All of our gigs have gone virtual and marketing teams have had to quickly pivot to embrace this change. We’ve all experienced the hits, the one-hit wonders, and the misses, Lauren Bowden, experienced B2B marketer shares her experience.

In my past life, as the holder of a content marketing budget I would jealously look over at field marketing’s budget line every year, as the proportion of our team’s overall money for the year was heavily and consistently divvied up in their favor. The reason? Well, to misquote Harold Macmillan, events dear boy, events.

As we know, events take the lion’s share of the marketing budget every year and despite the rise of digital marketing strategies, they remain a steadfast tactic in the CMO’s arsenal and one of the most lucrative industries out there. According to Eventbrite, the UK events industry alone is worth £42.3bn. Or should we say it was worth that much, as with every survey or stat that was collated pre-March 2020, who knows what that number is now?

Marketing plans that were painstakingly planned at the end of last year have had to be quickly rewritten, as events in every form – tradeshows, workshops, seminars, conferences – fell off the calendar in quick succession.

But rather than leave blank spaces in those plans, marketing teams all over the world adapted. Curious to see exactly how this would work, I signed up to a fair few. Here are three that deserve a special mention:

B2B Marketing: Get Stacked

I am a big fan of B2B Marketing’s events and have found them invaluable as a source for industry trends and best practice, especially since I started freelancing a year ago. So, when I was invited to the virtual version of this event I jumped at the chance. As ever, the content was on point and ran without a hitch, but one thing that really piqued my interest was the networking function on their event platform of choice, Hopin.

The theory of this function was much like early 2010s fad Chatroulette – but with none of the dodginess I hasten to add. We hit the network button and got randomly paired with other attendees for a two-minute chat. The key to this was to be efficient with our time – the short timeframe really only allowed for the briefest of intros. Fewer and fewer people were available to be paired with over the course day, suggesting that for most, the novelty wore off, but this is certainly the closest thing to actual networking that I have experienced in lockdown.

Find out more on the event website.

TCF online

Temenos is a company specializing in enterprise software for banks and financial services run the Temenos Community Forum (TCF) conference every year which is renowned in the FinTech space for good reason. Drawing big names and 1000s of attendees it takes a gargantuan effort to pull off every year and was all set to do the same at the end of April 2020 in beautiful Barcelona.

But when COVID hit, the team pulled off the pivot of all pivots in just 5 weeks. Working 100% remotely the event drew 4500 attendees and featured 48 live Q&A sessions, 43 product announcements, and 34 live & on-demand sessions. They also made room for all the fringe benefits provided by the usual TCF experience – virtual networking, live demos, and even games.

[Full disclosure – I work as part of the Comms Crowd and we provide social media support for Temenos, but I would cite this as a great example even if I didn’t!].

TechCity Connect 12 hours of Tech, Art & Culture

What’s not to like? Well, maybe the 12 hours part. When I signed up for the event, I thought I would dip in, and dip out – fit the sessions in around my work. But when the day came, the content was so well-curated, and the speakers were so interesting, I found myself gripped for nearly the whole day.

Highlights for me were ‘Journey to Nutopia’ – a conversation about positive future narratives post-COVID and ‘The Future of Business & Leadership’ – a discussion on how existing methods of business and leadership are not fit for today’s times. Both sessions gave me the boost of optimism I found myself needing amid the daily parade of politicians and bad news.

All of the sessions are available here and are well worth a listen.

These events and others taking place in all industries highlight the resilience, creativity, and organizational skills of our fabulous industry. The intangible aspects of the event industry we maybe took for granted before are now in sharp focus during this weird time.

The buzz in the air when a particularly good speaker has shared some great insight, the awkward but essential networking over a small, warm glass of merlot, the fun of finding a nifty gadget on an exhibition stand ‘for the kids’ – all of those can never be replaced by a screen and an internet connection.

Nifty gadgets aside, on a more strategic note, the unmeasurable but critical ROI that physical events provide is irreplaceable. I’m talking about early-stage sales conversations and strong brand awareness that comes with a well-designed stand or a talk-of-the-show experiential stand attraction. And there is an obvious and way more measurable element that is taking a huge blow right now that us B2B PRs and marketers should be cognizant of.

Namely, those niche trade publications that are seeing one of their most important revenue streams disappear overnight. Let’s hope if we ever get some semblance of normality back that events take their rightful chunk of the budget back too.

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