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In the Spotlight with: Hugo Whicher

Our In the Spotlight series sees B2BNXT joined by leading thinkers in B2B to delve into the latest trends, examine changes in the marketing landscape, and discuss the future of our industry. 

This week we interviewed Hugo Whicher, Head of Event Excellence for Europe & Asia–Pacific at Oracle. Hugo is a passionate marketer, always seeking new and innovative ways to improve face-to-face events, and bridge the gap between enterprise and audience. 

With 2021 still stretching out before us, filled with uncertainty around COVID restrictions and safety measures, we delved into how businesses can make sure their digital events are every bit as engaging, stimulating, and value-driven as their physical events. 

Q: What’s next for events in B2B marketing? 

We may see some return to physical, especially in countries where COVID measures are more flexible. But for the time being my team and I are focusing on digital, with a view to perhaps developing a more hybrid approach later in the year. 

In the longer term, there may come an inflection point between the cost of events and the audience we’re attracting. Because once it gets too expensive to host both physical and digital events, we may start rationalising the priority of one over the other. That being said, we’ll still probably end up with a joined-up portfolio of events in the future. 

The main focus for me outside how events are run is how to retain the audience. How can we provide attendees with tangible value, whilst retaining relevance? These are the key questions my team and I are exploring right now. 

Q: How can the delivery vehicle of virtual events elevate your digital marketing campaigns? 

Just as you would take time to pick a venue for your physical event, dress it up, make sure it’s providing the best possible experience, so you need to make sure your digital event also optimally reflects your brand. 

Let’s take the analogy of a shop. Your experience with a physical retailer may well determine how long you spend on their premises—and how much you spend. Digital events must not lose that quality of experience, despite the fact they’re often more complex to create than physical events, because you’re building the entire platform and all its elements from scratch, as opposed to hiring a ready-made venue. In fact, you could argue that it actually becomes more important to facilitate that ability to interact with attendees and the event’s different elements. But for me, that’s precisely where the opportunity lies. 

I believe we’re still in the earliest stages of virtual events. Again, another analogy: Amazon wasn’t the only online retailer early on—but it quickly established itself as the online retailer, by virtue of doing simple things exceptionally well, such as suggesting your next item when making a purchase. We need to start applying this thinking to digital events, so attendees get the value and experience they both crave and deserve. 

Q: How can you make your virtual comms cut through the noise? 

It’s crucial to focus on the value you’re offering, and continually highlight it. Our approach is to get a lot more granular than we might have in the past. So we take our audience for an event, but then segment them much more finely, presenting each group with a highly targeted message. And in that way, we can articulate much more effectively what they specifically will get from the event. Realistically, people aren’t going to be interacting with your event for its full duration, so you need to tell them what they’ll get from their time there. 

I’m also wary of diluting the value offering with overly zealous focal points, such as a free giveaway or celebrity speaker. Because at least in theory we’re aiming for the attendee to be there the whole time, not just for a single brief element. That’s why our organisation doesn’t use that kind of marketing gimmick to provide the cut-through—and that lends our brand a greater air of honesty. We’re clear with people what value they’ll get from attending our event, and they respect us for being straightforward. 

Q. What is your top tip for running a successful virtual event?

Are you a leading thinker in B2B? We would love to sit down with you on B2BNXT and get your side of the story. Where is B2B going in the wake of the pandemic? What challenges will our industry face in the coming months, or even years? If you’ve got a distinctive and important message, get in touch today. 

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