In Forrester’s recently published report, “The Forrester Wave™: B2B Marketing Events Management Solutions, Q1 2021,” we evaluated the 14 most significant ones — 6Connex, Bizzabo, CadmiumCD, Certain, Circa, Cvent, Hubb, Intrado, Kaltura, meetyoo, ON24, RainFocus, Splash, and SpotMe — against 28 criteria. We also interviewed or surveyed more than 40 reference customers of these vendors.

Here’s a few key things we learned along the way:

  • Hybrid event experiences will become commonplace after 2021. Almost unanimously, B2B marketers said that their future events will include digital capabilities aimed at engaging prospects and serving customers who choose to participate remotely. The biggest challenge to solve is how to create event experiences that engage virtual attendees as if they were attending in person. This will require a combination of technology innovation and higher production-quality content.Hybrid Marketing Events Become The Norm
  • Building customer relationships will return as the top objective. The pandemic caused many marketers to panic when in-person tactics were prohibited; they instead focused myopically on lead generation as the primary goal of any marketing activity, not just virtual events. As restrictions on in-person gatherings ease, we expect B2B marketers to return to event experiences that reach further inside current accounts and enhance post-sale relationships.
  • The marketing events management (MEM) technology market is muddled. Forrester clients rarely, if ever, asked us about virtual event platforms prior to March 2020. Going virtual created a gold rush atmosphere among a wide array of vendors hoping to cash in on digital events. From virtual venue providers to physical event management software, webinar platforms, content experience solutions, video streaming, webconferencing, and pure-play registration applications, vendors of many different flavors set up camp in the virtual event space — or hastily formed partnerships — overnight. With UK-based tech startup Hopin (which did not meet our Forrester Wave screening criteria in October 2020) closing more than $565 million in A, B, and C Series investment in less than a year, B2B marketers should be careful not to get caught up in a bubble of hype around this category.
  • Event technology purchases are tactically driven. Many reference customers were heavy, progressive users of event technology: Half have been with their current provider for three years or longer — long before the pandemic hit — and 59% employ event teams with more than 10 people. Despite this, reasons for selecting vendors sound fairly fundamental to us: Thirty-seven percent said that they needed the ability to handle large events without performance issues cropping up, 29% needed production and creativity capabilities for delivering a unique attendee experience, and 27% selected their vendor for its attendee, speaker, and sponsor interaction capabilities delivered in a comprehensive solution.
  • Technical change is inevitable. Despite some very interesting roadmap directions that a few of the vendors shared, our Forrester Wave experience left us feeling that B2B marketers will need much more from their technology providers to create hybrid events that deliver value and revenue. Marketers have very little experience with truly hybrid events: Seventy-one percent of reference customers said that they have yet to conduct a hybrid event using their MEM provider, and “attendee interaction or engagement capabilities” topped their list of product improvement requests, with 58% of those surveyed saying that their solution needs some form of improvement in this area.

Please use the marketing events management solutions Forrester Wave evaluation to help you choose vendors based on your strategy and business needs. Forrester clients can check out the full report — along with the companion market overview reports, “Now Tech: B2B Online Event Technologies, Q3 2020” and “Now Tech: B2B Event Management Software, Q2 2019” — on our website. Event management professionals may also want to read the list of related links and related Forrester content below to see the full breadth of research and advice we have for marketing teams planning and executing virtual and hybrid events.

Forrester clients can also schedule an inquiry or advisory session with me to learn how to use this report to identify the best-fit solution for your needs. I’ll walk you through my findings and help you identify the vendors that should make your shortlist.

For those with less pressing needs, please join my colleague Meredith Cain and I for a Forrester client webinar on March 24, at 8 a.m. PST/11 a.m. EST, where we will explore ways to create engaging, hybrid marketing events that will differentiate your brand and enhance your marketing practices this year and beyond.