Learn about the most popular event types for achieving business goals. Featuring examples from leading brands like Apple, BizX, GlassDoor, Jetblue and more.
All B2B event types are usually centered around a concerted effort to achieve common business goals. These types of events are defined by their target audience. If you’re planning an event for your company that is focused on bringing together clients or employees, then it’s a good bet you’re planning a B2B affair. Here are some common do’s, don’ts, and examples of real life corporate event ideas that will help you plan your next B2B extravaganza.
Why B2B events?
B2B event marketing is just as important as B2C events. Not only do they bring people together who normally wouldn’t have a reason to otherwise, they also help build the interpersonal relationships that form the backbone of all successful organizations. Structured work environments typically don’t allow for much schmoozing among employees or customers outside of professional interactions which is why events like these are so important.
The goal of most corporate events is to find new and creative ways to provide entertainment or rewards, showcase new products and services, and establish or deepen business relationships. Choosing the right event type means considering what your specific objectives are with each occasion, as every example shown here serves a unique purpose.
Most Popular Event Types
The goal of any great conference is to organize a group of people with a related interest and provide them with helpful information on topics they care about. Conferences usually schedule multiple sessions spread out over days, weekends, or in some cases entire weeks.
Conferences are a popular addition to any event strategy as they can be made quite affordable depending on the number participants. They are held in locations as small as conference rooms or as large as entire convention halls. Common conference activities include guest speakers, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities.
Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference is an example of a large scale event. It specifically caters to the interests of developers and product users. Activities include a highly anticipated speaker and sessions that teach customers how to get the most out of their products.
If you plan to host a seminar, chances are your goal is similar to what you’d like to achieve at a conference: target an audience and deliver valuable information. For seminars, event ROI can be measured by multiple factors beyond net profit from ticket sales.
Seminars are typically much smaller than conferences and have a single session lasting until the end of the work day (at most). They are most often used to train employees and managers and, contrary to popular belief, successful versions emphasize interactivity over lectures.
Sales and marketing experts Wednesday Relations hosts a seminar called “Building B2B marketing excellence” that teaches attendees how to properly communicate and market to their customers in the B2B SaaS space. Their 90 minute event takes place first thing in the morning and kicks off with a catered breakfast.
Source: Wednesday Relations
3. Internal Company Meetings / Periodic Business Gatherings
Internal company meetings and periodic business gatherings are events used to discuss a select group of topics in order to assess progress, facilitate project kickoffs or to solve a specific problem. They are common in companies with over 25 employees but smaller businesses can also benefit from this event type.
This kind of event typically includes an agenda, coordinating facility rentals or bookings, organizing audiovisual equipment for presentations, and planning lunch for participants depending on the time of day, all of which can be handled through advanced event software. Depending on the formality or time sensitivity of the topics being addressed, preparations for an event like this might take anywhere from a few months to a few hours to plan.
Plum Organics, a baby food company, adds a clever activity to their internal company meetings: coloring books. Fitting for both their brand and their interests, employees enjoy the opportunity to color with crayons and markers during creative brainstorming sessions. This fun activity allows their staff to color, talk and decompress all at once.
4. Trade Shows / Expos
Trade shows and expos aim to present new products and services from a variety of related brands in a professional manner. Typically these types of events have a theme that ties the booths together.
Trade shows and expos are especially useful for prospects who haven’t yet discovered your product or are looking to receive additional information in person. This event type is useful for companies looking to increase the number of in-person interactions they have with their customer base.
Bright Agrotech uses their trade show booth to bring their product to life (quite literally). This vertical farming start-up showcases a wall of fresh produce and greenery that truly stands out amongst competitors with laminated flyers and tv screens. Their attractive booth also showcases their software and services.
Source: Fit Small Business
5. Thought Leadership and Networking Events
The goal of a thought leadership or networking events is to present a brand’s authority in a particular domain and provide opportunities for people with related business interests to meet and interact with one another. This event type can include VIPs or focus more on general admission.
Whether you plan an intimate gathering or a lavish affair, thought leadership and networking events are a tool for establishing a product or service’s place in its industry. To make the most of this kind of event, be sure to include featured experts from your company as speakers or hosts and include some multi-touch event marketing strategies into your plan.
The Bozeman Business Exchange Happy Hour (hosted by BizX) celebrates their community every month with appetizers and drinks. To mix things up, they host the event at a variety of interesting spaces including historic theatres, hot tub showrooms, and hotel lounges in convenient locations.
6. Ceremonies / Galas
Ceremonies and galas serve a variety of purposes but these formal events have one thing in common: they provide an elegant way of presenting a brand and its product or service. Whether it’s a black tie fundraising event in a rented art museum or a kick off for an annual meeting at a conference, ceremonies and galas provide a sophisticated way of marking a special occasion.
All ceremonies and galas provide some sort of entertainment ranging from live music to guest speakers. No matter what is on the agenda, these types of events favor fun over productivity and give attendees a chance to enjoy themselves with good beverages and/or food.
