‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched’. Long before Mike Tyson made this quote mainstream, event professionals like us have been living it everyday – If everything went according to plan at our events, then it would be an easy business. There is always a curveball that we can never prepare for, and the COVID-19 pandemic was one such curveball that could have brought everything to a halt. Instead the event industry’s resilience to punches transformed the way we run events.
Virtual events were the exact boost that face-to-face events needed to evolve – to cater to the new, digital-savvy generation. The fear that virtual events would cannibalize live events is what stopped event professionals from going digital. But today, we see that our live events will become stronger as our virtual events get better. It is the start of the Hybrid Events era , which will help you scale your event brand to unimaginable levels.
What is a hybrid event? Remarkably everyone of us has attended one in our personal lives – Attended a live concert? Watched an award show? Been to a live sporting event? If the answer is yes, then you’ve seen a Hybrid Event in action. Hybrid events are events with a small targeted audience attending in-person, integrated with a large remote audience attending virtually. However; in the past year, it has gone beyond just live streaming – to webinars; on-demand experiences ; two-way interactions; online marketplaces and virtual environments.
So here are 7 opportunities that hybrid events unlock for your organization:
1. Eliminate Traditional Barriers
When did you say the event is scheduled for?
Are you booking my stay?
Can you book my flight 2 days prior?
Can you give me a letter for my visa ?
Is there going to be a language translator for the meeting?
Just like that all the live event operational challenges for audience management are gone. Your marketing teams love virtual events because they can reach audiences they never imagined. Most events on Nunify have speakers, exhibitors, sponsors & attendees log in from all parts of the world, 24×7. Language, borders, costs and time are no longer barriers for event attendance. Almost all events have seen anywhere between 10x to 50x increase in attendees, who will want to be a part of your next live event.
2. Better Event Content Quality
2 days, 50 speakers, parallel tracks with attendees rushing in and out of sessions – This no longer needs to be the case with Hybrid events. Instead of jam packed back-to-back sessions, you can spread out content over a few days or weeks. Starting with focused personal webinars during the pre-event phase, move into hybrid live sessions on event days, and then to sharing on-demand content post-event. Your attendees can now opt for a more flexible and spread-out informational experience. Want to get more disruptive? Unlock paid, on-demand content for non-attendees to further increase your reach.
3. Year-Long Event Communities
Once the pandemic is behind us, we are going to understand some really valuable lessons that it has taught us. The most important one being ‘year-long community building’. Very few organisers in the past invested time & resources in attendee-connect between events. newsletter alone doesn’t cut it. Today, we are not just better organisers, but better communicators on digital platforms. We are ready to become reliable community owners who can serve superior content and improved networking all year long. While nothing will replace the live experience of shaking hands, year-long event apps that boost community engagement will enhance the in-person experience on event days. And did we mention more monetization opportunities?
4. More Event Sponsorship, More $$$
More the registrations, more the leads, more the time, more the opportunity, and more the space, more the sponsorship. Due to the COVID-19 scramble, many event professionals created virtual sponsorship models as the online version of traditional sponsorships, which saw a spike in leads that your sponsors relished. But the voice for quality without losing quantity is getting louder. Hybrid event sponsorship will be the solution that competes not just with traditional marketing, but also with digital marketing budgets. Think beyond event days – sponsored podcasts, digital walls, video subscriptions, intimate video meetings, qualified leads pre-event, monthly contests with sponsor giveaways, and so many endless opportunities are unlocked in the world of Hybrid Events.
5. Digital Future of the Event Venue
The last decade saw event venues get digital with hi-speed wifi, indoor wayfinding, live projection and beacons. 2020 pushed these digital initiatives into overdrive. As the world opens up, event venues gear up to become safer, digitally-efficient, automated and hybrid-ready. Registration desks will transform to efficient airport-like check-in counters; Attendee tracking will become automated to bind the virtual and in-person attendee; Hybrid physical stages with LED walls will offer an integrated virtual attendee experience; Green-room studios will aid in better content streaming and much more.
6. The Transformed Exhibition Space
Almost all exhibitors we spoke to are giddy about hybrid events. Their virtual event’s ROI has opened up possibilities to think beyond 5 people being present inside a booth for 8 hours. Exhibitors today realize they needn’t be limited inside a 30ftx30ft booth. While they have gotten comfortable to showcase their products virtually, tomorrow will be about augmented reality – You no longer have to ship all your car models to the trade show. While you get the head-turner onsite, you can provide interactive AR in the physical space. Your CEO is a video meeting away to close deals or allow attendees to pre-book appointments. Millennials prefer communicating digitally and exhibitors are ready to go beyond foot traffic to also track clicks and engagement.
7. Big Data! Data! Data!
The sheer volume of data that has been generated in the past year with virtual events, our estimates suggest, is equivalent to almost 25 years of live event data. The bonus is that the quality of this data is the richest, compared to data of any other digital medium. All this data allows you, your speakers, your sponsors, your exhibitors, and your stakeholders to perform an instant or detailed analysis. Leverage these insights and create benchmarks to drive future strategy to unlock the maximum value for everyone.
Nobody has a crystal ball to predict if traditional live events are going to evolve, be eliminated, or sustain in the future. But we can confidently say that hybrid events are the future, as we integrate more virtual components into our live events.