While it might seem like an eternity since live events were a consistent part of the B2B tech space, eased restrictions across many parts of the globe have encouraged organisations to integrate them back into their overall engagement strategy.
But since most organisations aren’t ready to go full steam ahead with in-person events just yet, the idea of hosting hybrid events is proving to be a popular one.
It comes down to having a choice. Many people are now used to the idea that they can attend an event virtually and still enjoy a rich and engaging experience. Now that events in-person are back in the mix, not everyone is itching to hop on a plane and be a part of the throng. Enter the hybrid event – one where both onsite and remote attendees are treated to a full and engaging experience.
So, as in-person events make their gradual return, how can organisers include and engage those who can’t make it and choose to attend online? If you’re thinking of hosting a hybrid event in 2022, here are a few ways you can create the best experience possible – before, during and after your event – and stand out from your competition.
Before the event
All events need careful planning to consider who is coming and why they should be excited about it. A hybrid event is no different. You’ll need to clearly identify your two types of attendees (in-person and online), define exactly what they’re going to get out of each session, and how different content types could be presented to be impactful in both settings.
Plus, the usual methods of pre-event engagement need to apply, to make sure that people are primed and excited to attend.
By getting these early steps right, you can simplify the process of creating an experience that’s captivating for everyone, whether or not they’re in the room.
Even though the logistics of running a hybrid event may be a little more complex than usual, defining your target market isn’t. It doesn’t matter if they’re an online or in-person attendee, a sponsor, or a presenter, everybody is there for the same thing. Understanding this is key to delivering the right content and an equally engaging experience for all.
One important impact of a hybrid event is that the audience could be broader than a traditional in-person event, including attendees from different time-zones. Knowing who your event has opened up to, and where they are is important for choosing your virtual delivery platform and planning your event schedule.
A successful hybrid event will need both a great physical location, and an event management platform that goes beyond simply streaming presenters and slide shows. Your chosen platform must be simple to use for attendees and should drive and capture engagement across your entire audience. Ultimately, it needs to be able to beautifully showcase your content and replicate aspects of the in-person experience for those online, as well as help people in the room engage and interact with the broader, remote audience.
You’re not the only one facing this challenge, and there are teams of people all over the world working on tech that can make your event amazing.
It’s also vital that you consider finding a platform that extends your event and creates a shared experience via pre and post activities, delivers interactive content throughout, and ties both of these together seamlessly. This could mean finding an event specific app, plus using a public social media platform that increases visibility, like Twitter. This can be a great way to democratise access to your event content for both onsite and remote audiences.
If you’re planning a hybrid event, have a look around for platforms that are on course with the latest innovations. You’re not the only one facing this challenge, and there are teams of people all over the world working on tech that can make your event amazing.
Getting your audience excited for your hybrid event is no different to marketing a traditional in-person or virtual event – although your attendees now have another option to choose from. And while the end experience and key learnings will be the same for all who attend, it’s important that in the pursuit of transparency, you highlight how the remote may differ throughout the event.
To boost your event attendance, it’s vital that you highlight:
- key appearances
- key learning opportunities
- anticipated announcements or newsworthy items
- promotions or offers
- anything else attractive, like special performances
As with any event, partnering with a big name sponsor might help to spread your reach even further and give you access to a wider engaged audience.
To get the word out, have a broad range of channels and relevant content to promote your event to different audiences with a personalised experience. It can be easy to fall into the ‘social media only’ trap, but don’t discount the power of targeted email sequences, phone calls, text messages and direct mail. Usual marketing rules apply: wherever your audience is, that’s where you should be.
During the event
The actual staging of your event is where hybrid events pose the greatest challenges and opportunities. Paramount is the idea that the event offers value to all who attend. This involves creating an engaging experience for those following on a screen and those who are up close and personal.
How do you do this? It’s going to depend a lot on who your audience is. But there’s one thing that will always make an event a winner – getting your content right.
With the right material, attendees will be present and interested, regardless of their location. Here are a few ways to boost engagement during your hybrid event.
