We know plenty of people eager to get back to face-to-face events, to get real human connection, but not everyone is feeling this way. Even after the initial return phase, event organisers must remember that the world has changed; home-working, flexibility and openness have all taken a higher prevalence. Employers have seen that their teams can do a brilliant job without a daily commute into the office, parents have been supported in being more present in their children’s lives and catching up outside of daytime hours (or even being able to reduce hours). Networking has led to new connections between people hundreds and thousands of miles apart. We have all shared our home environments in zoom backgrounds, made technology mistakes and spoken about our struggles with a little more honesty than previously, over webcam.
What does this mean for events?
It can be tough achieving high attendee numbers for any event. Getting people to see the benefit of attending, committing with a booking and then actually showing up, is a real success. Will it become even harder, now that people are used to staying at their desk and now that digital content and opportunities have exploded across the internet? The answer to achieving high event attendance has surely got to be, creating and executing a hybrid event – combining the offline with online attendance. But, the overwhelming majority (76.5%) of event marketers have never hosted a hybrid event. (Bizzabo, 2020)
Event organiser Sonny Cutting of NetXP, is in the minority, having had experience of running a hybrid event already. “I’ve seen hybrid events help us reach a greater number of attendees due to the geographical landscape change. It’s partly why we’re utilising the hybrid events model with more technology in place for 2022 with the creation of The Sussex Business Show. The advice I would offer to everyone is that we now have opportunities to connect with more businesses locally, regionally and nationally, so what’s stopping you?”
Will people still travel to attend events?
Whilst restrictions are still in place, there is an obvious answer to this. But once people are allowed to travel for business and pleasure once again, how will event organisers encourage attendance, especially if there’s an online event element in place? Events will need to demonstrate true value and give their face-to-face audience a very special reason to be there. The atmosphere needs to be welcoming and compelling, with the extras delegates are keen for; things like swag, expert 121s and after-parties, where real human connections are made. Maybe there’s an awards element to your event and shortlisted companies have to attend. Don’t forget that you can also create increased demand for an event by running a limited capacity and having an early-bird sales strategy.
So how do you plan and run a successful hybrid event?
• Decide whether the online element runs simultaneously, with a lag, or separate to the in-person event. You don’t simply have to stream a live event.
• Be clear on what the audience get with each ticket type
• Get the right technology in place for the experience you want to deliver
• Ensure the three most wanted event aspects are in place for both audiences; engaging learning, the opportunity to ask questions and networking
• Have a different person in charge of the in-person event and the virtual event, that work well with each other
• Prepare and practice; with the event speakers and a small audience in different locations
• After the event, gather and listen to feedback and make your next event even better!
And don’t forget to capture the spirit of the live event so that the audience can make an informed choice about whether the in-person or virtual version will suit them best next time around. By mixing your event output and going hybrid, you really can offer the best of both worlds to your target audience and provide something to suit everyone.
The majority (59.4%) of event marketers believe a hybrid solution that manages both virtual and in-person events will be a key part of their 2021 event strategy. (Bizzabo, 2020) Will it be part of yours?
Rachael Dines, Director of Shake It Up Creative