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The future of events: B2B marketers weigh in-person vs. virtual attendance

The future of events: B2B marketers weigh in-person vs. virtual attendance
(Image credit: SmartBrief, a Future company)

Events, and networking at those events, have always been a mainstay for B2B marketers. In 2020, marketers were forced to abandon their traditional in-person event playbook and turn to virtual events to make connections. 

At the onset of 2021, many marketers were optimistic about the prospects of once again attending in-person events, and yet, many marketers still planned to stick with virtual conferences and shows. So what does the future hold for events? SmartBrief surveyed B2B marketers to find out.

The key takeaway from “The Future of In-Person Events” survey revealed that marketers hope to strike a balance among in-person and online events. Looking ahead, 55% of survey respondents say in-person events will be a large part of their strategy, while 45% say they will not be.  

Some of the other key findings of the survey:

  • 73% who plan to focus on in-person events will still attend virtual ones
  • 53% will consider whether strong safety protocols are in place for in-person events
  • 62% of those using in-person tactics will focus on small events


“When I read the data, I think the core message is ‘Safe, Effective, Flexible.’ Marketers are people, and like all of us, they want to know that they can do their jobs safely, so it’s incumbent upon those of us representing live events to ensure sound safety protocols so that business can be conducted with minimal worry. Marketers also need to know that — whether the channel is live or digital — their message will reach an engaged audience,” says Aaron Kern, vice president, sales and publishing at SmartBrief.

Last year opened up new ways to make connections and showed B2B marketers that there is more than one way to connect with clients — webinars, virtual roundtables as well as some smaller in-person events, to name a few.

The SmartBrief survey showed that B2B marketers are clearly weighing their options and remaining flexible with their event marketing tactics given the ongoing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, virus variants, venue safety protocols and the vaccination status of attendees at in-person events. The key takeaway from the survey is striking a balance between available event tactics will be key to success this year and into next. “If the last eighteen months has taught us anything, it’s that we should be flexible and nimble, because the status quo can change quickly,” Kern concludes.

Download the infographic to reveal the full survey results and to see how your event plans lineup with others in your field.

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