As a B2B marketer, you might be tempted to orchestrate an annual event that brings in major buyers for one massive networking, education, or sales opportunity. But although that approach might appear attractive on the surface, it isn't necessarily the most effective strategy.
A large annual event might draw a lot of attendees and attention; however, much of the content presented will be in the rearview mirror once the event is over. Plus, by anchoring everything to a single time and place, you exclude people unable or unwilling to attend.
The end result is that the event fails to account for everyone, and its impact will probably fade quickly.
Smaller, more frequent B2B events offer flexible, inclusive approaches to event planning. Regular events not only allow more people to attend but also incorporate accessibility for people with sensory or cognitive disorders, mental illnesses, hearing or visual impairments, or physical disabilities.
More frequent get-togethers also allow for long-term group work where all voices can be heard. When positive social interactions are repeated regularly, you build more trust and better relationships. Moreover, smaller groups tend to be more productive.
By investing in more intimate, recurrent events, you'll reap longer-lasting benefits and foster stronger, more inclusive business relationships. To get the most out of this type of event planning, however, you can't simply do everything the same way you would with an annual gathering. Instead, you need to fashion your regular events around a high standard of inclusivity and collaboration.
Improving inclusivity at your events isn't just the right thing to do; it's also good for business. Research shows that companies with diversity and inclusion initiatives consistently outperform their peers.
Here are three ways to plan events that prioritize inclusivity and teamwork and help you maximize ROI.
1. Offer a healthy mix of virtual, hybrid, and in-person opportunities
Virtual events go a long way toward removing barriers to entry for many groups of people. Event attendees no longer have to worry about travel accommodations or clearing out several full days in their schedules. That is beneficial to groups such as parents who might struggle to make time when children are home. Virtual events can also be more attainable for those with sensory or cognitive disorders, mental illness, or physical disabilities.
It's also easier to make special accommodations for everyone in remote settings. You can offer multiple communication options to make networking more accessible, such as text-to-speech, live interpreters, or video calls. You can also include live captioning and translations during presentations.
Hybrid events, meanwhile, showcase your commitment to inclusion by bringing together both options into one unified event. Offering only in-person and virtual events can artificially separate two audiences; hybrid events help ensure that doesn't happen.
2. Be mindful of B2B attendees' needs before, during, and after events
One part of inclusivity that's often overlooked is scheduling. Although it's unlikely that you'll find recurring times when everyone is free, there are considerations you can make to ease the pain of conflicting commitments.
Pay particular attention to holidays outside of your personal or cultural norm: Accidental conflicts with major cultural or religious holidays could exclude significant segments of your audience.
As for the events themselves, you should attempt to create environments and itineraries that address all of your attendees' needs, not just their business objectives. Set schedules that make room for fun and relaxation as well as networking and education. And for in-person events, don't forget to provide various food options and quiet, private spaces where attendees can go to recharge.
After an event, follow up with attendees about their experiences. Ask what they liked to find out what you can do better next time. Only the people who attended your event will be able to truly tell you whether you succeeded in creating something that was welcoming and accessible to everyone.
3. Promote regular collaboration
To strengthen teams and build trust, you need to maintain regular connections at functions. During workshops and team-building activities, try to keep the same people together at least part of the time to buoy collaboration and relationship-building.
Create an atmosphere of open communication and knowledge-sharing. Conferences shouldn't just be viewed as opportunities for you to talk at people. Rather, they should be looked at as meetings of minds. Celebrate teamwork and invest in collaborative tools. The more heard and engaged people feel, the more likely they'll want to come back.
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There can be value in annual conferences, but intimate, frequent events will provide more long-lasting benefits for most B2B businesses.
By creating inclusive environments where everyone can be heard, you can foster productive relationships that will last beyond any single event.
More Resources on Inclusive Events
You may like these other MarketingProfs articles related to Events:
- Virtual Event Trends: Businesses' Future Plans and Top Challenges
- The State of In-Person Events [Infographic]
- Webinar Invitations: Examples and Best-Practices
- Four B2B Event Marketing Takeaways From TikTok
- Event-Led Growth, A Powerful B2B Marketing Strategy: Mark Kilens on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]
- Rethinking Industry Events: Get Comfortable With Flexibility