How COVID-19 has created a new kind of audience that could be a key element for our economy recovery

By Toby Lewis, CEO of Live Group

For the past 12 months business engagement and the events sector have been fundamentally recast. Concern about the impact of the pandemic among the organisers of trade shows, exhibitions and conferences – which help fashion the relationships that drive commerce – has been replaced by new thinking revolving around a blended approach to events. Hallmarks of this new strategy are a greater focus on sustainability and accessibility – coupled with the latest digital techniques to deliver far more effective engagement.

As the UK gears up for recovery it is important that we get this right. Business events contribute £31.2bn annually to the economy, which translates into £165bn of trade. Additionally, business delegates spend 2.3 times more per head than international leisure visitors.

Go greener

According to a recent analysis by Carbon Brief, the UK is now halfway to meeting its target of ‘net-zero’ emissions by 2050, largely as a result of the pandemic. The events industry must do more. A 2019 report found that 1.2 million tonnes of CO2e is released annually from diesel emissions in generators used by the UK events industry alone. And the average event wastes around 15%-20% of the food it produces. Evidently, businesses need to make informed decisions to ensure they adopt a suitably green approach to events. Given this backdrop, we have developed the Live Group’s Sustainability Calculator, to enhance businesses’ ability to determine the environmental impact of a proposed event.

Accelerate accessibility

An exciting and transformative aspect of the blended approach enables businesses to engage with previously excluded or marginalised groups. For example, there are plenty of people who struggle to organise childcare which would allow them to attend networking engagements. Similarly, people living with physical disabilities might feel unwilling or unable to travel the distance to get to the venue.

Mental health factors such as social phobia present another issue which is often overlooked. Many potential attendees actively avoid events  due to the stress that such situations can inspire, especially for those with anxiety disorders. A blended approach offers flexibility to these people to engage with an event in a manner which is comfortable to them, remotely or in-person. This supports diversity and inclusion efforts by making events more accessible to everyone, while providing improved ROI from a commercial business perspective.

Digital is key

Studies show that using event tech can increase attendance by 20% and increase productivity by 27%. A blended approach encompasses an array of digital tools, facilitating expert crafted content, world-class production and building virtual communities. Additionally, enabling richer experiences for event participants drive greater engagement, enhances the ability for a business to hone its KPIs for an event and ultimately means a greater ROI for marketeers.

At Live Group we have an online platform that acts as a central hub for the events we organise, making individual user experience the number one priority. Rather than forcing users into virtual, hybrid or face to face only options, the hub allows the participants to navigate the content in the way best suited to them. This individual journey continues across the whole lifecycle of the event which then translates into how the audience wishes to engage with the live elements.

This includes a ‘peer hub’, where delegates have personalised profiles and integrated search tools at their disposal, which can identify relevant fellow participants for networking opportunities. This aids with discovery and collaboration. An interface with LinkedIn, which is built directly into the platform, ensures lasting engagement continues post-event.

These innovations lead to increased and better engagement, allowing companies to capture far more audience data and insight to better inform their marketing and business strategies.

With the vaccine rollout working well and confidence returning businesses are ready to re-engage. This new blended approach to events will be crucial in helping them form the relationships and sign the commercial deals that are key to our economic recovery.