Chances are, you’ve heard from many members: “We’re ready to get back together!” And chances are you’ve heard from others: “We may never travel again. Please keep producing these great virtual events!” That leaves many associations considering hosting their first hybrid event, an in-person event that also offers the option for online participation for those not ready or able to get back to face-to-face events. What should you consider when making that decision?
- If you’re contractually obligated to an in-person event, there’s danger that the virtual registration option will cannibalize in-person attendance. That puts you at risk of falling short of room night and F&B minimums and could also result in disappointed exhibitors and sponsors. Those risks can be mitigated through:
- An effective pricing strategy – While it’s true the virtual participants will miss out on the types of interaction that can only be enjoyed in person and aren’t costing you F&B dollars, don’t underprice it. Hosting them virtually carries costs, too. Consider the value you’re delivering them while they save travel costs, and price both experiences thoughtfully.
- Strategic marketing – Market the in-person experience as the primary option with virtual participation only as the fallback position for those most likely to be interested in joining you in person; reserve your best virtual participation pitch for those less likely to travel. Also, consider your marketing calendar and when you’ll make the shift to a heavier push of the virtual experience for those who clearly have decided to pass up the face-to-face option.
- The experience of a virtual event attendee and that of an online attendee of a hybrid event aren’t the same. When you’re hosting an all-virtual event, everyone is enjoying the same experience – one that was designed solely to educate and engage an all-virtual audience. The online attendees of a hybrid event will inevitably be missing out on some of the activities you’re promoting before and during the event. Mitigate this through:
- Thoughtful design of the virtual experience – This can’t be an afterthought. Consider assigning a virtual event host and a project team dedicated to the design and implementation of the virtual aspects of the event.
- Segmentation of in-event communications – Your virtual attendees need different instructions and information than your in-person attendees and will tire of constant reminders of the activities that are exclusive to your in-person audience. One size will not fit all.
- Carefully evaluate the cost and capabilities required to produce a hybrid event. Things to consider include:
- AV equipment and technical support required to record and/or record and broadcast your educational sessions
- Personnel to manage interaction between presenters and online and in-person audience members
- Personnel to manage any virtual-only aspects of the event while your team is also hosting the face-to-face experience
Hybrid events will surely be an important part of the landscape for associations for some time to come. Done well, they can strengthen your association’s position as a leader as you meet the needs of members in new and impactful ways.
For more on this topic, contact Meeting Expectations to learn more about how we can help you design and produce your next hybrid event.