As more organizations adjust to the ‘new normal,’ they’re likely to experience some growing pains. The virtual event strategies that worked in 2020 may need to be readjusted as hybrid events gain traction and attendees look for events that go beyond their basic expectations. We’ve built the steps to ensure you create successful hybrid events in 2021.
When planning a hybrid event, consider the following to-do list.
Hybrid events are designed to strike the perfect balance between virtual and in-person elements, which often varies from business to business. Before you can host a hybrid event, you need a reliable platform that delivers the virtual features you need, plus the ability to merge into an in-person setting seamlessly.
Choose an experienced virtual event provider with measured technical expertise and reliable support services to successfully launch your events. Your partner should offer robust technology features, plus consulting and planning advice every step of the way. For example, they should equip you with action plans for unexpected changes to your event setting, such as a last-minute switch to all-virtual.
In the same vein, look for a provider that can support advanced requests with ease and help planners host more events, more frequently. Scalability sets good providers apart from great ones and helps ensure a better ROI for your business as you settle into the world of hybrid events.
Many B2B event marketers see audience engagement as the most significant challenge during virtual events. As you create agendas, activities, and content, consider your virtual attendees first. Create hybrid content optimized for remote viewing, with affordance for the average screen size, audio quality, and potential time delays between in-person speaking and virtual streaming features.
Virtual-first content often drives more engagement in-person as well, with built-in interactive features like polls, live chat, or breakouts. These encourage attendees to participate instead of merely spectating – an easy practice to adopt during a 45-minute speech.
A cohesive experience is vital for a successful virtual event. It drives engagement and connectivity between both audiences and ultimately delivers better results for event hosts and attendees alike.
As you shop for platform features, look for ways to bring both audiences together. QR codes are one of the easiest ways to share identical content, engagement opportunities, and insights with your attendees. Users anywhere in the world can hold their phone up to a laptop screen or projector to access the same content, poll prompt, or download link as the rest of the attendees in real-time.
Engagement requires human connection — which can be challenging in a virtual setting. Tools like personalized agendas and participant matchmaking allow event organizers to expand reach and impact across all audiences. Plus, they give remote attendees opportunities to build meaningful connections instead of passively listening to content.
Customizable extensions empower attendees of all types. For example, calendar tools can build post-event interest by suggesting relevant events in the future. They also make it easy to schedule meetings with sales representatives, speakers, other attendees, and more.
These types of extensions make online networking convenient, intuitive, and stress-free. Finally, attendees can create lasting connections and find relevant resources without skimming through online participant lists or queueing up at the coffee stand in hopes of bumping into the perfect sales representative or product specialist.
You can even include adaptable networking apps that enable real-time networking between physical and virtual attendees, plus ongoing communications before, during, and after the actual conference with advanced matchmaking and other connectivity features.
As a virtual attendee, it’s easy to feel disconnected with a long string of live sessions that span the entire day or an equally long list of pre-recorded events to click through. In-person attendees can also grow tired of repetitive content, which makes it easier to mentally ‘check out’ or simply lose interest in the topic at hand.
Successful hybrid events in 2021 can solve for both sides with a curated combination of pre-recorded and live sessions sprinkled throughout each day’s schedule. This approach blends the shared experience and gives attendees control of their agenda.
In-person and virtual attendees can connect in real-time for live sessions, then switch to pre-recorded sessions or take a quick lunch break and save the recording for on-demand viewing. This level of flexibility allows attendees to prioritize the content they’re most interested in and cuts down on the general fatigue of back-to-back sessions.
Every event marketer feels a universal pressure to deliver impactful content over a tight two- or three-day event schedule. And many marketers long for the opportunity to turn short-term events into long-term value for their attendees and organization.
Instead of delivering one-time experiences, create an always-online virtual space where audiences can attend and re-attend your event any time. You’ll give attendees the chance to access event content on their schedule, with on-demand recordings and sessions that echo their live counterparts and provide ongoing value long after the last keynote speech or Q&A session.
On-demand event and content access also opens new revenue streams and shares your brand with a diverse audience, not just a pre-registered list of attendees or the prospects who happened to be available on the day of a live event.
As you curate content, customize your platform, set your agenda, and more, keep your attendees top of mind. Event formats, sessions, and features that highlight the value of your business are important. However, don’t forget to integrate factors that provide the most significant value, high levels of engagement, and sheer excitement for your audience.
Sincere focus on engagement, connectivity, and attendee experience is key to a successful hybrid event. You’ll see your investments reflected in increased event ROI, better retention, and steady long-term business growth. Download our Ultimate Guide to Hybrid Events to get more tips on how you can create an impactful, engaging, and memorable hybrid event experience.