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  • Adam Harper

The main event

People want shared experiences, but are getting more used to enjoying them virtually. Attracting people to in-person events again will mean offering something unmissable.


Rugby fans around the world will have been sad, but perhaps not altogether surprised, to hear this week that the Hong Kong Sevens will be postponed again. The world’s greatest sevens will come back, though. And when it does, it is likely capture enormous pent-up demand to get together, enjoy some sport, talk a bit of shop and simply have some fun.


It takes an extraordinary disruption – like a pandemic or war – to come between us humans and our desire to come together and enjoy shared experiences. Even the absence of spectators at the Tokyo Olympics isn’t stopping people around the world from participating in the dramas unfolding there, from Simone Biles’s extraordinary narrative arc to the heartwarming story of Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Barshim of Qatar agreeing to share a gold medal in the men’s high jump.


But the pandemic has made us accustomed to sharing these collective experiences in the virtual world. Some people have embraced that; others chafe against it and long to mingle in person again.


When big events and international travel are possible in more places, then, it seems likely that participants as a whole will be more selective. You may want to travel for the Hong Kong Sevens, the Olympics or the football World Cup – unquestionably the greatest events of their kind – but will you want to get on a plane for a business conference?


You may want to travel for the Hong Kong Sevens, the Olympics or the football World Cup – unquestionably the greatest events of their kind – but will you want to get on a plane for a business conference?

It depends, of course. People from around the world flocked to Miami in June for Bitcoin 2021 because they knew that a lot of the key players in the digital asset world would be there. Relatively few corporate events command that kind of reputation as being unmissable in their community, though, even if they have a lot to offer individual attendees. In a world where people will be more selective about where they travel and which events they attend in person, then, the challenge for event organisers is in large part one of positioning.


We don’t mean grand statements and empty hyperbole (“ground-breaking insights that will empower you to re-define your corporate treasury as an agile, future-proofed and technology-driven superfunction”). Instead, we mean telling a story about why your event is timely and important that is based on what attendees will learn and who they will be able to meet.


We mean telling a story about why your event is timely and important that is based on what attendees will learn and who they will be able to meet.

As with any effective communication, that has to be based on really knowing your audience. Who are they? What do they want to know? Who do they want to meet? What would make them want to attend personally rather than virtually? If you’re going to ask people to get on a plane and go to an event at some point, you’re going to need very clear answers to those questions. And you’re going to need to weave those answers together into a simple and very memorable story about how this event is such an indispensable business opportunity that it is really worth attending in person.


Finally, you might want to think about holding it around the time of a major sporting event. How about the Hong Kong Sevens in April 2022?

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