The event landscape post-Covid is still being discussed and debated. Will we see a complete return to large in-person events? Will webinars and virtual conferences remain a central element in professional service firms? How will attendance at both types of activities change as we move into a ‘new normal’?

It’s not easy to tell which way firms will go, as both have their attractive qualities. Nothing beats a face-to-face event when the goal is to build relationships, however, the last year has proved that the transfer of knowledge can be effectively achieved via virtual engagement.

We’ve noticed a trend amongst clients and friends within professional services as they move into hybrid working; the popularity of tailored, niche online conferences. After a year of mass virtual events, webinars and digital forums, it seems that we’ve begun to settle on what works best; tailored, niche virtual situations, focusing on a small audience who hold similar values.

The focus of these sessions can cover a wide range of targeted topics, such as climate change, women in finance, ABM strategy, digitisation, diversity or sustainability.

This form of event seems to be the prevailing strategy to create discussion and engagement industry wide, via virtual means. As webinar fatigue wipes out the generalised conferences and roundtables (which rarely give enough time for audience interaction), these ‘bite-sized’ events, as Ben Hindman, CEO of Splash, calls them, have remained successful.

Furthermore, this style of engagement provides a new avenue for building relationships. While in-person events will forever hold their own with their benefits of face-to-face discussion, niche, topic-based webinars have their own set of values.

Niche webinars of this nature often result in improved attendance of more senior decision makers and influential figures. Dedicating 45 minutes to discussing your shared passions online with others can seem much more attractive than commuting into central London for a full morning in front of a never-ending PowerPoint deck.

These targeted events are also hugely cost-effective. At a time when professional services have taken a real hit, and the board are perhaps questioning the importance of all the aspects of the marketing and BD budget, generating cost-effective networking will be welcomed.

Another value of knowledge sharing through smaller groups with similar interests, is that you’re boosting the probability that attendees are paying attention. Salesforce CMO, Stephanie Buscemi, asserted that “six, eight, 10 people together in a virtual forum is the only way you can get everyone to stay engaged. Once you get over eight people on the line, somebody is going to be tuning out. You can’t really have a meaningful conversation”.

With almost every professional services firm in the UK having hosted a virtual event of some sort in the last 14 months, making yours stand out is challenging to say the least. Curating the experience of the webinar to suit the attendees is a much easier task when there are less than 20 to cater to. Read up on your attendees pre-webinar, and include information that will add value to the individuals within your virtual room.

There’s no doubt that many people are itching for a bit of in-person networking as soon as possible, and we’re expecting that those events will hold an important role in the post-Covid hybrid economy. That being said, it is important to acknowledge virtual events’ place in this new economy also. Creating bite-sized, niche webinars and round tables are an effective way to knowledge share that will ensure an engaged audience – and keep those in control of the marketing budget happy. 

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