Five tips to B2B events can adopt from B2C Events

In November 2022, an Executive Round Table was sponsored and presented by MDG/Freeman/SISO at The San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival. The morning sessions were Drawing Inspiration from Consumer Events and Festivals (B2C) to B2B events and Connecting the Dots Between B2C and B2B.

Speakers included Michelle Metter, co-owner and producer of the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival; David Glanzer, chief communications and strategy officer, San Diego Comic Convention (yes, THAT one!); Yinka Freeman, owner, Triple Pocket Events; Kevin Leap, director, Fully Charged LIVE North America; Doug Richter, founder, Meritage Entertainment; Laurel McFarlane, CEO, McFarlane Promotions and Greg Topalian, CEO Clarion North America.

They all agreed that the focus of all events should be on the visitor experience. As Greg said: “If you bring in the [right] attendees, the exhibitors and sponsors will follow.” I agree. Deliver the audience and your sponsors and exhibitors will be more than happy to pay for the access.

Here are five (ish) tips from the two sessions:

1. Use the passion people in your industry have for your events. Make it enjoyable! Re-examine every aspect of the event from your attendees’ perspective. Is it easy to register and attend? Is it offering fresh experiences? Is the content new, or the same old, same old? What do you have that can surprise and delight your audience?

a. Gather your whole team to brainstorm new ideas. Divide up into groups so there are representatives from sales, marketing, ops, customer service and management on each team. Listen to your junior members. Just because you may have tried something 10 years ago, it doesn’t mean it won’t work (with tweaks) now.

b. Speak with your service providers. They work a lot of events and probably have suggestions you should consider.

c. Go to other events that are not in your industry. Observe what they are doing and see if you can adapt some of their ideas for your own expos.

2. Spend money to make your event experiential. In other words, the investment you make in changing things up to surprise and delight your visitors is worth the cost. Does it mean adding rides (a la Festivalisation)? No. Lounges with free coffees or fun activations or engagements (puppies anyone?) - yes. Inspire and manifest new ideas onto your show floors. Who knows? Maybe if one or two resonate, they can be sponsored – if not this year, then next.

3. Regarding sponsorships – what are the goals of your sponsors? What do their brands want to achieve by purchasing sponsorships – and how will your event deliver it? This means getting out of the same old, same old (see a pattern here?). Collaborate with your sponsors. They may have amazing ideas. Just because something hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean it won’t work. It simply means it hasn’t been done before!

4. ROI is no longer Return on Investment. Laurel said It means Return on Intention. Why did your visitors get up off their couches and travel to come to your event? What are their purposes for attending? It’s the same questions for sponsors and exhibitors. What can you as show management do to help deliver on those intentions? 

a. This means talking to your visitors – in depth. More importantly, it also means talking to those potential visitors who don’t attend your event to find out why – then make the necessary changes to entice them for the next edition. It’s tough work, but the results are worth it.

5. Encourage Social Sharing. Have Instagramable moments scattered throughout your show floor. Hold competitions for posts, retweets, reposts and the like. Those lounges and activation areas we referenced? Think innovative design. Use FOMO to drive engagement and intention to visit and participate in the next edition. Business events don’t have to be boring. Make it fun!

As David Glanzer said: “Make the user experience the very best that you can.” B2C events are about communities sharing a passion. So should B2B.