As Europe went into lockdown, governments and businesses stuttered to a halt. For weeks in the first half of 2020, there was an echoing silence that rang around the bloc. It was a wait and see phase.
However, as the pandemic dragged on, it became clear that a solution was needed. Business had to continue.
Government entities had to continue to address important social issues such as climate change, human rights, or sustainable agriculture. Buyers and sellers inside and outside the European Union and from every business sector needed to come together to create new partnerships. Startups and investors needed to support business growth. Universities had to host job fairs to support young people on their career journey. Businesses needed to search for new and promising talent.
Early Adaptors Pivoted to Virtual Solutions
The virtual meetup business boomed in 2020 with some companies increasing turnover by 100% or more. However, after hosting a few events with the big names, event organizers ran into complex problems. They were cobbling multiple tools and solutions together, which made GDPR a concern. It also made the virtual event cumbersome to manage. It made the structuring of large attendee numbers a challenge, especially concerning virtual breakout sessions. There was also the question of how b2b matchmaking could translate to virtual events in a cohesive way.
Translating Business Matchmaking to Virtual Events
CEO Mirza Ceric and Co-founder Kurt Burtscher of b2match, an all-in-one event management software, headquartered in Vienna, Austria rose to the occasion. In early 2020, 100% of b2match’s business was supporting event organizers to plan physical events. Toward the end of 2020, 95% of b2match’s business was supporting virtual events. Customers include the United Nations, European Commission, Start Global, the University of Zagreb, Water Alliance of the Netherlands, just to name a few. In a year-over-year comparison between 2019 and 2020, the events facilitated were doubled.
The main reason why this growth was possible was because flexibility was employed. A gaze into the future showed that fast action was needed. Internal resources were pooled together to brainstorm the features that were needed immediately. Event experts, software developers, customer success managers, and trusted customer feedback allowed the team to hammer out the details. The team went into overdrive to deliver a virtual event software solution within 10 weeks.
Mirza Ceric said, “We knew that virtual events were coming, but some time in the future. When Europe went into lockdown, our clients cancelled their physical events. Everything just ground to a halt. If we wanted to stay in business, we had to create a solution our customers needed, now.”
The component that was the most critical for European business continuity via virtual events was b2match’s core feature, the b2b matchmaking software. It was created with efficiency in mind. Attendees of a virtual event register on the b2match platform. They fill out their profile. The smart search function allows participants a quick and easy identification of suitable matching profiles. Participants pre-arrange meetings with each other before the event even begins. The system creates a customized agenda for each attendee. Once the virtual event begins, attendees already have a full networking agenda with targeted contacts. Virtual b2b networking became tremendously efficient.
Riding on the wave of the virtual b2b networking success, one further step was taken. The offer of long-term b2b matchmaking. It’s still a session within the virtual event framework, however they just last for longer periods of time. For example, a couple of weeks or even a month after the official virtual event ends. It’s a period when attendees are able to meet anytime they agree on. This was added because virtual event attendees gave feedback that they didn’t have enough time during virtual events to meet with all the people they wanted to.
Another critical move that was made was to increase the customer success team. These are experts in the event industry who intimately know the b2match software. They advise and guide customers not only on the use of the software product, but also offer up best practices for event organization. An experienced customer success manager can multiply the success of events many times over. They listen, advise and deliver what customers need.
As a customer from VO Europe, Alfonso Moreno Pombo said, "In this new situation, a powerful event management tool is a condition for a successful event... It is the basis for sustainable growth.”
2021 Will Be the Year of Hybrid Events
If 2020 was the year that virtual events for b2b networking, connection and business continuity proved their mettle, 2021 will be the year of hybrid events. Event organizers and attendees realize the benefits of virtual events, but are tentatively interested in returning to face-to-face meetings and networking.
Mirza Ceric said, “We supplied the event industry with the virtual event and networking solution they needed in 2020. Now it’s time to create the perfect hybrid solution. Our customers are asking, and we will deliver.”