The Future of Event Audiences and the Shift to B2Me℠
By: Tara Higgins, President, Hargrove & SVP Commercial, Encore
At Hargrove, we remain passionately committed to the growth of the live, virtual and hybrid events industry. We believe in its proven power, as the ultimate channel to build relationships, create experiences, and drive results. Our industry is at a pivotal point, with the expansion of hybrid events and the resurgence of live events, calling for us to examine how we evaluate audiences and how we design for their diverse experiences.
This is an opportunity to reevaluate planning strategies and examine how we view the attendee journey. Post-pandemic, let’s not think in terms of ‘business as usual,’ but plan for – and celebrate – ‘business done better than ever before.’ Events are the most powerful route for connecting people, transforming perspectives, and inspiring action. We create experiences that are focused on our clients’ objectives and their communities, and the most definitive way to tap into these channels is to recognize the value of the individual perspective. An evolution of the accustomed business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C), B2Me℠ recognizes the target audience’s unique needs as an integral part of the event planning strategy.
Understanding Your Audience: Demographics are Important, But People Matter More
Demographics are important; they present useful data, but they are only part of the audience insights equation. Events are about connections, and making connections has to be about more than statistics and arbitrary classifications.
As part of the event planning discovery phase, audience exploration is crucial. As the audience expectations shift, we can no longer depend exclusively on demographic or industry sectorization. It’s tempting to work on the assumption that a B2C event will be fundamentally different from a B2B one, but this assumption ignores the outcry for personalization. B2Me℠ is less about the B or the C, but about the individual, a way to connect on an interpersonal level that speaks directly to the unique experiences of each participant.
B2Me℠: A Collective Understanding of Unique Audience Perspectives
There is a set of profound realizations about what it is that all event audiences have in common. In our view, and running across all audiences, there are key shared needs that drive our ideas and design approach.
Human Connection – Nobody today, in any audience sector or from any demographic, will accept low standards and poor communication. Each event must create, and then fully leverage, opportunities for human connection. Audience engagement is not a solid block to be addressed. It is a dynamic and fundamental aspect of each event, with powerful potential to strengthen and leverage connections at individual levels, as well as on larger community levels.
Immediacy – There is nothing like first-hand experience, the feeling of really being there. The virtual and in-person experiences are not 1:1 comparisons and the perspectives of each audience need to be evaluated and considered as part of the design approach. Designing with both audiences in mind is imperative so all participants feel invested in the experience. Events need to engage viscerally. There must be sensory appeal to cut through the noise and create a unique space and moment in time.
Authenticity – The backbone of every event is the theme. Informed by the client’s core messaging, brand, and objectives, the event’s central design needs to serve the community in attendance. This is crucial. Every brand, in every context – from micro-brewery to global corporation – has an invested community. Authenticity is imperative to overall audience satisfaction and community loyalty. If you don’t believe it, the audience won’t either.
We can no longer solely delineate audiences by segmented B2B and B2C demographics, to reach them we need to recognize and design for their unique perspectives. The B2Me℠ approach ignites a level of extreme personalization that recognizes their value as engaged individuals. Whether connecting virtually or in-person, the overwhelming need for sensory and emotional engagement apply. Fall below the bar of meaningful connection, creative messaging, or delivery standards, and the result will be an instant fall off in engagement. Designing with the audiences’ differentiated perspectives in mind will drive community growth, elevate the event experience, and deliver the event objectives as inspiring takeaways with longevity.
Hargrove from Encore. In Transformed Times, Events That Transform.
Hargrove has delivered thousands of live events for 80 years. Today we also plan and deliver thousands of virtual and hybrid events. In making this statement, we humbly recognize the ongoing trust placed in us by our global client base. We gratefully acknowledge the passion and professionalism of our dedicated worldwide teams. And we proudly continue to grow our skills and knowledge base – and to offer our insights and best practices to events professionals everywhere – as we work side-by-side to futurescape the events industry.