By Anna Anisin, founder and CEO at Formulated.by, overseeing client strategy and business development.
With restrictions easing up in some locations, organizations hosting events are reinventing their strategy by transitioning from virtual to hybrid events.
Hybrid events are more flexible and inclusive. They also provide the opportunity to retain the gains recorded from creating virtual experiences in the past year while also bringing back the in-person experience into the mix. Some of these gains include extended audience reach, innovative ways of creating and reusing event content and a cumulative increase in return on investment (ROI).
If your organization is contemplating diving into the hybrid event experience, here are six steps to help you get started with your plans.
1. Define Event Strategy
Getting started on your hybrid event plans begins with defining your event strategy, and that entails finding answers to some pertinent event questions as highlighted below. Your team should be clear about why you want to create a hybrid experience and what goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) you want to achieve.
• Are you interested in lead generation or brand awareness?
• Is it going to be a relationship-building event with customers?
• Do you want to use your audience base and size as an opportunity to sell sponsorships?
Also, before deciding on hosting a hybrid event, be sure you have target audiences that will participate either in person or virtually. If your audiences are geographically scattered, you are likely to have more people attending online. However, if more of your audiences are located in the same city or country, you may have more people attending in person. To avoid guesswork, you can poll your event community to know their attendance preference before deciding on your event format.
2. Create Attractive Content
Getting your audiences immersed in the event experience requires attractive and engaging content. You have to determine what type of content stirs the interest of your target audience, and the following can help you generate content ideas:
• What type of content resonated with the audience in the past?
• What content are they currently consuming online?
• What are some common concerns?
• Are there any emerging industry trends that need to be brought to attention?
After deciding on your content focus areas, you can adopt different content delivery formats to present them to your audience. Some common formats include thought leadership, panel discussions, talks, webinars, workshops, demos, expert interviews and more.
Another issue of note about hybrid event content is that it is important to pay attention to production and streaming quality. This applies to both in-person and virtual experiences of your hybrid event. Take time to produce quality event content to create an immersive event experience for your audiences. Keep in mind that online audiences depend even more on content quality to engage, so plan accordingly when creating specific content for them.
3. Choose Your Location And Tech Stack
Planning a hybrid event requires finding a physical venue to host your event and selecting a tech stack for the virtual experience. For venue ideas, consider your organization’s headquarters, a coworking space, meeting rooms in hotels or event halls. You can also partner with other businesses for the possibility of getting a sponsored location.
Choose a location with architecture, decor and settings that will enhance the quality of video and audio capture and streaming to the virtual event platform. Find out if the venue has required audiovisuals (AV) or if you will need to bring that in as part of your tech stack.
Once venue and AV tech is sorted, the next thing is to find a platform to livestream content presented at the in-person venue. Depending on your budget and event size, you can consider regular streaming apps or procure a more sophisticated platform with richer interaction and engagement features.
To track sign-ups, use a registration or ticketing software. A popular one is Eventbrite, or you can use the native registration forms on your event platform.
4. Engage Community Face-To-Face And Virtually
Without audience engagement, all attendees are reduced to merely listeners and viewers. What makes an event truly hybrid is when participants are able to interact and network with other attendees, speakers and sponsors irrespective of their mode of attendance.
Therefore, to engage in-person attendees, introduce happy hours, dinners, beers or pizza after the event. Virtual audiences can be engaged using the interactive features on the virtual event app, such as live chat, polls, Q&A, gamification, discussion forums on the platform, group chats, 1:1 video chats and other online means.
5. Find Sponsors And Partners
Increase ROI by involving sponsors and partners in your hybrid event strategy. With a hybrid model, you have interesting ways to get touch points with attendees both physically and virtually.
Bring in sponsors and partners early in your event plans so they can offer their inputs to make the event successful. Some of the ways sponsors can get involved apart from promotional banners and virtual/in-person booths are sponsored presentations, demos, interviews, sponsored games and giveaways, sponsored on-demand content and more. You can have different sponsorship pricing tiers, which may include in-person only, virtual-only or in-person plus virtual.
6. Create On-Demand Offers
The virtual component of a hybrid event creates an opportunity to provide additional content on demand after the event has ended. Both in-person and online attendees can benefit from such content.
Create on-demand offers in line with the event’s direction to further drive engagement and generate leads. However, to do this, you need a platform that will be open year-round to post new content and offers so attendees can continue to engage.
As you go ahead with your hybrid event plans, note that there is the possibility to incur more cost organizing the event than you would for an in-person or virtual-only event. Therefore, your strategy should include finding ways to bring the cost margins down to increase profit margins for your event.
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