INTERVIEW WITH JEAN-PIERRE DUBOIS AND LAURENCE DUFOUR-BOUCHARD
Meet Jean-Pierre Dubois (JPD) and Laurence Dufour-Bouchard (LDB): the founder of B2B/2GO and our Director of Operations. Combined, they have both garnered over 30 years of experience in the event industry, first working in event logistics before starting B2B/2GO, an event technology company, in 2011.
Today they are here with us to share their thoughts on virtual events and delve into how B2B/2GO has made the turn to virtual.
Making the best of virtual tools
Virtual events being a new territory for many event professionals, we have witnessed a surge in information sharing between event experts. In the last few months, our team has attended virtual events and used online tools to stay connected with our industry:
LDB: “Personally, LinkedIn has been the platform that has helped me stay connected with people of the industry. My network of contacts often shares events and publications on the event and business sector.”
LinkedIn is a great resource for event professionals who wish to stay up to date with recent developments and engage with professionals who are experiencing similar changes. Check your timeline regularly or follow common hashtags such as #eventtech and #eventprofs to keep track of global trends.
Addressing the challenges of virtual events
Virtual events have also been a great source of knowledge within our team. Recently, we have found that event professionals have come together to share their creative findings and help each other out.
These exchanges have also highlighted the many limitations we must adapt to as event professionals in 2020.
1. Engage your audience
One of the biggest challenges faced by event planners has been to drive participation and engagement at virtual events. How do we communicate the value of virtual events and ensure audiences will want to integrate these into their day-to-day life at home?
JPD: “I believe that participants won’t necessarily have the choice in the upcoming year; they will have to consider virtual tools if they wish to stay in contact with their network.”
As Jean-Pierre noted, virtual events are not only an opportunity for participants to further their knowledge, but mostly a great solution to stay in touch with members of their industry. Creating engagement amongst your audience can be tricky but ultimately makes your event memorable and worth-while.
2. Get specific
Previously, attending an event was a big commitment – events had to offer a variety of topics to make sure participants would stay busy every minute of the day.
In the context of virtual events, we have found that this strategy isn’t effective:
LDB: “I have participated in a few interesting webinars, however I think that, generally speaking, the topics chosen are too broad. I would rather attend smaller group discussions where the conversation is targeted.”
Because virtual events are a new territory for many, it is natural to address this rising industry on a global scale. However, from home, participants can decide to leave an event in a click if they don’t find your content engaging.
Therefore, when planning a virtual event, make sure to adapt your engagement strategy: we suggest offering shorter conferences that address specific topics.
3. Communicate with your team
In the same vein, ensuring relevant exchanges between participants requires preparation and organization amongst your team. In Laurence’s opinion, we will also be facing an organizational challenge, particularly in terms of communication between team members:
LDB: “In terms of organizing an event from home, the biggest challenge in my opinion is communication. Organizing an event is team work and even though we have access to many tools that help us collaborate from a distance, organizing an event from home is difficult. For example, coordinators will divide tasks, but all tasks are inter-related. It’s important to prioritize communication between colleagues, even if we aren’t all working under the same roof.”
4. Promote efficiently
Lastly, both Jean-Pierre and Laurence agree that the event industry will face a promotional challenge. On one hand, Laurence believes that it could become harder to promote an event online:
LDB: “Now that everyone is at home, I think that our time spent in front of screens has increased. You could think its easier to promote your event online because you are reaching more people. However, the public is actually swamped with online events and activities. The danger with using one medium to promote is to saturate the public with too much choice!”
Jean-Pierre also attributes it this challenge to new funding limitations:
JPD: “Sponsors could be difficult to find. Companies may demand more from every dollar spent in events. This means smaller funds from sponsors and lower registration numbers.”
Our response to virtual challenges
In light of this, it becomes crucial for our industry to offer creative solutions and events that are, above all, well-thought-out.
Our team has reflected on these challenges and innovated our product on multiple fronts, with our main aim remaining to streamline networking:
LDB: “We know that not all events are made for everyone. The content, the medium and even the participants can contribute to my satisfaction of an event. By accepting this reality, we can then focus on a precise goal: how to gather the right people at your event. At B2B/2GO, we follow the logic that nothing should be left to chance.”
1. Precision networking
To achieve this, we have created a product that helps participants connect with the right people and create their own event schedules.
LDB: “Our networking platform offers the necessary tools so that participants don’t leave anything to chance when attending an event. They can see in detail the topics of activities, they can take a look at the list of participants, chat with them individually before the activity to confirm their interests … and finally participants can make their own schedule based on the time they wish to spend at the event!”
2. Streamlining your event
We have also worked towards improving our user experience. Our users are given the necessary tools to maximize their participation at an event:
LDB: “Our aim with the platform is always to offer a simple and efficient experience. That’s why we gathered all activities (conferences, round tables and meetings) and virtual rooms on one platform.”
3. Thinking long-term
Lastly, we have also adapted to the reality of virtual events by offering long-term platforms. This gives users the opportunity to connect with each other over a longer period of time, and attend networking activities over the course of months:
JPD: “The platform has adapted to virtual events. Next, we are focusing on the possibility of offering the platform on a monthly basis. We predict our users will want to know more about their industry and interact with their peers. Having a platform that does both (events and long-term interactions) is definitely very advantageous.”
Overall, the past few months have been very formative for the event industry. Faced with adversity, the industry has come together to identify and face our new challenges. Although virtual events have only recently gained attention, we believe they will be part of our collective future as event professionals:
JPD: “Even though there will always be a need for people to meet in person, virtual tools will always be alternative that facilitates exchanges and help bypass travel expenses.”
In fact, event professionals are already envisioning a hybrid future and we are of the same opinion:
JPD: “The union between on-site and virtual events will happen, I am convinced of that. Actually, we are already offering this solution to our clients for events in 2021. Hybrid events may have lower attendance rates on-site, but they will help participants get in touch with more people than they used to be able to at traditional events.”
For a few final words, we wish to thank our fellow event professionals for their willingness to share and their immense support. It’s only the beginning of virtual events and we hope that our input was thought-provoking.
The B2B/2GO team.