Just a few years ago, virtual events were a rarity, as event holders put most of their effort into attracting people to major in-person trade shows and conferences. While in-person events are on the rise – bringing the face-to-face connection we’ve missed – hybrid events aren’t going anywhere soon. Reports indicate that four out of five event participants attend virtual or hybrid events for educational reasons, followed closely by networking. So, what can you do to drive your community not only to show up but also engage and sing praises for your event? We’ve got tips to equip you with success.
Technology Drives Return on Engagement
Chances are, you’ve abandoned your cart during a confusing and clunky online shopping experience. A poor user experience places you at risk of losing your audience – including speakers, sponsors, and attendees. As one of the first impressions for your participants, prioritize identifying a platform that supports all session types – be it pre-recorded or live-streamed. Conversely, the platform should support an anytime, anyplace level of access, giving participants accessibility no matter how they participate.
At Meeting Expectations, we love our fun and games – so, engagement tools are also at the top of the list. Gamifying the experience for your attendees has added benefits for attendees, too. Every time they complete a milestone in the event app, their brain’s reward center illuminates and encourages continued and greater engagement.
After announcing its in-person conference, our client, NPMA, opted to add a virtual option. With the in-person event looming close, we guided our client to set up separate registration systems to segment audience types, thus allowing for a multi-prong communication strategy to the different attendee types. On the ground, our multimedia director, Joey Sirmons, worked with the A/V team to successfully live-stream sessions from the in-person conference. NPMA also staffed each session room with a mediator who monitored and read questions from the virtual interface as an added benefit to those joining from afar.
Start Marketing Early
Delivering a return on engagement requires a multifaceted approach. In an ideal world, event leaders would have an ample runway to launch the virtual portion of their event. Regardless of your timeline, begin by identifying the event goals to inform your messaging, promotions, thought leadership, and to function as a vehicle for brand equity.
And since the virtual portion of the hybrid event happens online, it’s critical to cultivate a community where your audience hangs out. For example, if you know your demographic is active on Facebook, create Facebook Event pages for the in-person and virtual attendees. Enlist your sponsors and partners to help spread the word with a toolkit of event information, sample copy for social media, and graphics they can post on their website or social media. Since we know networking is key, consider scheduling pre-event meetups with speakers, sponsors, and attendees in those online groups.
Your hybrid event also functions as a lead-generation tool, allowing you to glean data about your participants. While much of this gets collected in the initial registration process, consider having some sessions require pre-registration, which provides you with further data into what interests your attendees. Additionally, the data gathered can serve as a lookalike model for our marketing team to build from a larger audience.
Consider The Hidden Costs of Hybrid
Staffing and technical support for a hybrid event have costs that need to be considered in budgeting. Depending on the format of your event, make sure your event management team is experienced in budgeting – and securing the best value – for costs related to:
- The technology platform
- Platform customization
- App/platform training for staff, volunteers, attendees, and sponsors
- Event staffing
- Room moderators to monitor questions and chatter
- Tech support to ensure a seamless experiences
Maximize Hybrid’s Robust Reporting
Robina Wahid, senior conference manager, recently led the first-ever hybrid event for our client, AIS. This conference is the premier international event for the information systems community and is greatly anticipated to deliver breakout sessions, workshops, awards ceremonies, networking, and more. With such an array of programming planned, technology was vital to executing this event successfully. To best serve the client and its attendees, our technology team guided the setup of a sophisticated registration system to track multiple attendee types – delivering more data to translate into deeper actionable insights.
In conclusion, creatively conceptualized hybrid events have the power to engage and amplify your audiences. But having the right technology and strategy is essential to its success. Contact us to learn how we can craft a hybrid solution for your audience.