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Why In-Person Events Still Make Sense

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Author: Ben Rainbow

November 4, 2021

While the pandemic caused in-person events to become less frequent over the last couple of years, they’re beginning to pick back up. Virtual events cannot replace the innumerable benefits of meeting people in person and building relationships with them face-to-face. With many people working from home, the opportunity to make new connections (or even meet the colleagues you work with) is a rarity, and many people are jumping at the chance to attend the right in-person event. It’s true that in-person events going forward will look a little different, but ensuring events are successful means being adaptable and able to navigate changing and challenging circumstances.

Building client relationships at events

In-person events are a great way to build your relationships with clients and partners. In an environment where you don’t have to talk about work, you can learn more about your clients on a personal level – from their family situation, to their favorite hobbies. You may find you have more in common than you first thought, and what was once a somewhat formal relationship has the potential to turn into genuine friendship. In the moments where you do decide to discuss work, you may even identify some opportunities the customer had not considered before and offer your help.

In-person events, such as LiveArea, a Merkle Company’s recent golf event, often result in everyone staying together for most of the day. Making your clients and partners feel safe in your company is a great way to build trust in the relationship. These clients and partners get to see you as human, and attending an event where there’s some healthy competition allows the clients to see that your team is able to learn and adapt quickly (such as learning to play golf) and strives to win. 

The bonds that can be built during these in-person events can give you an edge over your competitors. If you have a similar product offering to a competitor, but the client or partner knows that they’ll be able to reach out to you for support and feels that they know you on more of a personal level, this could encourage collaboration. Similarly, if the client or partner notices that your company has delivered a well-run, well-organized event that they enjoyed, and has seen that your colleagues can work well as a team, it gives them a great impression of your company. It makes it easier for them to consider “if the company can arrange an event to run as smoothly as that, especially under the ever changing circumstances of a global pandemic, this must extend to how they run their business.”

Precautions for in-person events

While in-person events are enjoyable, they are more complex to organize than before. While some people are comfortable to attend an event with no COVID precautions, some may not be, and you have to allow and adhere to these varying levels of comfort. To ease any concerns, it is essential to highlight what measures you have in place to ensure their safety. Make it clear where your COVID-19 policy can be found, consider holding the event outside where people can be adequately spaced out, allow attendees to wear masks, encourage them to take rapid lateral flow tests prior to the event (with those who receive positive results being unable to attend), and also give the option to attend virtually if possible. 

Salesforce recently held their annual Dreamforce event, where they collected everyone’s COVID health data onto QR codes that could be scanned at their convenience. While this is quite a high-tech precaution, it allowed Salesforce to demonstrate their own technological developments in a practical way, while reassuring attendees that they were safe to attend and move freely about the event.

You also have to account for a certain number of attendees to drop out last minute – whether due to positive COVID tests, changing anxieties about the event, or just other inconveniences that mean they can no longer attend. We know this affects in-person events differently to virtual events – you may have hired catering or hospitality for a certain amount of attendees. You may have to factor in a higher level of drop out – to avoid this be clear with your communications and build trust with your attendees. 

On the other hand, people have had scant opportunity to attend events in the last few years, and many people jump at the chance to have in-person interactions. You may find you have too much interest in your event (which is certainly not a bad thing!) so be sure to explore new technologies to engage your attendees and record additional interest to consider holding the event again.

Why are these events so important?

From the outside, some events may seem like an excuse to have a day out of the office having fun, they’re crucially important to driving the personal relationships you wouldn’t usually build in the office. They’re an opportunity to have quality conversations with clients and highlight possible opportunities that could have huge outcomes for your company. They’re a key driver of brand recognition – guests may not have been aware of the products you sell, or you’re the services you offer, which can lead to exciting conversations with potential solutions. While there may be a couple more precautions that need to be put in place than in previous years, your clients and prospects will appreciate that you have put effort into ensuring they feel safe and comfortable enough to not only attend your event, but to gain value and enjoy it. 

So much of life is moving online in recent times, but if you are trying to make an impact, to change perceptions and behavior or to inspire and motivate, nothing can replace the face-to-face interaction. Creating genuine relationships, appreciating, and understanding the nuances of your client’s and partner’s needs, networking will never go out of fashion. 

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