The ANA B2 Awards gala honors prestigious business-to-business agencies for a variety of roles including global brand strategy, new media strategy, and successful product launches. The awards take place in conjunction with their conference to guests can choose to upgrade their conference ticket packages to include this special event.
Source: ANA Marketers Twitter
7. Product Launches
A sales centric event, product launches are a method for increasing interest and general media coverage for new products, services, or updated features. They play a critical role in the marketing of a product and, when done well, have the ability to drastically increase brand visibility before the general public has a chance to chance to even use it.
Product launches often involve invited media guests who report on the product being presented. These success of these soirees is largely determined by the timing of the event, attention to detail, and the general level of satisfaction of your attendees.
Namely’s HR Redefined product launch event used account-based event marketing to personalize the experience for each of their hand-selected attendees. They gave each person a customized name-plate created by a New York design firm specializing in typography. Even if you don’t plan to give out swag, the moral of this story is product launches should still focus on the consumer just as much, or even more than, your own company.
8. VIP Events
VIP events (or sales acceleration events) focus on providing the most influential shareholders, customers, and other honored guests with an exclusive (and impressive) experience. The goal of any VIP event is to ultimately increase revenue through maintaining the loyalty of these key figures.
Events like this one are typically catered and include complimentary entry and travel services for those coming from out of town. It’s especially important to know your audience so that you provide an experience that will actually be enjoyable for them and appeal to their unique interests.
The annual Chief Wine Officer Financial Services Industry Headline Dinner features two of their brand’s biggest resources: expert wine knowledge and a community of VIP figureheads in the financial community. Their event attracts over 50 senior executives to their invite-only soiree where they enjoy fine wine tasting and facilitated discussion on the industry’s hottest topics.
Source: Chief Wine Officer
9. Job Fairs / Recruiting Events
The goal of most job fairs and recruiting events are to find and secure talent for their company across a number of departments. Typically held at colleges and universities, this event type is popular among start-ups or companies looking to find fresh minds to help expand their business.
Potential recruits benefit from the personal interaction they get from this type of event. They can speak to actual employees to get insider information on the work environment, benefits, and details regarding their ideal job candidate. Making a strong impression at a job fair or recruiting event today could pay off for decades.
The Department of Defense hosts a Grand Challenge event for potential job candidates who are eager to design, build, and test self-driving vehicles. Their focus is to not just single out the best talent but to encourage the continued education and advancement of the industry as a whole. Even if you don’t have the budget for a large scale technology challenge, there are lots of ways to create competitions related to a subject your brand and audience really care about.
10. Team Building
Team building events are internal meetings focused on providing fun and interesting ways for employees to bond. The goal is usually to facilitate relationship building so employees can become better leaders and collaborators. It’s also a helpful way to get people from departments without direct contact to be introduced to one another.
Depending on the activities planned, team building events can be motivating, inspirational, and educational. Classic examples of team building events include obstacle courses or some other physical challenge indoors or outdoors (weather permitting). But events like hackathons or offsites can also qualify. Team building events should aim to build trust, boost morale, and increase productivity.
Glassdoor hosts a board game tournament to bring employees together for a little friendly competition. They chose games based on their goals, including facilitating play, building skill sets, and promoting team collaboration. Event planners can replicate this event with any kind of teamwork-based activity that is both entertaining and challenging.
11. Field Marketing / Activations
The goal of most field marketing or brand activation events is to form stronger emotional bonds between a company and its audience. Since relationship-building is the primary focus of this event type, it’s especially important to know which specific audiences you are targeting to plan the activities accordingly.
A field marketing event typically takes place off site, in an area where target prospects and relevant audiences are centrally located. These types of events often facilitate sales and provide a multitude of strategic opportunities for marketing and sales collaboration.
JetBlue’s Ultimate Ice Breaker Challenge set a six-foot cube of frozen summer accessories in New York City is both an example of experiential marketing and a clever way to promote activations. Passerby were invited to chip away at the ice to reveal prizes such as flip flops, beach attire, golf clubs and more. Their event was focused on sharing the new collaboration between the airline and the tourist bureau of Palm Springs to advertise their additional flight routes for the season.
Key Takeaways: Finding the Right Type of Event
There are a lot of great examples out there, but how do you choose which event type is right for your brand? We know event marketing isn’t one size fits all, so here are some points to consider before your next event:
- Consider what you want to achieve. Not every event listed above will share your goals. Decide on your benchmarks and ROIs before choosing what type of event to plan.
- Take stock of what’s been done before. What do you typically see at events of this nature? How can you put your own personal twist on the experience?
- Find out what option is most exciting for your attendees. Don’t be afraid to ask attendees directly through surveys or polls. Whatever you choose, make sure the idea is exciting to them as well.
Choosing the right type of event for your B2B soiree all comes down to what do you want to achieve and what flavor you and your brand can add to the event. At the end of the day, it’s all about bringing people together.