The Future of Marketing Events is Hybrid. Are you ready?
Marketing event models continuously evolve to meet current needs and trends, and to take advantage of new technology. With the onset of the pandemic in 2020, event organizers saw a fast and significant shift from in-person events to virtual events. What virtual events lack in terms of personal interaction and rapport, they make up for in terms of reach, convenience and analytics. The ability to record and share content online broke down barriers of multiple time zones and geographies, giving marketers the option to make their content accessible to anyone in the world.
Now that vaccines are being rolled out across the world, certain markets are beginning to open their doors to in-person – albeit socially distant – events. Marketers are beginning to find that a hybrid approach combining the best of both in-person and virtual events, may be the best strategy moving forward.
What is a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event is a strategic mix of live (in-person) and virtual events. It enables organizers to host a smaller live audience supplemented by online audience participation. Hybrid events also allow marketers to scale up or down based on safety concerns for everyone involved.
In a hybrid event, you have all the components of a live event and then you add virtual components to it so everyone from your audience can participate and engage with your event in real time.
Audience engagement is essential in hybrid events. There should be a seamless integration of technology so you can properly facilitate participation between the virtual and live audience. The event should be viewer-friendly, putting the live and online audiences on the same level. As with any marketing event, the audience experience is the top priority.
The Benefits of Hybrid Events
There are different reasons for putting up a hybrid event, such as budget and safety concerns. With COVID-19 posing a threat to large in-person gatherings and most people preferring to stay safe at home, the future of events is the hybrid model.
1. Increased audience attendance and reach
In a hybrid event, you don’t split your live and virtual attendance — you mix them together. You can increase your reach beyond your onsite guests as you can broadcast your event to a wider audience at the same time.
One hybrid events study discovered that 96% of the virtual audience said they would not have come to the in-person event. Virtual events let the audience “sample” your content and help them decide if it’s valuable for them.
2. Higher audience engagement
There are many ways to engage your live and virtual audiences during your event. For instance, you can host Q&A sessions, put up polls, and even encourage live and virtual attendees to network with each other.
To keep track of all these avenues for engagement, start by mapping out the audience journey. What will it look like, for both online and offline participants?
With an audience-first mindset, you can come up with relevant
engagement opportunities that your attendees
will find valuable.
3. Dynamic sponsorship opportunities
Hybrid events are valuable to sponsors for several reasons:
The increased audience reach allows them to communicate with more interested parties.
They can sponsor both the live and virtual events.
More reportable metrics are available, which helps sponsors determine if they’ve met their own goals.
4. Reduced event costs and improved return on investment (ROI)
Fewer live audience attendees mean you don’t need a large event venue and a lot of people to run the event on-site. Food and beverage costs can also go down.
Upgrading your devices and software to produce high-quality hybrid events may incur costs, but these are reusable resources that will return your investment in the long run. You only need to set them up once, then replicate and improve the execution as needed.
The improved reach and scalability of hybrid events contribute to the ROI as well. With this event model, you can opt to scale up your online presence while scaling down your live event. This way, you decrease your event costs and still reach a wider audience.
5. Make your content work harder for you
Your hybrid event doesn’t need to be a one-time marketing initiative. You can repurpose and reshare your digital content for awareness or promotion. You can also come up with new marketing ideas based on your event’s content, the data on your attendees, and your audience’s feedback.
6. Valuable data
With hybrid events, you can gather data on how and when your audience engaged. Because of its online nature, you gain a lot of trackable metrics that will give you better insights on your event, so you’ll know how to improve it moving forward.
Your event sponsors can also gain valuable information on the attendee engagement they received, which helps them track their ROI better.
7. Greater flexibility
Now that technology is a go-to and is accessible for most people, hosting a live event with no digital counterpart is your loss.
Mounting a hybrid event ensures that you can still host your event even if your in-person attendance is reduced. It also allows you to easily transition into a virtual event in case you need to cancel
your live event.
Hybrid Event Tips: How to Make It Work
What does it take to mount a hybrid event? Well for one, there should be a collaboration between digital marketers and event marketers. Previous processes may have had these two teams working independently from each other, but hybrid events need the expertise of both.
As digital marketers and event organizers, here at Beeline we operate with these principles in mind:
Create and work with common goals
The best way to unify digital marketing and event management is to agree on common metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). When you mount hybrid events, it’s important to come up with core metrics you will track (eg. meeting requests) and figure out how to define success for those metrics.
Identify ROI goals for your content
Both digital and event marketers always try to get more out of the content they produce. That's why it’s important to find ways how each one can leverage and repurpose content from hybrid events.
Choose the right technology for your event
There are differences in the types of technologies used by digital and event marketers. There may be biases based on previous experiences, but what’s important is that you focus on what will allow you to deliver your hybrid event.
For instance, choose a web-based casting platform where you can host your event and interact with your virtual audience real-time. You can also make use of a social media platform where your community is most active to facilitate engagement better.
Acknowledge and learn from differences
Both digital and event marketers have areas of expertise — and they can complement each other where needed. For example, event marketers are experts in logistics and coming up with creative and effective ways to engage audiences, while digital marketers are well-versed in gathering data and interpreting them into useful analyses.
When these skills are combined, you can mount a well-rounded hybrid event.
By now, there’s no question that hybrid events are the future. As you plot your marketing calendar, start thinking about how you might begin to execute your own hybrid event.
Need expert advice for B2B marketing events? Book a consultation with Beeline and we’ll be happy to help you!