Hybrid events

Hybrid events have now become common in the new normal wherein attendees have the opportunity to attend an event live (in-person) or virtually. The onus is on the event organisers and marketers to ensure that they engage the virtual audience as they do with their live attendees.  

In this blog, we look at what defines a hybrid event, and best practices you can adopt to run a successful hybrid event for your business.  

In the previous blog, we looked at how SMEs transitioned into organising virtual events, and the advantages SMEs have in terms of both cost and scale when it comes to online events.  

But, with the world now slowly coming back to normalcy and people coming back into work, we wonder; do virtual events make sense anymore? After all, screen fatigue is real, isn’t it?  

But from a marketer’s standpoint, the truth is that well-run virtual events have delivered – in terms of ROI, lead generation and brand awareness. It has also helped marketers expand their professional network and build relationships with a diverse group of people.  

So, we can confidently say that virtual events are here to stay, albeit with a twist. The new normal has brought a turnaround in the events industry as well, with companies hosting what is now known as hybrid events.  

What is a Hybrid Event? 

A hybrid event is one which brings together your live and virtual audience in one place. For example, the London EV Show is one of the most sought after trade shows for car enthusiasts in the UK, and globally. In 2021, the EV trade show organiser, Valiant Business Media took the event hybrid, having booths with electric vehicle displays and keynote addresses which catered to car enthusiasts both in-person and virtually. To ensure that the virtual audience remains engaged, the trade show had well-organised Q&A sessions and forum discussions. 

While this is just one example, since the lockdown, a number of conferences and trade shows like TechSPO, Tech Live London, Learning Technologies, the AI Summit, Big Data London and Apple Special Events have gone hybrid. In fact, a study by events company, Maximilion, revealed that hybrid events saw a 890% jump in search volume in the last two years, making it a sought-after event mode by attendees, and a favourite among UK businesses. 

The Advantages of Hybrid Events  

Higher head count, further reach 

Organisers of hybrid events open the floor for more attendees across geographies to be part of the event. The audience is not limited by hall capacity, inability to travel due to limited budgets, work or safety concerns. 

Greater sponsorship opportunities 

These events certainly create more sponsorship opportunities. Sponsors can place live standees and marketing material in the venue, and market their ads on event apps and websites. 

More ways to engage with attendees 

Organisers enable interactions with a wider set of audience across the world. For example, virtual attendees can interact through chat, live Q&A and feedback sessions. The live and virtual audience can also be engaged through polls, quizzes and games, or separate Q&A sessions for live and virtual attendees.  

A more measurable ROI  

Hybrid events are better in terms of data tracking. Unlike in live events where there are a lot of moving parts, hybrid events, by reaching out to a wider audience, help marketers calculate their ROI more effectively.  

For example, marketers can track the number of sign-ups, the number of virtual vs in-person attendees for each session, the number of dropouts mid-session and so on. Sponsors can also use this model to track how many attendees visited their booth, and how many signed up for their product or service.  

Greater accessibility  

With virtual becoming the new normal, many may still choose to attend an event from the comfort of their home or city, which means every cost from logistics and venue to catering goes down compared to pre-pandemic.  

Evergreen marketing content 

Last but not least, hybrid events are ideal for marketers who’re looking for year-long marketing content. Whether you choose to live stream it at once or release it in parts, having a hybrid event provides ample marketing material for you to highlight parts of your event all year long to create engagement, interaction and anticipation with your existing and potential audience.  

Best Practices to Run a Hybrid Event 

Let’s admit it. Many of us are still novices when it comes to running hybrid events. And, one of the biggest challenges we’re going to see is finding ways to engage the audience live and on virtual platforms. Having said that, there are many companies that have experimented with hybrid events in the last two years and succeeded.  

Let’s look at what some best practices they’ve suggested are. 

Create. Revise. Reiterate.  

As a Marketing Data expert puts it bluntly: “Your audience is everything. And their attention span is limited, more so after the pandemic.” So, make sure your webinar, presentation or talk is crisp, engaging, interactive and educational.  

Until it reaches that sweet spot, be open to revising as many times as needed to make it worth their while. She goes on to add: “Without good content, you won’t be able to engage your audience, and this will affect your ability to run a successful event – be it to generate leads, build a brand or deliver to your sponsors.”  

Test. Test. Test. 

It is as important to spend time in the venue checking the microphone, speakers and projectors, as it is to check your internet connectivity, engagement platform and AV in the virtual world.  

In a study by Markletic, 67% of event organizers have said that ensuring smooth technology functioning is one of the biggest challenges they face with hybrid events. While testing beforehand is crucial, it’s always good to have a backup in case of a glitch or failure.  

Rehearse the event flow with your internal team 

Are you on top of the different segments in the event? Are you on the same page with your team members on engaging the live and virtual audience? Are you familiar with the sequence of events? Are your presentations running smoothly? Rehearsals go a long way in minimising potential glitches that may occur on event day and fixing it well ahead of time.  

Timing is everything  

Just as content is crucial to engage your audience, timing is important too. You can’t have two-hour long talks on a subject if your audience’s attention span is limited. You need to time your sessions in a way that it engages your audience, and stays within their attention span.  

Similarly, you need to time your breaks so that your audience have enough time to digest, have a break and be ready to consume the content from the next presentation with the same level of attention as they had for the last.  

Engage both audience segments equally 

It’s going to be awkward if your virtual audience is simply going to sit and watch the event as it goes. They may even lose interest and drop off in between. Instead, make sure you have a dedicated team that’s working to engage your virtual as much as your live audience. You can do this by hosting polls or quizzes from time-to-time, interacting with them on social media, or posing their questions to the speaker in live talks.  

Keep a headcount of virtual vs live audience 

It’s advisable to set a cap on how many attendees you can accommodate in person. Beyond the in-person capacity, you can have perks to encourage your attendees to register for virtual events. Perks can be like having the recorded video available to them for 24 hours post event, or having a separate speaker interaction session for virtual attendees etc. 

This year we are going to see a number of classic events like Inbound and TwitchCon go hybrid. How about you attend a few hybrid events virtually and live and get a feel of what you expect as an attendee, and what was delivered by the organisers? That will be a great start for you to get the ball rolling on your own hybrid event.  

Merit Group’s expertise in Marketing Data    

At Merit Group, we partner with some of the world’s leading B2B companies. Our data teams work closely with our clients to build comprehensive B2B marketing contact lists that provide a direct line to their target audience.   

If you’d like to learn more about our service offerings or speak to a marketing data consultant, please contact us here: https://www.meritdata-tech.com/contact-us

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