From wider economic impacts to personal development gains, corporate events hold incredible value for hosts, exhibitors and attendees.
The value of attending a business event cannot be overstated. In fact, a US study found that 98% of attendees believed face-to-face meetings, conferences, and events essential to advancing their agency’s mission. Meanwhile, research from digital event company Bizzabo found that 87% of B2B marketers say in-person events are a critical component to their company’s success.
Not only do meetings offer ample networking, thought leadership and innovation opportunities, business events have the potential to elevate entire industries, creating cooperation between disparate elements, businesses, and individuals, bolstering morale, and increasing the chances of attracting new talent.
“Business events have a major role to play in domestic and international economic recovery bringing organisations back together with their people, their suppliers and clients and their professional communities,” says BESydney CEO Lyn Lewis-Smith.
“It’s important for corporate Australia to get their people back together both from a cultural point of view and to drive business outcomes. Whilst technology has an important role to play, it’s no substitute for the impact that can be achieved when people meet in person to connect, communicate and share knowledge and ideas.”
Research commissioned by the Business Events Council of Australia shows that, in 2020, almost all the business events scheduled – a total of 96% – were cancelled or postponed, with just 4% going ahead as originally planned. This amounts to total loss to the events market of between $29.4 and $35.7 billion. But, says Associate Professor Nitika Garg, a researcher at UNSW Business School, this doesn’t account for the wider economic impact on the community.
“Business events don’t just bring the direct expenditure in terms of running the events, but they contribute to the economy, and that is in the billions of dollars as well,” she explains. “Face-to-face business events are important because of that reason – the direct economic impact and the indirect one – both of those are substantial.”
When you combine lost wages and lost tourism revenue, the impact is truly staggering, demonstrating just how much value the business events industry generates for the wider Australian community. “We lost approximately $11.1 billion in wages – just the business events industry,” Associate Professor Garg adds. “And then think about the contractors, think about the suppliers – everyone suffered as a result of the hiatus.”
Building brand equity
Almost every industry holds and benefits from business events – whether it be a conference, summit or tradeshow. During these meetings, attendees are engaged and inspired to innovate by compelling content and – and connecting individuals with relevant businesses from within their industry.
“If all of our conferences become virtual, it will not only impact the economic side of things, but also the social side of things,” explains Associate Professor Garg. “Those are the big losses as well, which are not always measurable in dollar terms.”
That cost is not just being felt by individuals and the industry at large, but by the business owners and providers of valuable products and services who exhibit at business events. “The organisations that hold these events know that there’s so much they can achieve with a single event,” Associate Professor Garg adds. “Getting their target audience in one place and getting them to interact and form brand equity is invaluable – and face-to-face business events are an effective and efficient way for businesses to achieve objectives at a larger scale.”
In the absence of the value offered by face-to-face business events, many exhibitors are having to make connections the hard way, by going directly to suppliers and buyers and speaking to them independently. “So, you can quickly see the cost escalating in terms of time and effort,” says Associate Professor Garg.
Fostering creative collaboration and connection
Meetings give businesses, attendees and potential customers the power to connect on a whole new level, deepening understanding and cooperation between those participants in the events market who wouldn’t usually get the opportunity to come together.
The absence of this vital pillar of business has been felt most keenly in the wake of COVID-19.
“As humans, we’re social animals and we pick up on so many things apart from the spoken word,” says Associate Professor Garg. “Face-to-face events are critical in terms of building collaborative networks that industries, individuals, and organisations rely on.”
In fact, according to recent research by Roy Morgan on behalf of BESydney, when asked about the top business aspects most negatively impacted by COVID-19, networking opportunities was named as number one (35.9%). Training opportunities (35.7%) and teamwork (32.2%) were identified in second and third position, with communication close behind (31.8%).
“This research provides real-time insight into Australian sentiment as we continue to navigate through the pandemic,” Ms Lewis-Smith says. “Confidence has started to turn a corner and the need and desire to come back together both personally and professionally is rising.”
It all boils down to the fundamentals behind innovative collaboration and relationships, adds Associate Professor Garg.
“The catalyst for innovation is for ideas to percolate, for people to get the opportunity and the time to think about things and to discuss them in an open environment,” she explains. “In a face-to-face setting, we naturally get those opportunities and things evolve. For innovation, we need an environment that facilitates those organic, open-ended conversations. It’s the foundation of innovation in human society.”