Live events: it’s a kind of magic

Events companies have brilliantly kept their communities of buyers and sellers connected through online events during Covid. But while many of these events have been excellent, they are unlikely to usurp their live counterparts.

That’s because face-to-face communication is richer than all other forms. There’s plenty of science to back this up. You may have heard it said that communication is 92% non-verbal. This statistic stems from studies conducted 50 years ago by social scientist Dr Albert Mehrabian. He found that facial expressions convey the bulk of a person’s message (53%), tone of voice plays another part (38%), and the actual words carry only a fraction of the meaning (7%). You might argue that Zoom and the like can still convey facial expression and tone. But we’re instinctive, sensory creatures and most of us would agree that online events just don’t ‘feel’ the same.

Live events aren’t just a better communication experience. They are also incredibly time efficient. In a day you can meet established contacts, make new connections, explore potential commercial partners, research a market or technology and get a whole market view of the latest products and services.

Another key consideration is that live events make senior decision-makers more accessible. C-suite executive’s mobile number. While such decision-makers may relish being inaccessible, this keeps them isolated, cut off from those chance conversations and meetings which could prove invaluable. A live event redresses this. It gives senior buyers the opportunity to check out smaller niche players who they would never otherwise meet. This is good for both parties and for a sector’s innovation.

Such innovation will be crucial this year. For instance, I was chatting to the Easyfairs team working on Antwerp XL, an event supporting the niche of maritime breakbulk. Their research among 105 of breakbulk’s top decision-makers identified an industry with a lot of pent-up plans. A fifth aim to launch a new product over the course of the year, 38% a new service, one in five will be expanding into a new geography and 17% will be moving into a new sector. Such plans would be much harder to implement without live events.

These events also help at times of great technological change and research by StocExpo, an event focused on bulk liquid storage, illustrates just how much of this is taking place. Digitalisation, big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, the IoT and drones are just some of the technologies the sector’s companies – and organisations across our economy – are grappling with. Such transformative tech involves ecosystems of players working together, and they congregate first at live events.

Lastly live events are important also for both the national and the trade media. In our own survey, 137 journalists told us that with live events cancelled, 49% were struggling to interact with the market and 38% had lost access to valuable contacts and content.

Digital events have been a great substitute, but they won’t replace live events any time soon. There’s magic in live events, and I for one can’t wait for their return.

Source: Exhibition World

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