input

Amanda Warren: Asking the attendees how they took their takeaways home and what their ROI was on those things can be really powerful and impactful. Maybe you are sending a post-event survey six weeks later, that’s like, ‘These are the key takeaways. What have you found now that you’ve been away for six weeks?’ Then gather those and share that as content. Using your attendees’ inputs and opinions to create some of that content and engage them in the conversation is huge.

Invite your speakers back for a full Q&A session

Keaton Watson: The 55-minute session and the five-minute Q&A session are outdated and dead at this point. So how could you potentially do something as a follow-up? Maybe [you do] a virtual follow-up to a live event where you have that speaker come back and do a full Q&A session just to keep the discussions going.

Work cross-functionally across your organization

Nolan Ether: You’ve gotta break down the silos in your organization and work cross-functionally. We have marketing people. We have customer success people. We have salespeople. We have all these people in the organization that are committed to that. I think it’s important to break down those silos and think about the full attendee and customer journey.

Their journey is year-round. Their lifecycle is year-round. If you’re not working with the people who are already sending the emails and the social posts and connecting with your customers and all those things, and they’re not blending together, then you’re doing it wrong.

How do you decide which event metrics to track and which metrics are best for proving ROI?

It’s one thing to promise your attendees and sponsors a positive ROI, it’s another to prove it. In order to prove ROI to your attendees and sponsors, you have to start by establishing your event goals. Here are a few tips from our panelists:

Understand your event goals

Keaton Watson: Event goals are as unique as events themselves because there are so many different types of events, so many different companies that host them, and so many different companies that attend them. But I think you have to start with the company who’s hosting and if you’re working for that company, then understanding what that company is trying to achieve or would like to achieve with this particular event really is the place to start.

Carolyn Pund: Your goal should be set based on what you’ve measured to be the most effective. So [for us] the one-on-one meetings tend to have the highest return… so we build out a significant part of the show to accommodate those one-on-one meetings.

Survey, survey, survey!

Lisa Vogel: If you’re talking about proving ROI to potential attendees, I think the best way to do that is to survey your attendees or potential attendees. You can use pre-event surveys on social media to ask your target audience what they most want to see at your event, and then launch social and email campaigns showing they’ll get to see exactly that. It’s a great way to encourage registrations and prove it will be worth their investment.

You can also use during- and post-event surveys to ask your attendees about their experience. Ask them to rate sessions on a scale from 1-10. Ask them to write a few sentences on what they got out of the event. Then, take the positive feedback and use it to show registrants the value other attendees have gotten in the past. You can also use the negative feedback to make your next event better.

Measure attendee data to prove ROI to sponsors

Nolan Ether: A great way to prove ROI to your sponsors is to track attendee data… Use an event management platform that tracks what your attendees are clicking on, which features they’re visiting the most on your platform or in your mobile event app, and how they’re interacting with the sponsor profiles. You can go back to your sponsors and say something like ‘500 attendees clicked and interacted with your virtual sponsorship booth.’

This is also a great way to get sponsors for your next event. You can use this data and go to a potential sponsor and say something like “89% of attendees clicked on the sponsorship feature and view our sponsor booths in our event platform.”

Looking for more information on event metrics and ROI? Check out our blogs Event marketing KPIs: Measure event success with these top 11 KPIs and Sponsor budgets are shrinking: How to build cost-effective event sponsorships that prove ROI.

What’s the best way to weave content into your event strategy?

Content is king when it comes to events, and it’s important you integrate it into your event strategy from beginning to end. Here’s what Nolan Ether, Content Marketing Leader at Webex Events, had to say about content strategy:

Create and share content throughout your entire event lifecycle

Nolan Ether: So, you might just think that content is most important during your event, but content actually plays a role in your entire event lifecycle and should be woven in from beginning to end. Event content can be anything from a blog post on what to expect during your event to posting teaser videos with featured speakers on social media. 

Pre-event, you should be using content to attract attention, build interest, and boost attendance. Try weaving blogs and videos into your social and email marketing strategies.

During your event, you can leverage things like polls and Q&A to interact with your audience and create content on the fly. For example, ask your audience for a key takeaway and then Tweet out some of the responses. You can also leverage things like videos and slide decks to share on-screen content with your attendees in an engaging way.

After your event – and I’m going to sound like a broken record – but this is where you can leverage polls and Q&A again to see how your audience liked the event or gather questions they had during the sessions. You can then turn those questions into a Q&A recap blog or answer them in a follow-up email.

We actually cover this during our Event Summer Camp Series “Event Content” session, which you can watch on-demand.

It’s so hard to network virtually – our in-person events always had a happy hour element for this – what’s a good substitute for this virtually?

Happy black woman toasting with Champagne during video call at home.

Finding a virtual replacement for a good ol’ in-person happy hour can seem like a daunting task, but luckily technology has come a long way and there are lots of ways for attendees to network virtually. Here are a few tips from our panelists on providing your attendees with meaningful (and fun!) networking opportunities:

Try a virtual cocktail class

Nolan Ether: There are companies that offer virtual happy hours where they’ll send your attendees cocktail kits they can use to make cocktails at home while socializing with other event attendees on-screen or in the chat.

You can pretty much do anything virtually now, from terrarium building to concerts. If you need some fun ideas, I’d encourage you to check out our blog post on virtual event ideas.

Leverage event technology with a built-in networking feature

Lisa Vogel: This is another great place to bring in event technology. Before you plan your event, don’t just choose any old event platform. Leverage an event platform that has a networking feature already built in.

Follow Webex Events for more event inspiration

If you didn’t get a chance to attend the session but loved the Q&A recap, we’ve got good news. You can watch Event inspiration: Trends and ideation workshop on demand now!

At Webex Events, we love staying on top of event trends and ideating on how to level up events year-round. Check out our blog for more event industry tips and tricks. And don’t forget to sign up for our next event series below!