As the world opens up and Covid restrictions are lifted, we will not return to business as we knew it before, largely because of lessons we learned about the benefits of communicating digitally. For example, marketers, human resources professionals and event planners will continue to leverage the advantages of virtual communications, including massive logistical efficiencies, the ability to extend the lifecycle of an event and the use of advanced analytics to maximize ROI. So, while events are beginning to offer physical options, the future of events will be inclusive of hybrid events, offering a vibrant digital overlay to the in-person experience.
So, how can marketers create impactful hybrid events that resonate with physical and virtual attendees while delivering ROI for hosts, sponsors and exhibitors? The answer is to understand both your in-person and virtual audiences while creating powerful experiences for both.
Today’s successful hybrid events celebrate and amplify the offline physical event online. In this new era, event organizers must develop strategies for each audience.
Tapping into The Differences
It’s no secret that the bread and butter of virtual events is compelling and engaging content. Without it, attendees lose interest and log out. Physical events, on the other hand, rely on “the experience” and surroundings. With that in mind, event organizers need to marry the best of both of these worlds to create a hybrid event that is enriching and unique to attendees.
Consider speakers for your hybrid event. It goes without saying that keynote speakers often resonate much better in person and, therefore, should likely be giving a presentation from the main stage. With this in mind, consider invitation-only status to influential attendees and speakers for the in-person portion of the event.
When thinking about virtual and in-person attendees collectively, consider offering a few limited sessions to both physical and virtual audiences together while largely focusing on separate sessions for virtual and in-person attendees. The point here is to create the right impact for each audience. In other words, the organizer can zero in on the key stakeholders/attendees in person and make that personal connection while creating top-of-the-funnel leads via the virtual environment.
Integrating Emerging Technology
In recent years, virtual and augmented reality have become increasingly popular and integral to meetings and events, as organizers leverage these technologies to add an experiential dimension for virtual attendees that can enable them to feel immersed in the physical experience.
Augmented reality, in particular, is easy to execute and can enhance both the speaker and virtual attendee experience in myriad ways. For example, if you are selling or presenting a product through a barcode, you can have the entire product in a physical room—even virtually. What’s more, if you are introducing a new model or design, consider adding in a layer of AR to pique attendees’ interest further.
With the use of a headset, virtual reality can also be used to create a dynamic experience for attendees. With virtual reality, exhibitors can create a virtual room where virtual attendees can see not only the event but also be a part of the physical environment. From a product perspective, VR allows virtual attendees to see beyond the physical assets into its manufacturing, look-and-feel, and user experience—all while participating from the comfort of their home. Leverage VR to take attendees beyond a product demonstration and create a product experience.
The Future for Hybrid Events
Hybrid events have helped eradicate limitations that came with physical events—limited budgets, resources, time, space, accessibility, availability and more.
As we look ahead, hybrid events are poised to become the backbone and de facto format of the meeting and events industry. Hybrid events bring the ultimate flexibility, cost savings, and reach while allowing brands, sponsors, and exhibitors to capitalize on business objectives and generate maximum event ROI. And, it also has a longer shelf-life; along with capitalizing on the returns of the physical event on the scheduled date, you can still continue capitalizing on the returns of it for the same event virtually for days post it. Today, event platforms also offer you white-glove client success teams that lend support before the event, during the event, and post the event to ensure complete event success, leading to delivering the easiest and most immersive and engaging events that drive business results.
Vaibhav Jain is founder and CEO of the virtual and hybrid event technology company Hubilo. A graduate from Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Vaibhav has 10 years of marketing, operations, finance and sales expertise in the Information Technology sector.