We'll Meet Again - How Marketing is Shaping Up for 2021
With a normal Christmas in doubt for 2020, it also looks like it'll be a long time before we can run and attend events of any kind, such as normal weddings with lots of guests, dinner parties with more than 6 people and conferences and trade shows. We have all had to adapt to doing things virtually, from grocery shopping to exercise classes, and we're also used to meeting friends one at a time, or in very small groups’ outdoors, resisting the urge to hug them. Marketers have also had to adapt, and they're faced with much more of a barrier to running events than ever before.
Some of us have been staying at home as much as possible and avoiding all public spaces, while others seem happy to continue with life as normally as they can, meeting friends, having parties and stretching the lockdown rules to the very limit.In between these two extremes we find a variety of attitudes, developed over the last few months based on what we hear in the news and what we experience first-hand. Some people are quite happy to have a friend or two over for a cuppa, but would balk at the thought of sitting inside a cafe with those same two friends.Others might feel happy going out to eat but would not be happy to have even one person over to visit them indoors at home.
This range of attitudes makes it very difficult for marketers to judge when the time is right to start planning in-person events.Sure, we might feel OK about having a small family Christmas at home, but would we feel as happy to go to an event where there are lots of people, even if social distancing and face coverings were enforced? We might be OK with going to the supermarket and coming into contact with potentially the same number of people we'd be with at a trade show, but we might not feel it's safe to be around that many people all day.
MarketingLand surveyed their readership and found that most marketers were planning to start small scale in-person events in the second half of 2021; Four out of ten said they'd consider in-person events in the first half of 2021, but six out of ten, said that the latter half of 2021 would be more likely. This is due, in part, to hopes that a vaccine will be approved soon and distributed during early 2021, making the last half of the year safer in terms of being around groups of people again.
There's good news for those who will stick to virtual events for now – 67% of those surveyed said they'd be happy to pay for a virtual event, so these can be just as effective as in-person events, especially now many people are used to the etiquette of virtual events, as well as the comfort factor of being able to ignore dress codes if you're accessing the event at home.In terms of a formula for virtual events, fewer hours of programming spread over more days seems to be the golden ratio – 47% of respondents to MarketingLand's survey said this would be their preferred format. The ability for participants to access the content at a time that suits them (by way of marketers recording the events and making them available to stream) is also a key element of a successful virtual event.
Perhaps the way forward will be to combine in-person events with virtual delivery, facilitating some in-person networking and discussion while offering seminars and talks via video link to allow for social distancing. We're discovering new tools and methods all the time because we have to; this drive for innovation in corporate events can only be a good thing in the long term.It might be a couple of years before large in-person events are possible again, and time will tell whether people actually want to return to these large-scale events, or whether the benefits of virtual events will tip the balance away from in-person events altogether. We do know that we will meet again, but this is likely to be on a much smaller scale than ever before.
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