Throughout the past year, as planners have grown in confidence having up-skilled themselves in virtual event practices, they’ve been able to take a step back and assess which parts of their in-person events program would succeed, either partially or fully online for the future.
According to a recent study by the International Live Events Association (ILEA) of 250 event planners, agencies and marketing managers from EMEA and North America, 88% of respondents cited a need for more hybrid solutions when asked: ‘What new technologies would you implement into event experiences?’
Almost 86% of respondents meanwhile said that once a full return to physical events gets underway, they will continue to deploy a digital strategy to maintain virtual audiences.
When asked why, answers ranged from an anticipated reduction in corporate travel and a lack of confidence in large gatherings, to a perceived need to cater for new online audiences and to build-on those higher registration conversion rates, which digital events have delivered over the past 12 months.
This got us thinking. It’s one thing to say that hybrid solutions are now the future of event planning but what are the most persuasive arguments to convince bosses and budget holders to invest in both digital and in-person elements?
Over the past year, virtual has replaced live but when deciding whether or not to now integrate the two together, there’s sure to be some interesting discussions happening in boardrooms everywhere.
To help you state a persuasive case for hybrid, we spoke to David Stanley, Head of Corporate Events at Aztec Live and Adam Simpson, Director of Marketing and US Sales at etc.venues. Here’s what they said:
1) Global Reach
David Stanley: “Finally, events have a truly global reach. They can communicate important messaging to audiences who cannot afford to travel, don’t have the time to travel, or simply don’t wish to travel for environmental reasons. They can reach introverts and people with disabilities, plus they can now transcend both language and geographical barriers to attending.”
Adam Simpson: “When we held our UKickstart event in autumn 2020, not only did we link 305 people who were at 12 venues in the UK, a further 1,800 also joined the event virtually from across Europe and North America. The reach was much bigger than if it had only been an in-person event. Broadcasting to a virtual audience is a great way to boost and extend event attendance.”
2) Deeper connections
Adam: “Meeting industry colleagues and networking face-to-face creates deeper connections with new and existing contacts at live events. It is not only immensely valuable but often stimulating and enjoyable. Adding the online audience allows you to e-meet a lot more people in a short space of time. Deeper connections are formed by having the choice to talk online and meet-up in-person at a future event. Only a hybrid format gives attendees the option to do both.”
3) Broader choice of speakers
David: “Hybrid is a great opportunity to increase your pool of interesting and experienced keynote presenters by either remote pre-recording to play out at the show or via a live remote broadcast directly into the show and back out to the online platform. There’s a cost saving with no travel expenses or accommodation and with a mix of virtual and in-person presentations, it will reduce the carbon footprint of the overall event.”
4) Content on-demand
David: “By delivering content that can be revisited and replayed on-demand, not only will those sessions achieve greater reach and engagement (ideal for sponsor value), it will also make your events more accessible to people with restricted mobility or who were simply too busy to attend.”
Adam: “As many hybrid events are recorded, both audiences will have the opportunity to view the presentations and discussions again on-demand, so they can make the most of them and take their time to reflect upon them. Recording enables event organizers to give all registered participants the chance to extend the life of the event and engage with content at a time that suits them.”
5) Increased brand awareness
David: “Consider the virtual experience, not as an add-on but as a simultaneous event running alongside the live show. It can increase viewer traffic and provide additional opportunities for advertisements, sponsorships and brand exposure across social and digital channels with direct links to sponsor's web pages or online virtual stands.”
6) Deeper audience understanding
Adam: “Using a hybrid platform enables an event organizer to capture data about a larger audience and analyze it. This can not only increase the size of databases, it can also provide useful understanding to improve future events. Even before the pandemic, delegates were using their smartphones to engage with an event. Now, adoption levels are much higher and so the resulting insights can prove valuable to your business and for PR and social media content.”
7) Promote future activity
David: “People may choose to experience the online version of an event before deciding whether or not to buy a ticket and incur the expense of attending in subsequent years. So why not treat the online event as a giant advert for the live show by featuring highlights of the conference, awards or exhibition.”
David: “We must never find ourselves in this position again. If, for any future reason the live show is cancelled or reduced due to future pandemics, restricted travel or other unforeseen circumstances that force people to stay at home, then the show can still go on with just a few tweaks, albeit online, as the infrastructure, planning and strategy will already be in place.”
Adam: “Live and virtual events each have their own strengths. A hybrid event can offer the best of both worlds to organizers. Nothing can replace the atmosphere and camaraderie that is generated when people are face-to-face in a room. But online event technology has future-proofed events, enabling people who can’t be there in-person, because of for instance, the current travel restrictions, to engage with the speakers and discussions.”
To discover more about the benefits of hybrid meetings and events, check out this helpful guide from etc.venues.