We might as well admit that virtual events are here to stay as we approach pandemic anniversary #2. Instead of feeling defeat, let’s celebrate the opportunity to include a wider audience with hybrid events.
If executed well, a hybrid, fully virtual, or even fully in-person event can be an invaluable (and lucrative) marketing and sales tactic for B2B.
73% of B2B marketers and sales leaders say that virtual events are the best way to generate quality leads.DivvyHQ, 2020
How to make it worth your while? First, decide how you’re going to present your event, and be prepared to have an online option, at least for events going into 2023, and beyond. Companies even post-pandemic might want to consider keeping an online option for big gatherings. It’s up to your budget, audience, and goals to determine, but flexibility will be your friend in the near term.
If you’re going hybrid, here are five big trends and ideas for how to execute each in your next event.
Trend 1: High Production Value
While many organizations may simply livestream the in-person event for online viewing, a successful hybrid event should engage all audiences, no matter how they are consuming the content.
Coordinate unique content for each audience by plugging in virtual programming like networking roulette or commercial-like preview videos while your in-person audience is settling in or taking a break, and remember, don’t livestream your empty room! Here’s how to achieve a high production value:
- Make registration and check-in seamless between in-person and virtual audiences with one combined data hub
- Combine pre-recorded, live-hosted, and on-demand programming to check the boxes for production value and authenticity
- Don’t skimp on a professionally built, high-quality set, lighting, and sound. And consider an emcee in person who can serve in pre-taped segments as an online guide and host.
- Ensure your online event provider, like Hopin, offers interactivity and networking and allow virtual users to interact with live ones through their own devices.
- Send a presenter package to each virtual speaker to match in-person speakers. Think about an event shirt, ring light, microphone, professional physical backdrop with the event logo, and thank you gift.
- A cohesive and immersive creative theme can go a long way to make virtual attendees feel part of the event
Trend 2: Tangible Experiences
In addition to matching your production to your high-value content, make sure your virtual attendees aren’t missing out on the fun stuff. Creating tangible experiences that can be enjoyed by both audiences ties the event together and makes for a more memorable experience.
- Consider live entertainment like a band, comedian, or DJ to stream live
- Send bubbly (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) to everyone to celebrate kickoffs or award-winners
- Conduct a class and send kits to virtual attendees prior to the event. A thoughtfully curated box with coffee and tea items could complement a break in programming; an oil diffuser may encourage mindful meditation prior to an ideation session; a cooking activity could work for team-building; and a custom cocktail tutorial will bring a common focal point to a networking session
Trend 3: Find the Flexibility
Hybrid events may feel a bit like gymnastics. Plan ahead and partner with a professional hybrid event coordinator who has been through it all before.
- Get organized and consider all options ahead to find a balance of different types of programs and experiences
- Be ready to take more (or all) speakers and participants virtual in case of new travel restrictions
Trend 4: Mountains of Data
The amount of engagement data that can be collected to pivot and strategize engagement across presentations, sessions, virtual/hybrid activities is much more granular than in-person events. This is empowering organizations to strategize and get detailed data regarding the user experience and overall preferences.
- Gamify your event with a scavenger hunt or contest that all audience members and attendees can participate in, adding the potential to capture leads and track what users loved (and what they didn’t love)
- Conduct live Q&As for optimum participation from both audiences and plan chats and live polling to drive engagement
- Just like you plan leading up to the event, plan for after your event as well. Schedule surveys, create a post-event communications strategy, compile an event analysis, and gather considerations for your next event while everything is fresh in your mind
Trend 5: Keep it Accessible
Just like your website, your event should be ADA compliant. Thinking about accessibility and increasing access isn’t just more inclusive; it’s good for business.
- Add real-time translators on screen and closed captioning through simple integrations
- Online options for every event ensures that budget-conscious attendees, those concerned about their health, and those who cannot easily travel can still safely attend
- Wearable tech will be a must for a safe return to in-person events, replacing touchscreen registration, payment, and lead retrieval with RFID smart badges and wristbands. It can also be used to mitigate risk by controlling crowds and providing contact tracing during the event
Ready to plan a hybrid virtual event or want to ask about more cool trends we’re seeing? Give us a shout.