The return of in-person events has picked up speed in the last few weeks as Covid-19 restrictions have eased. A recent study from American Express shows tangible demand driving this acceleration — 82 percent of business travelers and 79 percent of corporate travel decision-makers say the benefits of in-person meetings outweigh the convenience of virtual participation.
That said, there is a drawback to hosting events either exclusively in-person or online: Not everyone will turn up to one or the other. Enter the hybrid event.
As we’ve learned, many meetings previously conducted in-person can be successfully migrated to a hybrid model. The benefits reach beyond simply attracting a wider audience. Hybrid events can help organizations connect with new leads and prospects, increase event ROI, find new sponsors and reduce both the event-related risk and carbon footprint.
Hybrid events offer several advantages to event organizers and marketers, and are not likely to lose their popularity anytime soon. Here are five best practices for planning and hosting hybrid gatherings.
Determine if a Hybrid Event is Right for You
The first question you should always ask when considering a hybrid event is: How could this approach help me achieve my goals? To determine that, map out your event marketing calendar, taking note of both your target audience and objectives. If, for example, the audience you're looking to reach spans a wide geographic area and the event experience could easily be transferable to both in-person and online audiences, a hybrid approach might work best for your event.
Ensure Your Attendees Understand Their Options
When running a hybrid event, it’s essential to make the in-person and virtual options clear to your attendees so they know what to expect from each experience. Let potential attendees know on your event page, invitations and social promotions that they can attend either live or virtually. Additionally, make sure to capture their preference on the registration form.
Consider Your Virtual Audience First
Your virtual audience will never have the same attention span or level of engagement as your in-person audience. Therefore, it’s important to make decisions based on keeping the at-home attendees included. Consider how to make it easy for them to take part in activities, networking, breakout discussions and Q&As. How can you optimize room layout, speakers and event flow for in-person and remote guests?
Encourage Connection and Collaboration
Because your panelists and presenters are your event, it’s best to keep them on-site when possible so they can keep your audiences energized and engaged. To ensure these on-site presentations and sessions reach your virtual audience with as much energy as possible, encourage direct interaction between virtual and on-site audiences and presenters.
Avoid Confusion with Clear Communication
Make sure you define a ticket pricing strategy in advance of the event registration going live. That will help prevent any confusion on the part of attendees when determining whether to attend in-person or virtually. When scheduling, work to accommodate the different time zones of attendees and presenters. Further, offer tech support to your virtual attendees so they don’t feel like they are lost in the ether if they experience connectivity or other issues.
Perhaps the most essential component of a successful hybrid events strategy is having the right event technology platform in place to support it. With a reliable event marketing platform, you can ensure that you're communicating effectively with both online and in-person attendees, creating an attractive and on-brand virtual environment and seamlessly connecting both audiences. By adopting the necessary tech capabilities and keeping these best event design practices in mind, you can make hybrid events an effective part of your overall business development and client engagement strategies.
Eric Holmen is the chief executive officer of Splash, a next-generation event marketing platform that provides event marketers and field marketing teams with the tools they need to design, create and execute virtual, in-person and hybrid event programs that create memorable experiences, engage attendees and drive business value.