Want to make a positive billion-dollar impact in Indiana? When one thinks of high-impact economic development, we may naturally think of tech companies or large-scale manufacturing. It may be surprising to know that job-for-job, the meetings and event industry has a history of creating more direct jobs than major companies in manufacturing (automotive, chemicals and food).

Consider this fact: in 2019 (before a certain global event all but temporarily shut down the industry), the Indianapolis region raked in an estimated three-quarters of a billion dollars from 660 events. The projected revenue from 2022 event visitors is now expected to be higher. From national sports events to trade shows to specialty events like Gen Con, Indianapolis (and central Indiana) attracts more than 1.3 million visitors annually. Nationally, Trade Show Executive reported “real triple-digit growth” in the event industry in September 2022.

That all adds up.

Since every dollar invested in events historically generates upwards of a 160 percent return on investment, the event and conventions industry represent a key factor in Indiana economic development and sustainability. A positive personal experience ranks high in creating lasting engagement, which is one of the reasons the Indiana Destination Development Corporation works to bring people physically to Indiana to sample and experience the great attributes of the state. Experiences are directly linked to economic development opportunities.

How can Indiana and Indianapolis maximize a potential events economic renaissance in 2023 and beyond? We at Hamilton have tracked and experienced a number of key trends over the past two years. Here are some thoughts:

Large or small, in-person events will continue to be the preferred event format, delivering the highest ROI. Humans are social. Critical relationships are more easily formed and sustained through in-person networking contact. COVID-19, of course, was the wildcard over the past two years, but advances in protocols and safety measures have made major differences, including Indiana.

In-person events maximize the brand immersive experience. While hybrid virtual events can include elements of the high-impact in-person event, the power of presentation experienced by a person on the show floor still delivers maximum potential.

To heighten effectiveness and memorable immersive qualities, strategic design with integrated technology applications is more important than ever. High-impact creative solutions encourage engagement and deliver maximum Return on Attention (ROA). Don’t forget the shift to gamification in supporting and strengthening brands. Touchless applications can effectively promote safety measures.

Events – whether in-person, virtual, mobile or hybrid – must be more effectively aligned  to expected marketing outcomes. Preparing for and executing an event can require substantial financial and company resources. An event represents a unique opportunity to engage with current and former customers and key influencers as well as prospects. Events today go far beyond lead generation or static displays. Digital technology plays a huge role here tracking key visitor metrics (while respecting privacy).

Plan ahead to tap the full professional event spectrum to deliver ROI. While a well-designed and executed in-person event can produce a high return on event investment, a variety of event platforms exist that can be matched to individual needs. We at Hamilton design, produce, and execute integrated experiences – exhibits, proprietary events and conferences, corporate environments, outdoor events, mobile tours, and digital solutions– that drive meaningful connections between brands and audiences.

Develop pre-event and post-event strategy disciplines to maximize investment and impact.  Contemporary event strategy extends far beyond the show floor design. Knowing your audience and matching preferred media channels is critical.  Pre-event engagement begins on a variety of platforms, including social media, and should continue well beyond the event as a key follow-up. Deep pre-event research into customer needs and expectations can provide a strategic edge.

As events grow and return to new levels of impact in Indiana, effective strategic planning and execution can help maximize company and organizational investments.  Be part of the coming event renaissance!

Jason Weddle is CEO of Hamilton, a full-service event marketing agency celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2022. For more information, please visit Hamilton-ex.com.

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