Branding Event communication ROI

5 lessons from engaging at Poland industry events

Every event offers unique experiences for individuals and organizations alike. Having participated in two technology events at Krakow, Poland I am writing to share personal perspectives and take-aways that might be helpful to appreciate communications and branding nuances at play. I have often been asked after moving to the country about how different such events are in India and how they do they compare to those I observe in Poland. While two events are too less to paint a complete picture, I can provide views on the topic.

To begin with, the scale of events differs in many ways:

–         hiring is in the few hundreds of people, as compared to Asia where the numbers are many times higher. To put that in perspective – just one company in India employs the total number of current IT professionals working in the city of Krakow. Hint: a large multinational technology, consulting and outsourcing firm.

–         since the market is new (relatively), the focus is more on establishing credentials and garnering attention. The established players are rarely seen on such forums

–         competition is hard – although, relatively speaking, the urgency to differentiate is limited or probably muted.

Coming from a different culture, these experiences are striking, especially about what participants expect in this region, how they engage, and  how communications, branding and marketing professionals can be more aware and drive better results.

–         Meeting you mid-way: The emphasis at events seems to be about ‘staying visible’ and less to ‘pitch’ offerings or the company. The expectation is that participants, if interested, will make the effort to learn more about the company, form their own conclusions and then make decisions accordingly. Companies provide information on ‘who they are’, ‘what they do’ and not so often, ‘what makes them unique’. Beyond that, it is left to individuals to meet half-way and indicate interest. A subtle balance is maintained in this dance.

–         Keeping the distance: In India, often due to paucity of space and the need to accommodate a vast number of partners and sponsors, exhibition stands of companies almost blend into each other. Not the same here, as far as I observed. The concept of ‘professional’ space is maintained such that there are areas for movement between booths. Of course, after a bit of familiarization, these boundaries can blend. Considering it is a smaller market, people do know each other because they often end up at the same forums.

–         Enticing – but not being overt: Most organizations participating with booths and investing in creative engagement are missing a trick if they just focus on the ‘look and feel’.. Participants expect to be ‘lured’ into a conversation – a puzzle to solve for a gift while you drop your CV in, engage in contests and then scan the QR code to know more about roles or register online and get a freebie. And freebies are welcomed – seems universal! Hard selling is viewed negatively.

–         Showcasing thought leadership: With competition fierce at such forums, what can differentiate companies from others is the approach to thought leadership. While participating in events helps in building a perception that the company has the financial wherewithal to invest and therefore must be stable and strong, it is also critical to demonstrate credibility and trust through consistent thought leadership. From speakers in panels to blogs, articles, webinars, whitepapers and more, there is increased expectations to highlight ‘why’ the organization claims to be worth the salt.

–         Engaging informally helps: Play and fun activities go a long way in breaking the ice and getting people comfortable to converse. Games are very valuable to help relax and environment. As observed by the large turnouts when contest winners are announced at the stalls! So, are food and drinks. Coffee and soft drink serving machines integrated into booths make it easier to create an environment for discussion.

What more can be done and better?

–         While I noticed companies highlight their values and culture, hardly anyone talked of their social responsibility outreach. This feels odd because excellent work is done by citizens and companies in the country (for example, helping support and integrate refuges who streamed across the border) over the last few months. Some did try and incorporate sustainable actions – eco-friendly stalls, paperless connections, seedlings as gifts etc. However, the younger generation (a majority who attend these conferences are possibly – millennials), are more inclined to join workplaces which are socially conscious and actively demonstrating positive intent on these lines.

–         Multisensory experiences can be enhanced. Right now, most companies managing stands engage with sight, sound and touch. However, the opportunities to enhance these experiences by adding other dimensions are promising.

–         While the city and country are known for their inclusive approaches to building communities and the society, there are possibilities of making such events more accessible to disadvantaged communities – visually or hearing impaired people, for example. I guess, it will depend on the event organizers and the purpose of such forums – however, universal inclusion means considering everyone and giving them a chance to participate as equals.

–         Lastly, it might help for organizers to consider a way to justify ROI for events and in turn, encourage greater participation. After the pandemic, as more companies return to face-to-face events, the costs are higher and will continue to climb. Having a robust model to convince stakeholders of the need to invest, is the need of the hour.

Overall, the space is growing and gaining prominence. However, events in conjunction with other forms of marketing and branding initiatives can create the multiplier effect, much needed to attract and engage in a market where prospective employees have the upper hand.

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