Reopening Of The Industry: How B2B Events Will See A Spike

When North America’s largest robotics and automation show, ‘The Automate 2022 Show and Conference’ at Detroit-Michigan,’ returned in its in-person format this year, it celebrated the most successful event in its history. Setting new records for registrations, exhibit booths and online engagement during its four-day run during June 6-9, 2022, the event surpassed all expectations of event planners. According to Jeff Burnstein, president of A3: “The excitement in the hall was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. People loved being back in person and seeing all of the latest advances in robotics, machine vision, AI, motion control and more. This was the largest and best-attended trade show we’ve ever had.” 

The Detroit show is reflective of how B2B and B2C on-ground events will look like in the months ahead as it’s a ‘back with a vengeance’ to face-to-face meets for people eager to shed the fatigue of meeting virtually during the pandemic times. As corporate events, especially in their in-person avatar, make an emphatic comeback, it will be interesting to delve into the expectedly thriving landscape of B2B events in the post-Covid era.

A steady growth on the cards

In-person events will return to their older glories as people are now better equipped and well-adapted to tackling the challenges like COVID. Emerald’s ‘B2B Events Industry Outlook 2022 report’ estimates a 50% increase in the number of in-person events and participants from 2020. Event planners are also more than eager to return to on-ground events. A Northstar Meetings Group survey in February 2022 indicated that  96% of planners would do an in-person event this year, with only 4% waiting until 2023.  

In India, too, similar enthusiasm for live events is perceived. Take, for example, the change expected in hotel bookings for the corporate MICE (meeting, incentive, convention, and exhibition) events segment – almost one-third of which comprise B2B events.  MICE events in India are projected to grow in 2022, especially from the second quarter onwards, predicts an ITB report.  This year, the Indian event & exhibition market is also expected to see healthy growth, in which B2B events have almost 50 per cent share. 

Expect grander events

All-time high earnings, a stronger economic rebound and pent-up demand for in-person events are encouraging companies to loosen their purse strings for events this year. In a recent survey by CVent, around 65 per cent of planners said their budgets for both in-person and hybrid events are bigger than pre-pandemic levels. In addition, the portion of those budgets that are allocated to venues, event technology and A/V production have all increased.

Events that have made a triumphant return to their on-ground or hybrid formats after two years of pandemic-related disruptions are thus bigger and grander. For example, GSMA’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2022, held in Barcelona in March 2022, saw more than 61,000 attendees from almost 200 countries, compared to only 20,000 attendees last year.

CES also returned ‘home’ to Las Vegas welcoming well over 45,000 attendees in person, including 1800 global media, across 11 indoor and outdoor venues. Almost 30% of attendees travelled from outside the US – representing 119 countries.  CES 2023 is expected to be a grander affair with more than 4,500 exhibiting companies and more than 170,000 attendees.

India’s largest auto show, ‘Auto Expo’ at Pragati Maidan in Delhi, was scheduled to be held in February this year but was postponed due to the third wave of COVID-19. The previous edition of this show – Auto Expo 2020 – had seen a total footfall of over six lakh visitors in 2020 but most of the luxury car manufacturers and prominent two-wheeler manufacturers had given the event a skip. This largest biennial automotive event is now set to return in 2023 and on a much bigger scale, with participation from all who had missed out in 2020.

Also Read: AI LOGISTIX Rebrands Itself, Promises Green Deliveries With Zero Carbon Emission

Hybrid is here to stay

Marketers are likely to remain ‘cautiously optimistic’ about their live event plans. They still want a virtual platform incorporated within on-ground formats (hybrid model) as a de-risking measure. In a survey by Aventri, 89% of event organisers have claimed that even when in-person meetings resume post-pandemic, virtual or hybrid events will remain a critical part of their event strategy.

The reason being having a virtual component in a live event is a win-win for all. While it allows planners to enjoy the merits of the virtual format like attendance in larger numbers, getting global speakers at lesser costs and cutting down on their spending on travel, accommodation of speakers and guests, participants also get the benefit of attending best of global events from the comfort of their homes.

Focus on health and safety as a priority

Event planners will continue to invest in measures and incorporate protocols on health and safety such as vaccination mandate, masking, and social distancing in their live events.  Take, for example, when the CES Summit returned this year, it expected all its 45,000 attendees to be fully vaccinated.  It also invested in onsite health screening and testing and better ventilation systems. 

We are also seeing unique innovations being adopted around safety measures. For example, the Render-Atlanta software engineering conference in September 2021 had decorating stations where attendees could get their masks personalised. Attendees were also allowed to wear black-and-white bracelets showing their comfort level with social interaction. Dots meant they’re okay with it, and stripes meant “stay away.”

Just like Justin Samuels, Render-Atlanta’s Chief Experience Officer was quoted in a USA Today article: “It’s worth the extra hoops to gather in person.”

Conclusion 

B2B marketers have shown their eagerness to return to in-person events. Albeit, this interest in returning to on-ground events hasn’t been without the realisation that virtual and hybrid events would continue to remain at the core of their marketing strategies even in the post-COVID times as similar disruptions are likely to be factored in henceforth.

The article is authored by Mr Paras Lohani 


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