2021.1.20 Report

"Evolved" & "Deepened”: Event Marketing amid Covid-19 Pandemic

On December 21st, "BACKSTAGE 2020", hosted by the BACKSTAGE Organizing Committee, was held at the Toranomon Hills Forum as a hybrid event (both online and offline).
This event consisted of 11 sessions, and our CEO and President, Yutaka Hamaguchi took the stage at the fifth session titled "Event Marketing: ‘Evolved’ & ‘Deepened’ by Covid-19", together with Ms. Suzuki (Cybozu Inc.).
The session was moderated by Mr. Ojima (Still Day One GK) and received a great deal of attention. 
They discussed how the B2B events have been changed by COVID-19 pandemic from the point of view of both an event organizer and a marketing agency.

Left:Ms. Akiko Suzuki, Promotional Director, Cybozu, Inc.
Center:Yutaka Hamaguchi, CEO, Bigbeat Inc. 
Right:Mr. Hideki Ojima, Representative, Still Day One GK and Parallel Marketer

Hosting physical and virtual events amid Covid-19 pandemic: challenges

“Cybozu Days 2020”: holding a physical event 

Cybozu Inc. hosted a large conference, "Cybozu Days 2020", at Makuhari Messe from November 11th to 13th, 2020, reaching over 3,000 people.
Holding a physical event at that time was very challenging. However, Cybozu Inc. carefully examined the situation and they prepared everything until the last minute.

Ms. Suzuki talking about "Cybozu Days 2020". The event was held physically despite the spread of Covid-19.

The decision to hold a physical event was made at the end of May, when the venue needed to be reserved. Changing the type of event from virtual to physical is considered more difficult than doing the opposite. That is why, at Cybozu Inc., decided to go for physical, although the situation was not very rosy. Ms. Suzuki said that it was a challenge for her to prepare the event while she could not read ahead.

Planning an event under such situation requires to pay a particular attention to the safety of everyone involved in it: organizers, management staffs, and visitors.
At the same time, you are also required to be very flexible until the last minute of the event. There may only be a few weeks left before the event, but if it must be switched, you must go for it. For instance, in the case of “Cybozu Days” in Osaka hosted in December, the event was switched to virtual, due to the spread of the virus.

“Bigbeat LIVE 2020”: switching the event to virtual

On the other hand, from a marketing agency's point of view, Mr. Hamaguchi said that the conventional business rules and needs have been changed due to Covid-19 pandemic, and that their clients’ marketing activities have temporally stopped to see what was going on around them. It was the trigger that led Bigbeat to host Bigbeat LIVE, our own B2B marketing event.

Bigbeat Inc.'s President and CEO, Yutaka Hamaguchi, talking about "Bigbeat LIVE 2020", our own B2B marketing event, hosted online.

We hosted "Bigbeat LIVE 2020" virtually for 5 days from August 3rd to 7th, 2020.
This event, which was held for three years every August, was not to be originally held in 2020, because of the Olympic Games. 
However, Covid-19 pandemic hit Japan in February 2020 and our support in physical events, usually accounted for 70% of our sales, became almost zero during to the state of emergency.
In this situation, Mr. Hamaguchi began to reconsider to hold “Bigbeat LIVE”.
He said, "When I'm in a desperate situation, I'll focus on one thing: GIVE. I mean, we have to send out messages to people." 
Hence, with the endorsement of 51 people, we prepared for our first online event in less than two months, after the decision was taken in June.

Streaming Democratization": Everyone could be a live streamer in Covid-19 era

Mr. Ojima asked to Mr.Hamaguchi how he perceives the recent trend of "streaming democratization", which arose with the rapid spread of devices for virtual events and knowledge of streaming techniques.

Mr. Hamaguchi believes that the spread of virtual events is revitalizing the event marketing industry, and even is being a tailwind. 
People may feel that everything has stopped due to Covid-19 pandemic, but a new ecosystem and economic circle is being created instead.

Ms. Suzuki feels that virtual events are now much easier to be handled by the person in charge. For instance, video streaming can be operated from home by only one person, whereas in the case of physical event, you must book a venue, prepare equipment, and stand on the scene. 
On the other hand, large-scale virtual events are at greater risk of failure compared to physical events. Ms. Suzuki thinks that it may be more difficult to create a “event that never fails” when it comes about virtual event, rather than physical one. Virtual events have many points that could led them to be redundant and to be a true failure. 

Everyone could be a live streamer in Covid-19 era, due to the spread of devices for virtual events and knowledge of streaming techniques.