Diversify your content
It can be easy as a listener to zone out if things start to get repetitive. By incorporating a diverse range of content you can keep attendees focused and ready to learn more. This could include:
- Video presentations
- Case studies or real life customer stories
- Audio only-sessions
- Interactive experiences that work for both remote and onsite participants
- Live product demos
A chat box is a simple way to bring your online audience into the room in real-time. Presenters can then refer to the chat box with simple reminders for attendees to share their thoughts and experiences as the event continues. With the right prompts and engaging content, you can encourage vibrant discussions between online attendees and their in-person counterparts.
Curated break out groups
A great way to dive a little deeper into a chosen topic, break out groups connect attendees in a much more personal manner. Opening up more space for discussion is critical to boosting engagement, and in curating targeted groups (skill level, profession), you’ll provide an opportunity for your audience to participate in a free and open exchange of ideas.
If you’d like to increase interactivity throughout your hybrid event, scheduling tasks throughout the day is a simple way to break up the day, put your key learnings into action, and keep your audience engaged.
Polls and quizzes
Polls and quizzes are a simple and direct way of engaging remote and onsite audiences on an even keel. You can use them to encourage further connection amongst participants, collect feedback, and promote new ideas and products. Make it easy for people to contribute, and try switching up the types of polls to include multiple choice, star ratings or open answer questions.
Including one-on-one sessions for both remote and in-person attendees can not only boost overall attendance, it also goes a long way to creating a shared experience amongst those attending live and those following along remotely. Plus, once you’ve got the virtual side set up, these sessions can then also be run after the event for in-person attendees who weren’t able to make time on the day.
Provide on-demand content
Events are fantastic for generating great content, whether it’s what’s been prepared by the speakers and presenters, or digests of panels and break-outs, or recordings of the event highlights. To extend your reach and keep your brand top of mind well after the event, supplying useful content that can be accessed on-demand is the way to go. This could include a guide for future projects, a checklist, an e-book or a template. Or, to really keep the momentum going, why not offer free, limited time access to an online tool?
With such a wide array of content and delivery, remote attendees can easily get a sense of what it’s like to actually be there – sharing in the same experience and atmosphere as their in-person counterparts.
After the event
With the event itself complete, it’s no time to rest on your laurels. This is your chance to deepen your audience’s engagement with your event’s content and your brand. With 86% of event organisers seeing their greatest ROI at least seven months after the event, having a strong post-event strategy is essential, and hybrid events are no different.
You just need to remember that not everyone was there in person, so you might want to also segment the way you communicate with attendees. For example, there’s no point referring to the closing party that was hosted on the final night to people who were on the other side of the country at the time.
Identify and nurture potential leads
If you’re a partner at a larger event, create a lead nurture that is appropriate for your audience. Capture their email addresses and contact details, and find out where they live online. You’ve put in the work to get these people in front of you, now’s the chance to really connect.
Of course, it helps to offer a bit more value in exchange for those details. Try one of the following to encourage potential leads to share their details:
- A discount on your products or services
- Free trial for one of your online tools
- Relevant learning materials
Follow up on social media
A common way to strengthen new connections after a hybrid event is to send out a thank you via social media or email. It doesn’t have to be anything too detailed, but a short message of appreciation can go a long way to nurturing future relationships.
Event and on-demand content
With so much going on at any given time during a hybrid event, it can be difficult for those attending to soak in all the content that’s provided. Having all of the event content available long after it’s ended gives each attendee the chance to go back and access anything they may have missed.
And for those that couldn’t make the event at all, on-demand content allows them to share in the experience whenever they choose.
Where to now?
With 34% of event organisers expecting to invest more in hybrid events in the next few years, it seems that hybrid events are here to stay.
As countries re-open, B2B tech companies hosting hybrid events find themselves in an enviable position. Yes, organising one of these events can prove challenging, but with such a wide reach and more opportunities for audience engagement, the overall ROI and benefits that come from a successful event are too hard to pass up. And with the potential for new, shared experiences that simply aren’t available through live or virtual only events, it’s no surprise that they’re now a key component of event strategies the world over.
Ready to get started on your next event?
At The Walk, we know it can be tricky understanding one audience – let alone many – for the same event.
If you want to improve your event marketing, boost audience engagement and increase attendance, we’d love to help. As one of Melbourne’s leading integrated marketing agencies, we have years of experience helping brands like yours establish strong, multi channel marketing strategies.
Shoot us a message if you have any questions or would like to know more.