The pandemic led many marketers to wipe the slate clean when it came to their event strategies. After the initial shock, when many events were postponed or canceled, some early adopter brands quickly revived their events in a new digital form, keeping them online. Many countries and regions around the world are beginning to remove restrictions, but there is still a significant proportion of brands that are lagging behind when it comes to adapting their events to the new normal, which is hybrid.
By incorporating elements of physical and virtual events into a new hybrid model, you can attract attendees who are comfortable joining in person without excluding those who are more comfortable joining online. Likewise, physical events can take place anywhere in the world, but attendees will not be forced to travel and will simply be able to participate through a hybrid event platform.
Before the pandemic, marketers’ event strategies focused primarily on developing engaging physical events based on face-to-face interactions. But today, the virtual and hybrid environment can present some unfamiliar challenges. As a result, marketers must consider how to overcome them in the future.
One of the biggest challenges that may be experienced concerns how to truly engage attendees during events. As Zoom fatigue prevails as a result of the shift to remote work, marketers must understand the mindset of their attendees and what can be done to keep them engaged. Engagement can be driven through the use of an event platform that borrows elements from social media and video games. Attendees can be encouraged to post images, videos and messages related to the event in live streams such as those found on popular social media platforms. They can also be encouraged to interact with content posted to the event feed.
Event platforms that include gamification features can help generate even greater engagement. Event gamification can include awarding points to attendees for each participation and different sessions within the event. In addition, attendees can be encouraged by digital goodie bags or exciting prizes to be awarded to those at the top of the leaderboard when the event concludes.
Understanding what is working at the event and what is not can be another major challenge that is also complex in not being able to measure attendee reactions and engagement the way it can be during a physical event. Access to valuable attendee data will help marketers understand how each element of their event was received. An event platform that provides integrated analytics will allow this data to be assimilated at a granular level, such as how different audience segments interact with different elements and themes.
There can also be a perceived technical barrier for marketers when it comes to executing virtual and hybrid events. They are generally comfortable executing physical events on their own, but there can be some complexity around virtual or hybrid events for fear of not knowing how. This can be solved by selecting an event platform that is intuitive, easy to use and provides 24-hour support, including full support before, during and after the event.
Significant ROI opportunities exist for brands that master their event strategies. The event industry will grow by $774 billion over the next decade, nearly ten times its value in 2020, according to Grandview Research. However, specialists will need to consider how they will strike the right balance between in-person and online elements. That’s because there is a substantial difference between virtual and hybrid events, which means ROI will decrease when in-person elements are added.
It makes sense for marketers to rely more on virtual events and take small creative steps to incorporate in-person elements. Consideration should be given to starting with mostly virtual but in-person viewing parties in parallel, or something similar that allows testing what works and what doesn’t, by market and audience segment. Data from each virtual event can inform the way events with in-person elements are set up and ensure they generate maximum ROI by targeting the right type of attendee and controlling the elements and themes they will know drive engagement.
Experience is everything, and this is the most important thing for specialists to remember. So many experiences that work in person don’t work virtually and vice versa. So it pays to talk to your networks to ask and share what worked and what didn’t. Events are a big transformation and sharing different experiences will be key to designing events along with delivering solutions and value for everyone from organizers to attendees to high-level stakeholders concerned about the ROI of their events.