The pandemic has significantly impacted a wide variety of industries over the last two years, from global supply chain to travel & tourism. Overnight, many sectors saw their core business evaporate and had to rapidly adapt or fail. The professional events industry was one of the most impacted.
In-person professional events were some of the first budget cuts by marketing departments in 2020, as fears of large scale gatherings kept employees and employers away. In the absence of in-person events, a host of virtual platforms emerged, preaching the end to in-person conferences forever. And while virtual events are incredible for reach and amplification of a message – think roundtables, panels, and webinars – they severely underdeliver on the most important metric – revenue generation!
Conference organizers are charging as much for digital sponsorships as they were for in-person sponsorships pre-pandemic, and event marketers are not seeing nearly the same level of return when it comes to leads, pipeline, and revenue generated. From my perspective, there are three main reasons why this is, and will continue to be, the case – Focus, FOMO, and Professional Relationships.
With digital events, there is no commitment. Someone signs up to attend and it’s on their calendar, but there are endless distractions that can ultimately cause them to miss the event or furiously multitask while there. Every other attendee is in the same situation, leading to a sense of apathy around the event.
Contrast this with in-person events, where attendees are traveling from all over the world to converge on one location, for one purpose. They are often leaving family, friends, and other responsibilities behind for days or weeks. As a result of this high opportunity cost, there is an intense level of focus at the event. The energy is palpable. The impact, enormous.
With great focus comes great FOMO, or fear of missing out. Digital events are all recorded and can be viewed at almost any time. There is no way to miss out, so how could you fear missing out?
In-person events have maximum focus, and thus maximum FOMO. And for good reason! If you are not there, you are missing out on thousands of like minded people congregating around a single topic, at a single moment in time.
This extreme FOMO drives people to in-person events, magnifying the benefits to those who go and the opportunity cost of not going. In some ways, it’s a self fulfilling prophecy.
There is a reason we enjoy seeing friends and family in-person compared to video chat or phone calls. It is just a better experience. Activities can be enjoyed together, body language is easier to read, and the bonds created are stronger.
All of this applies to business relationships in addition to personal relationships. It’s much easier to build a lasting impression with a new potential client or partner in-person. The same applies to moving existing deals forward. And there is no better opportunity to build a ton of new and existing professional relationships than at a relevant, in-person, professional event.
At Vendelux, we support both in-person and digital events and see the different value propositions of both. Perhaps one day digital events will be able to emulate the benefits of in-person, but for now there is no substitute for the focus, fomo, and professional relationships generated at in-person events. Companies that resume face to face meetings sooner will prosper and those who wait will suffer in the meantime. The advantages are just too great.
The full scale return to in-person events is inevitable, and at Vendelux we anticipate that in-person will return bigger than ever.