Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater

COVID 19 sucks. It has brought our industry uncertainty and unknowns. There is no one that has been spared from its grasp, only the degree in which one is gripped. The convention and events industry and face-2-face marketing has been upended.

Quite the opening paragraph. But here is an even stronger statement. Recovery will happen.

But there are certainly questions in regards to recovery. The big question that is currently perplexing everyone is the timetable in which it happens. Poretta & Orr has been in business for over 35 years and we have weathered a number of challenges within the industry such as 9/11 and the recession in 2008, both of which also brought severe disruptions to conventions and events. While this is different and on a larger scale, there are certainly similarities.

However, we are not naïve. It will take a while and there may be aspects of the conventions and events industry that will be different. And that may be a good thing. But there is one thing I know for certain. No incident in past history, and there have been many, has kept people away from people long-term. We will figure this out. It may take time and it may look a little different but we will be back because the value and effectiveness of face-to-face marketing is indisputable.

As the pandemic begins to slow down, whether because of a flattened curve or a vaccine, the hope is all of us will be ready to move forward. Recently we’ve all participated in a number of Zoom and WebEx meetings lately, right? And virtual happy hours, well, those were fun for about a week. If you listen closely, what is everyone saying during those calls? I can’t wait to see you. I can’t wait to go back to normal. I can’t wait to see you face-to-face.

There is no replacing face-to-face meeting. The experiential element, the spontaneous exchange of ideas, the ability to generate revenue, and from an educational standpoint, whether about brand or product there is no substitute. As we navigate forward, pivoting to virtual events can be helpful. But they are not a replacement.

Many reading this may ask whether virtual meetings are here to stay. Well, virtual meetings have been around forever. In a recent study at PCMA, Professional Convention Management Association, whose members are event planners, 7 out of 10 respondents moved their upcoming face-to-face event to some type of a virtual platform during COVID 19, and see this as an adjunct to their in-person events going forward. In fact, the coronavirus pandemic may have quashed the longstanding fear that virtual events will cannibalize future face-to-face events:

  • Less than one-quarter of event planners said that is something they worry about
  • 62 percent of event planners said that is not a concern they share

This means that virtual events are currently viewed as an option available to move forward in our current environment but not as long-term replacement for face-to-face meetings.

And apparently we are craving face-to-face meetings.

There are currently more than 300 million American workers that are working from home to help flatten the curve in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID 19. In a blink of an eye, thousands of tradeshows, conventions, events and meetings have been postponed or cancelled.

A recent survey by APCO (Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials), suggests that American workers, particularly those who attended in-person meetings and conventions before the pandemic are:

  • Eager to return as attendees once COVID 19 is contained
  • 83% of Americans currently forced to work from home say they miss attending in-person meetings and conventions
  • 78% say they plan to attend as many or more when the threat of COVID-19 passes and it is safe to do so

COVID 19 didn’t change the effectiveness of face-to-face to marketing. So as we pivot and change some of our strategies to meet short-term goals in the face of this pandemic, let us not forget that:

  • 80% of marketers feel that face-to-face marketing is the most effective means marketing. (Freeman)
  • A recent study found that over 90% of consumers have more positive feelings about brands after attending a live event (EventTrack)
  • CEIR (Center for Exhibition Research) reports that 60% of respondents indicate there is no approval process for events done regularly, making the case of the value of face-to-face marketing.
  • 84% of leadership (Vice President and C-Suite) believe in-person events are a critical component of their company’s success. (Bizzabo)
  • Most event marketers believe that face to face events are the single most effective marketing channel over digital advertising, email marketing and content marketing. (Event Marketing)

As we continue to explore options to keep our businesses moving forward during this crisis, let’s remember that the value of face-to-face marketing did not diminish. It is only on the back burner during this crisis. Face-to-face marketing will be back. Let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. We’ll get rid of COVID 19, keep the baby and thrive again at conventions and events.

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