Monday, October 26, 2009

There Will Always be a Place for Face2Face

The panic in traditional media today is painfully evident. The watchword of the day is “digital.” Old marketing and media assumptions are being tossed out. It’s not just a cyclical situation. It’s a secular change in the sense of a long-term, large scale phenomenon as big as the advent of radio or TV or even movable type. So why am I sure that events aren’t going the way of print media?

People are social animals. We like social interaction, which is one reason digital social media is red hot. The media world has been transformed by the internet and the pace of this transformation will accelerate. Human nature, however, has not changed. That is why face-to-face events, the original social media, developed over thousands of years of human experience, will remain one of the best communication tools for business.

Events are naturally engaging. You’ve heard laughter spread across a room almost instantly at a conference. Live in-person events uniquely ease exploration, create opportunities for exchange, and allow instant adjustment of your message. You can respond to the wince, the look of wonder, the wink, or the smile. You can see if your audience is paying attention or checking their email. Live events foster a level of audience concentration and focus that other media cannot duplicate.

Events are compelling. Can you recall a recent experience you’ve had, as part of a crowd? Do you remember how you felt? Chances are that your memories are visceral. People react to what they see, hear, smell, and feel. They can move around, join in and ask questions. Participation motivates and mobilizes people by powerfully stimulating the social senses.

Events build trust. Think of a person you’ve recently met, face-to-face and another you met by email or phone. Who did you get to know better, quicker? Trust is fundamental to effective communication. Trust is essential to building loyalty for your organization and brand. Trust motivates positive action. People believe what they experience first-hand. The rich experiential environment of events can be the key to building trust. People are highly receptive in an appropriate event setting.

Events make money. Even in this very tough environment profitable events are being staged every day. Well conceived and executed events deliver high returns on investment. Events effectively build relationships and convey information that leads to action. From sales meetings to major public events, these investments can pay-off consistently. Events can be a profitable media business and they are a proven cost-effective tool for communication.

Events are effective. Participants in conferences regularly credit a conference for inspiration or information. Sponsors and exhibitors come back year after year because they got their money’s worth the year before. I have had sponsors tell me that a single conversation with the right person can lead to business of a scale and profit level sufficient to justify their commitment. In our currently difficult economic climate and with the explosion of communication options, events are still a powerful tool to inform and influence high-value groups. Whether your target is employees, customers, prospects, or broader audiences, events are an essential part of your communication mix.

Meetings, conferences and other events are a vital part of any internal or external communication plan, but effectively executing a cost-effective communication initiative takes practice, focus, and expertise. In today’s demanding economic climate you need to be extra careful that your event initiatives deliver.

Face-to-face interaction will never become obsolete. Media forms will come and go, including specific forms of events, but face-to-face will continue to be a powerful media. Your use of in-person events must be deliberate and integrated with your total communication effort to get maximum value from them. But you can be completely confident that there will always be a place for Face2Face!

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