The Business Case for Face-to-Face Events

Jill Anonson
Jill Anonson

Event attendees enjoying a face-to-face event

Business meetings and events have been around since there was business—seems like forever.

In-person events mean people make the journey—in many cases long distances—forgoing valuable time with their families and their work to attend.

Accordingly, these events had to be worth the time and effort. In a huge way.

But, in this age of technology and streaming like Facebook Live, Instagram Live or Periscope (to name a few), many companies are considering a digital-focused event rather than the traditional face-to-face event.

“Why bother with in-person events when we can loop everyone in on a live video stream,” marketers ponder. “What’s the use?”

Sure, an online event could mean cost savings or make it easier for your people to attend. But there is tremendous business value you’ll lose out on.

Here are just a few key reasons face-to-face events still are the best value for your event marketing spend.

Bang for Your Buck

Digital marketing experts estimate that most Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day. Clearly, consumers are becoming desensitized to traditional advertising, and brands are realizing it. As more brands turn to in-person activations to get closer to customers, experiential and event marketing budgets will continue to grow.

According to Forrester research, the average Chief Marketing Officer allocates 24% of their total annual budget to live events.

In-person events create the necessary push for deals to happen, which is why marketers need to maximize attendee engagement.  In addition to building brand equity, events also have significant ROI implications. According to a study by Event Track, it indicates that 48% of brands receive an ROI of 3:1 to 5:1 and 29% realize a ratio 10:1 or higher. Talk about bang for your buck.

Build Profitable Relationships and Communities

Basic human interaction is the foundation of strong relationships and creating such connections is the core to a sustainable business strategy. In-person events consistently resonate with customers and their effectiveness can be directly attributed back to their focus on people. According to one survey, 93% of consumers claimed that live events had a larger influence on them than TV ads.

These facts point toward one thing: in-person events provide more than an opportunity for you to engage with your audience. They allow you to bring like-minded people together to learn and connect in a way that isn’t possible online.

When there’s a bottomless number of people, each with bottomless ideas, it’s hard to stay focused and build those mutually beneficial relationships online, says Sanjay Dholakia, the former CMO of Marketo.

“There’s so much information online today that you can’t blast your way through it anymore,” he said. “In this crazy digital, mobile, social world, we now have infinite channels, so there’s much more noise. It’s hard to get the signal through.”

In the age of digital marketing and advertising, events are the final frontier. They may not be as easy as online communication, but building real, profitable relationships and communities won’t happen over the internet.

Let Your Brand Story Resonate

Aside from the product and imagery behind them, what makes Starbucks different than Caribou? McDonald’s different than Burger King? Or Nike different than Adidas?

Stories are in everything you do and everything a brand does can become a story. When you incorporate your story into every component of your event, you keep your brand front-of-mind at every available opportunity.

When people physically attend your event, you can surround them with your brand and touch on all five senses: touch, sight, taste, smell and hearing. When they’re logging on to a digital event, they only see and hear what the camera wants them, limiting their experience—and interaction with your brand.

When you immerse your attendees in your brand for the duration of the event, you make an impact, even before and after. When you create a lasting impression, you get the substantial ROI your event needs.

Get More Leads, Close More Deals

Think of chatting with a client over Skype. Then think of chatting with that same client over dinner at a cool restaurant. Which circumstance do you feel more comfortable with?

Clearly, it’s easier to befriend someone in real life than online. And having the ability to network and socialize creates real business opportunities. After all, 93% of business executives say meetings improve their ability to close deals.

According to a report from Meeting Professionals International (MPI), 40% of prospects converted to new customers after a face-to-face meeting. Even more impressive, 95% say face-to-face meetings are essential for long-term business relationships.

There's no better place for that than the friendly confines of your own events. The more positive touchpoints prospects have with your brand—it takes at least 7 to 13+ to deliver a quality sales lead—the more likely they'll choose you. Ask any salesperson and they will agree: in-person meetings help close sales deals. For existing sales opportunities, an event can be the catalyst to close the deal—and a stronger one than any digital component.

Generate Economic Impact Locally

The Super Bowl doesn’t just benefit the team that wins or their fans. The host city usually ends up with a healthy chunk of money in their pocket, too. Case in point: Super Bowl LII brought in a whopping $400 million in additional profits, spread about hotels, restaurants, coffee shops or any other place tourists would drop money.

OK—your event isn’t the Super Bowl. But that doesn’t mean your event doesn’t improve your community, and, in turn, you.

Smaller meetings and events generate real economic impact. Your attendees drive, fly or take a train to get there. They stay at hotels. They eat, drink and (gasp!) sneak out early for a chance to shop.

In other words, in-person meetings contribute wealth to communities around the globe, not just your company.

Fuse Digital Accessibility with In-Person Meetings

Fun fact: many modern toasters surpass the computing power used to put a man on the moon. The smartphones, tablets and laptops we find commonplace are blisteringly fast, and technology evolves and grows more rapidly than we can keep up with.

With technology as powerful and readily accessible as it is today, ignoring that power to benefit your in-person meeting is a missed opportunity. After all, 81% of internet and mobile audiences watched more live video in 2016 than in 2015, according to Livestream. This already-high percentage is expected to increase in 2018 and the years to come as more self-service vendors and platforms come into the market.

Get larger results from your meeting or event by morphing it into a hybrid event—the happy balance of an in-person and digital meeting. According to Digitell, 30% of people who watch a live stream of an event will attend the same event in person the following year. That’s a win for your event today—with more people hearing your message—and an investment in your event the next time around.

Ready to start making your events an integral part of your company’s marketing mix? Find out how to drive impressive growth with our ebook, 7 Ways to Make Your Event More Strategic.

strategic events ebook

Jill Anonson

Jill Anonson

Jill Anonson has over 20 years of diverse experience in event management, incentive travel and sales strategy, and serves as the Events Strategy Advisor at ITA Group. Focused on continuous improvement and challenging standards, she consults clients and team members with impactful strategies and innovative ideas that deliver successful business outcomes. She is a Certified Engagement Practitioner, and certified through Pragmatic Marketing.