Futurist Mindset: How Events and Exhibitors Must Re-Imagine the Attendee Experience

Blog, Digital Futurist, Events, Virtual Events

Early this month I was honored to be the keynote speaker as well as moderate and industry leader panel at the Center for Exhibition Industry Research yearly event CEIR Predict. As with most events this year, it was a hybrid experience with in-person attendees and speakers live at MGM Inner Harbour and online attendees watching the live stream.

Below is a write-up from the panel that I moderated which included Joey Graziano, SVP at National Basketball Association, Melissa Ashely Advisor at AirFair and Leana Salamah, Vice President, Marketing | International Housewares Association.

Joey Graziano participated via Zoom and was able to interact with myself the moderator in a true hybrid experience!

Panelists from the 2021 #CEIRPredict provide key findings on how marketing and digital transformation will impact the future of B2B exhibitions.

“We are not going back to the way we ran events before the Pandemic. It is essential to rethink/reimagine what the future is going to look like.”

Brian Fanzo, Futurist (Tweet This)

When speaking with panelists from the recent CEIR Predict session on marketing and digital transformation, a clearer picture of our industry’s future came into focus. 

In this forward-glance, we measure our Total Available Market as the world, and we’re are no longer limited by physical boundaries because we’ve mastered personalization-and-customization-at-scale. 

Sounds nice. 

Joey Graziano, SVP Business Development & Global Events, National Basketball Association, also believes this profit/experience utopia need not be just a dream. It comes down to leadership, clarity of intent, and monetizing live, viral moments. The key to Graziano is,

We need our engagement and monetization strategies to stop being mutually exclusive. The best strategy reimagines the experience for our audience AND drives the P&L.” 

Joey Graziano, NBA

Melissa Ashley, Advisor, Airfair, put it this way, “Everybody shifted to using technology to navigate the marketplace. The customer has the choice of when, where, and how.”  

This dynamic will not be shifting back. When given multiple choices of how you want to consume your content, why would you ever wish to have your preferences withdrawn? You wouldn’t – and our audiences won’t either. 

So what now? How should our organizational leaders prepare and empower their teams for a digital future? How can they leverage an economy of creators and serve audiences who have extensive choices of where they receive their content?

The key to unlocking the value of the medium may live within the very nature of Communities.  

Brian Fanzo believes that a key to unlocking value could live with relatability, “If influencer marketing is the business of trust or an extension of trust, the Creator economy monetizes and builds community across platforms.” He goes further, 

“This is the most connected generation ever. It isn’t that the younger generation has no attention span; they just have no tolerance for irrelevant content.”

Futurist Keynote Speaker Brian Fanzo Hosting Panel on Digital Transformation within events and exhibitions industry

The opportunity is there.

Graziano believes firmly in the responsibility of leadership in plotting this future, “As leaders, it is our job to take a problem, develop simple success metrics, push them forward, and enable people to decide the ‘how.’” Empowerment drives ownership. This shift in mindset could be the difference between holding onto traditional ideas and becoming poised to capitalize real-time on moments of live engagement. 

He gave a few examples:

  • Think about a soap opera, right? The writers know what’s going to happen next. In many events, you know the viral moments because you scripted them with your speakers and entertainment. How can you monetize that? 
  • You have an online event with 50,000 people, and they’re all paying $99. Perhaps 20,000 of those same attendees would pay $250 for a personalized experience. How do you find that out and offer that experience?

He added an important distinction. I call it out as a distinction because there is something our industry has been hesitant to mutter. Graziano’s perspective is, “We need to shift our mindset from ‘nothing is as good as live’ to ‘live is one valuable entry point’ and use our content to reach hundreds of thousands of people globally.”

Throughout the Pandemic, we’ve all spoken the phrase, ‘Nothing will replace the power of face to face.’ We believe it, and we’re not wrong, but it could be that we’re unintentionally limiting our sphere of influence – and at the same time, eroding our teams’ confidence in other mediums.  

Specific to COVID-19 and our response to it, Graziano sees it as, of course, a tragedy but also an opportunity. “COVID-19 destroyed our sense of connection. It gave us new fears and futures. And yet, it created an opportunity for us to innovate, define new audiences, remove bureaucracy and emerge stronger.” 

This perspective became even more powerful when we learned that Graziano’s father is a retired NYC firefighter and 9/11 survivor. He taught Joey and his siblings that it is the sum of our responses that define us. He would ask, “If your neighbor’s house was on fire, would you run into it?”

The sum of our responses. 

If anyone reading this hasn’t yet leveraged the Pandemic to innovate with your teams and prepare for our collective future, now is the time. 

For an industry that has always been about its people, we can make that happen. We can look after one another’s houses – even when they aren’t on fire.

To help your teams, we’ve summarized all the findings from the Thought Leaders – Focus on Focus on Marketing & Digital Transformation for you.

Key Findings:

Best Practices:

  • The future of marketing is relatability – people want to connect and understand what is important to them. Your brands can be relatable through authenticity. 
  • The future of business is Community. You can build Community with customers, staff, clients, etc. 
  • Individual creators create their own communities. The creator economy monetizes and builds Community across platforms. (Platforms changed the word “attendees” to communities)
  • Digital enables us to do more in-person. How one uses tech will ultimately enhance the in-person experience. Repackage content and release it over time. 

Creating Value: 

  • Most obstacles are imaginary and are really opportunities.
  • Organizers need to create exclusivity, scarcity, personalization and customization. 
  • Research indicates trade shows are coming back, but you can supplement them with other content year-round.
  • You can do nearly anything digitally. Organizers must drive additional value and raise the bar.

Tapping into emotions:

  • Organizers must address the emotional reasons people go to trade shows. Foster creativity; do not control it. 
  • Prioritize engagement and Community – look at where you are not positioned and look to outsource to organizations that do this well.
  • Empower creators and embrace that they think differently.
  • Want people to feel ‘these are my people, people I can trust.’
  • Empower loyalty!
  • Brands aren’t great. The people behind the brand make it great.

Join us again next week as we continue our conversations with CEIR Predict panelists. Next Up: Focus on Industry Disruptors. 

Ps. If you’re thinking, ‘Wait, wasn’t this week’s content about disruptors?’  You’re not wrong. Everything covered above is about digital and marketing disruption specifically, but as we know, disruption isn’t limited to those topics. Next week we’ll explore ways you can support your teams as they build a culture of inclusivity, navigate the future of work, and protect their employees, attendees, and customers from physical and cyber security threats. 

Originally posted at: https://ceirblog.wordpress.com/2021/10/17/ceir-predict-post-event-focus-on-digital-transformation-session/

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