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How COVID-19 can change business engagement for the better

Toby Lewis, CEO of Live Group on why businesses that take a blended approach that combines physical events with a digital presence can engage everyone.

Toby Lewis, Live Group

CEO

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Since the start of the pandemic, acres of newsprint have been devoted to the challenges which coronavirus throws up for how businesses engage with their audiences. But it seems less has been written about how it has changed audiences themselves.

Indeed, much commentary has focused on the negatives. In particular, with people largely confined to their homes, in-person networking and business events are impossible and so have had to move online.

But far from inhibiting engagement, this digital-first new reality actually creates opportunities for companies to improve the engagement they have with their audiences.

In particular, by adopting a blended approach to engagement through customised digital platforms, companies can not only satisfy their audiences like never before, but provide longer lasting more meaningful content, reduce their environment footprint and help with the wider economy recovery. 

Know your audience

Traditionally, in-person event audiences can be thought of as falling into one of three categories.

The first are those who love face-to-face human interaction. These people aren’t fazed by putting their hands up and asking questions in front of a large audience, as well as swapping business cards and making new connections.

The second category of people are more neutral. These can be persuaded to come to an event, but they’ll assess each one on a case by case basis.

The third category are then the polar opposite of the first. These are people who do not enjoy events and may often feel self-conscious and even intimidated when attending them. It is this final category of people who are the hardest to engage, and this is a massive issue for business, not least as studies have found around one in four UK adults consider themselves shy.

However, looking at the audiences that have been using our digital events platform over the last year, it is the third category where we have seen the most dramatic growth in engagement.

This is because a blended approach to events which combines the online with the offline means that engagement is more meaningful and targeted. In particular, data can be used to more accurately measure engagement so that content is tailored, adapted and becomes more impactful over a longer timeframe.

The ultimate benefit of this approach is that it levels the playing field for the three traditional categories of audience. It empowers them to engage in a way that actually suits them. And the commercial benefits of this are clear, with a chunk of people who may previously have been excluded or would not have returned to an event, actually now being made to feel more valued and welcome.

Long term returns

But this enhanced return on investment is not a one off. In fact, it’s more like compound interest.

This is because being able to measure engagement rates more accurately means that businesses can develop more refined KPIs for their engagement in the first place. And once they have a better understanding of what it is they are really trying to achieve, they can then refine engagement even further.

For example, organisations can keep engaging with audiences long after a single keynote presentation, and instead enable multiple conversations with the audiences who matter to their business. Our virtual platform does this by acting as a central hub for the events we organise, putting the user experience front and centre. Collaboration between participants is facilitated in a number of ways, through online forums for debates, instant messaging, video chat, content libraries and dedicated galleries for sponsors. We also have an interface with LinkedIn to ensure lasting engagement post-event.

Change matters, not only for the planet but for companies that want to stay in business as consumers become more and more environmentally conscious

Toby Lewis

Sustainable engagement

The other major benefit of such a blended approach to engagement is the environmental one.

Change is needed. The UK events industry emits 1.2bn kg of CO2e from diesel generators every year according to a report from Hope Solutions and the average event wastes around 15%-20% of the food it produces as Lime Event Portfolio revealed in a recent report.

And change matters, not only for the planet but for companies that want to stay in business as consumers become more and more environmentally conscious. This is why we have developed a Sustainability Calculator for clients to determine the environmental impact of an event, taking into account factors such as delegate travel, food and water usage, and energy consumption.

Open for business

Finally, a blended approach is also the means by which businesses can ensure that economic activity comes roaring back, even if we are living with the pandemic and various restrictions for some time to come.

That’s because networking and engagement not only helps fuel business, it is big business itself. Pre-pandemic, the events industry was estimated to be worth £70 billion in direct spend and accounted for over 50% of spending in the UK visitor economy.

It is therefore clearly vital that as the country attempts to build back better, businesses need to seek out ways of engaging with the audiences that matter, be that customers, clients, partners or employees so as to keep the wheels of commerce turning.

Now is the time to reach out, even if we can’t do it in person for a little while yet.

Guest Author

Toby Lewis, Live Group

CEO,

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Toby Lewis is CEO of Live Group.

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