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Driving Growth with Hybrid Events

By Bill Mott and Joshua Butler

AT A GLANCE

  • How hybrid events can extend the conference beyond a convention center
  • Ways these virtual gatherings can transform your marketing strategy
  • Why hybrid offerings can provide more comprehensive data points

Whether it’s due to conflicting schedules, cost, or travel limitations, there are throngs of people who would love to engage with your brand at an event, but simply cannot attend.

However, if show organizers and event marketers hope to expand their event and their brand to new audiences, they still need other ways to reach these people.

What is a hybrid event?

Hybrid events are live, face-to-face events that also offer virtual components, providing audiences with the opportunity to participate, learn, and engage even if they can’t attend in person. These gatherings are held solely in the virtual space, whether it’s a video stream, a web conference, or even a virtual environment meeting.

Here’s an example of how a hybrid event would work:

An industry conference could set up an eLearning web platform to create an omnichannel, immersive digital experience for distributing live broadcasts and on-demand content. Whether it’s the keynotes, webinars, individual educational sessions, testing, assignments or more, the hybrid event would extend the conference beyond the convention center, making it easy for industry professionals worldwide to engage 365 days a year.

In the words of the old Bell advertisement, it’s “the next best thing to being there.”

Does offering online access to your event content carry a risk of people choosing to stay home instead of attending in person? It may happen in a handful of cases, but it’s unlikely to make a significant dent in your in-person attendance. Instead, it opens up the doors to major event growth. People who couldn’t attend before can now enjoy access to reams of exciting and helpful content, often enticing them to consider attending in person.

Hybrid events offer a unique opportunity to easily and seamlessly reach audiences around the world and at all times of the year, encouraging them to engage with the event and its content as well as join the event’s community.
Driving marketing strategy

For a typical event, the marketing strategy revolves around one task: Getting attendees to register and travel to the event.

Hybrid events have the potential to transform an organization’s event marketing strategy, opening up new possibilities and options:

  • With geography no longer an impediment, the strategy can target regions it may not have approached before, greatly expanding the event audience.
  • Attendees who cancel their registration or who are no-shows can be targeted with offers to take advantage of the online options, keeping them interested and engaged.
  • The online event and its resources can be marketed all year long, offering show organizers and event marketers the chance to capitalize on timely opportunities.
  • Popular content, whether live or on-demand, can provide lucrative sponsorship opportunities and can be promoted throughout the year.
  • Opening up the lines of communication with virtual attendees can provide valuable insights on what type of content would make them want to attend in person, giving event marketers and show organizers extra fuel for event growth.
  • Tracking participation and assessing effectiveness becomes much simpler, letting content managers more easily assess the effectiveness of their content.

Along with massive audience growth and engagement comes an equally large expansion of available event data.

How do hybrid events improve event data?

Because hybrid events are online, show organizers and event marketers can collect data points based on the virtual audiences' participation. For example:

  • An association is hosting an industry conference and wants to improve the educational sessions and material it offers. However, the survey data collected so far doesn’t provide enough clear direction for improvement. The association sets up a learning management system (LMS) which provides year-round access to the session content, allowing members worldwide to work toward accreditations by viewing the content online. Because the virtual audience can be so much larger than the in-person one, analyzing participation data can provide conclusive insights that help the association refine their content for future events.
  • A company is doing a product launch event and wants greater insights about exactly who their market is. Those who can’t attend in person can visit a landing page, complete a form, and watch a livestream of the product launch. Not only does this greatly expand the overall event audience, it also provides a larger and more comprehensive set of data, allowing for better demographic conclusions.
When combined with the right technology, hybrid events can provide you with deep insight on the pain points, knowledge gaps, and opinions of the people you most want to reach. ​
Expanding hybrid events with technology

Having people consume event content from afar is a great way to spread engagement and grow an event, but what’s the next level? Powerful event tools can help you make the most of your hybrid event.

Collecting the data

During a typical conference session, you might get a handful of people asking questions once the presentation is complete.

Is anybody taking note of these questions and the discussion that follows? Probably not.

That’s lost data.

Audience engagement platforms bring the in-room and virtual attendees together, interacting with the content, asking questions, answering polls, making comments, and posting on social media. This data is priceless for presenters, show organizers, and event marketers.

What questions were asked? What were the poll results? Were some polls answered more readily than others, indicating peaks and troughs of audience interest? Was there a drop in virtual attendance at any point or did people stay for the entire session?

Collecting data points from this significantly expanded audience gives you the raw material for deep insights that can transform your event strategy.

Integrating and using the data

But what of this raw data? It’s great to know what questions were asked during Jane Smith’s session, but what does that tell you?

Fortunately, an event tech integration platform allows data from all of your applications, from registration to your interactive platforms to the stats on your landing pages, to be pulled together and coalesced into one master dataset. And then, a data analytics dashboard can aggregate your data and create actionable reports that give you the complete story on your hybrid event performance.

Hybrid events offer event marketers and show organizers an unprecedented opportunity to vastly expand audiences and transform their event into a formidable engagement vehicle. By implementing virtual elements into your event and creating opportunities for worldwide audiences to consume your event content year-round, you can grow your attendance, optimize your event strategy, and gain powerful insights to continually improve your event.

Looking for other ideas to elevate the event experience live and online?
Our innovative strategists can help.
Get in touch

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