A fresh perspective on community, event tech, & attendee messaging.
While in-person events have started happening in Asia, what the great “reset” has not accounted for is permission and confidence. How do large trade shows and exhibitions reinvent themselves for future events in 2021? Steve Corrick, CEO Americas at Comexposium sat down with Heather to discuss what constitutes success for event organizers in the digital context and why he thinks the current approach to building community may be flawed in thinking for certain types of organizers.
Key Learning 1: Community Doesn’t Need to Be 24/7, 365
“Community” has been a buzzword for event organizers as they’ve considered ways to restructure their business strategy during COVID. There are plenty of opportunities for organizers when it comes to a new community strategy. However, this concept is often viewed as needing to be 24/7, 365 connectivity. While it certainly can be, it doesn’t always have to be. A community could meet once a year and still be as true a community as one that’s active on a platform all year long.
Steve Corrick has seen this to be true with several Comexposium events. For example, a security meeting his organization puts on once a year in South Carolina. The attendees know one another well, look forward to the trip each year, and make attending it a priority. Though that community only really exists when Comexposium brings it together, it’s as genuine a community as they have. From Steve’s perspective, building community is about building trust, creating space for people to stay connected, and facilitating an authentic dialogue versus ensuring people are engaged in that community year round.
The way an event organization defines and creates community depends on the markets they serve, the size and goals of the event, access to means that will support the community, and whether building a community was a priority pre-COVID. Many leaders in the events industry, particularly those who run larger events, face the challenge of redefining themselves as being in the community business and need to realize that this isn’t something they can just switch on; it takes time to authentically build community and the way they do so doesn’t need to be based on one set definition.
Key Learning 2: New Skillets and Approaches
All areas of event organizers’ businesses need to be redefined and revamped. One of the most important areas Steve feels event organizers should focus on is refining their message quality and not continuing to use phrases like “biggest and best,” “thousands of exhibitors,” and “we’ve been around for 100 years.” Instead, what’s more important is to convey to the potential attendee what they will truly get out of the event and create a fear of missing out - this goes for in-person and online events alike. Further, Steve urges organizers to abandon the instinct to bombard their databases with emails until the recipients submit and register for the event.
Key Learning 3: Don’t Get Distracted by Flashy New Tech
While finding and evaluating new tools and technology that support new business models is bound to be part of an event organizer’s process, it’s equally important to look at the tools you already have and determine whether your organization has been utilizing them to their full potential. Steve found that the core benefits of several tools, including Comexposium’s CRM, were only being used at 70-80% of their utility pre-COVID. Taking time to look at their existing tech stack and understand how their existing tools could work together in a new context was a very important part of Comexposium’s updated strategy.
When teams spend too much time debating which platform to choose or get distracted by cool, flashy functions of new tech during the switch to virtual, it distracts from what the business needs to deliver and the value the organization needs to bring to attendees.
Additional Highlights From Steve Corrick’s Session:
Question: Do you see the in-person conferences dead 2021 onwards and being 100% virtual?
Answer: Predictions about the future are difficult. Having said that, not all events are meant for virtual. It is very challenging to evolve larger events that usually have millions of attendees to take place in an online environment. At some point, large live events at exposition centers are coming back. They will be augmented by online opportunities, but they will come back.
Question: What are your plans for 2021?
Answer: In the short term, we’re focusing on tactical things like shifting venues, dealing with vendors, and communicating expectations internally and externally. When it comes to the long term, management, leadership, and planning for every scenario and contingency are our focus. I can see true hybrid event opportunities for the second half of 2021 (in the U.S.).
Want to watch the full session recording? You can do so here.
More About Steve Corrick:
Steve Corrick joined Comexposium as Americas CEO in October 2016, now based in New York. He took responsibility for the existing businesses and those subsequently acquired. These cover a range of verticals including Franchise and Security. Previously, Steve held several leadership positions at UBM including SVP and Portfolio Director of the Manufacturing Group and VP of Sales for the Electronics Group.
In these roles, Steve was at the center of key strategic initiatives encompassing event launches, acquisitions and key partnerships in events and media. He helped develop new events throughout North America and launched the Advanced Manufacturing’s Groups international business. He has considerable experience of US and International B2B Markets, having worked in various sectors including technology, medical, food & beverage, art and manufacturing.
Connect with Steve on LinkedIn & Twitter, or contact us for an introduction.
Senior Market Development Manager, H2K Partners