For instance, if you use streaming tools, such as YouTube or Zoom, you can have copyrights-related issue, which could stop the streaming of you online event. 
For this reason, at Bigbeat Inc. we have developed an in-house online event platform, completely independent of the external tools, "KODOU" which also provides total support for online events from the preparation to the recording, broadcast of streams and even event secretariat service. 

LIFT & SHIFT in event marketing: how to optimize virtual events

Mr. Ojima’s next question was, if it must be the SHIFT (optimization) which should be accelerated instead of many LIFTs (switching from physical to virtual) during this pandemic. 
Ms. Suzuki replied, "Until around last June, switching from physical over online was considered something new. Now, people behaviour has changed and, for instance, we listen to event streaming in background while doing other things. So, we have to think about how to successfully deliver content to them”. 

Until around last June, switching from physical over online was considered something new. Now, people behaviour has changed and, for instance, we listen to event streaming in background while doing other things.

As for the participation rate, both the panelists agreed that it has not varied significantly between physical and virtual.
However, considering the retention rate, they stated that it is easier for people leave the event, when we are online, rather offline. It is just a simple example, but viewers are likely to leave the page, if a pop-up notification appears on their screen.  
Keeping viewers’ attention and increasing engagement is going to be essential when designing virtual events in the future.

Moreover, Ms. Suzuki sees Virtual Reality as a tool to increase people’s attention. Without doubt, online games are what makes people engaged online, and Ms. Suzuki hopes to bring the same enthusiasm on online events too. She is looking for method to incorporate this into business events, where, according to her, the key is an immersive design.

"Evolution: New efforts" and "Deepening: Deeper than ever"

Bigbeat Inc.: how we have evolved our event marketing business and deepened it

In the past year, we renovated a meeting room inside our office and transformed it into an event streaming studio. From it, “Bigbeat LIVE” has been broadcasted for 5 days.
At the same time, we have worked hard, and we have developed our own in-house virtual event platform service, “KODOU”. Actively incorporating digital technologies with our key services, we have found and evolved a new form of business.

"Actively incorporating digital technologies with our key services, we have found and evolved a new form of business".

In terms of deepening, Mr. Hamaguchi said, "I came to reaffirm the importance of event design.” 
The “design” here does not mean superficial coolness; it means the architecture of the event process, such as discover people’s experiences and how they have moved.
According to our CEO and President, by switching from physical to virtual, if you do not deepen the meaning of your action, you will be losing your management abilities that you have previously acquired with physical events.

Cybozu Inc.: Flexibility, responsiveness and virtual reality in events

Ms. Suzuki from Cybozu Inc. stated that the evolution she saw was the ability to respond more flexibly to changes, both physically and virtually.
As mentioned above, “Cybozu Days 2020” had been originally organized as a physical event, which required a high-quality responsiveness to daily changes. This kind of responsiveness, with a focus on speed and accuracy, will be certainly required in future. 

The deepening she saw was the opportunity to re-discover the goodness of physical events, while the virtual events were progressing. She thinks that the good thing about physical is that you can get closer with people (meet other people and share the stage with them).
About future virtual events, she is thinking about a more suitable form, including the use of virtual reality.

What will happen to event marketing in 2021?

The future of event marketing in 2021.

There have been many changes in 2020. And some things will not be back to the state they were before. 
Mr. Ojima asked to the two panelists how they foresee 2021 from the standpoints of communicating and supporting clients through events.

Mr. Hamaguchi recalled, "2020 has been a year in which B2B marketing itself changed significantly."
When we talk about events in B2B marketing, we always measure them in terms of "leads". Until now, people always discussed how more leads could be acquired and how much the unit price would have been for each of them. He strongly stated that the discussion in the future will focus on "creating a stage where leads will gather", rather than "acquiring leads". 

Similarly, Ms. Suzuki said, "In the future of events will change depending on their purpose." She believes that it will be important to prepare and provide a content depending on your goal: acquiring leads at the event or strengthen the relationship with them.

The session ended with Mr. Ojima’s speech. "It was a year where event marketing seemed stagnating due to Covid-19 pandemic. However, after having heard the stories of Cybozu Inc. and Bigbeat Inc., I feel that they have found the next ideal, in an era of transformation. We have created a new position and ecosystem. We do not be pessimistic”.

BACKSTAGE 2020 has been hosted hybrid, combined physical and virtual sessions. We believe that hybrid events will become recurring form now on, and we will strive to design professional “stages”, aimed in helping our clients to communicate their stories though events. 

Bigbeat Inc. has 25 years of experience in B2B marketing. If your company is interested in hosting an online event or trade show in Japan, or if you need further information or assistance, do not hesitate to contact us!

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