Business as Unusual: Shifting Live Events to Digital and Hybrid Experiences 

It’s challenging times now, something which humanity never predicted. A lot of industries have been affected due to lockdowns, restrictions and containment zones by governments across the world. The event management industry is one of them, in fact, one of the most affected ones. 

Why has this transformation occurred?

Well, the very essence of an event is when people accumulate at a place for a purpose, interact, network, learn and have a good time. But, the industry has managed to innovate and how! As soon as the pandemic underwent extensions, a lot of virtual event platforms came up, and following that, when the restrictions eased a little, hybrid events came into the foray. 

Virtual events, as the word describes, is an event that happens completely over an online platform with special functionalities to interact, engage and ‘live’ the event from the comfort of their homes. 

But, what is a hybrid event then?

In simple words – A mix of both virtual and in-person events. It takes the best of both worlds, and engages the audience present on the event site, or streaming through a virtual event platform. A lot of events, without actually realizing have been happening in the hybrid fashion for over the years. Almost all broadcasted sports matches, the Google I/O Meet etc. are typical examples of hybrid events where there is an audience present on the site, as well as audience streaming from over the Internet. 

Hybrid events have become extremely popular because of travel restrictions, regulations and lockdowns which force people to stay back at home. Also, since there is a virtual element to it, you can find innovative ways to engage with the audience, reach a larger group of audience worldwide and get valuable insights and data from each event. 

Why Should You Shift Your Live Events to Hybrid?

One obvious reason is the coronavirus pandemic. The restrictions, lockdowns that come with it. But the advantages of hybrid events are actually much beyond this. If you 

You Reach More Audience with Hybrid Events 

In a hybrid event, you not only split your audience to two mediums – Physical and Online, but you also reach out to a more potential audience who would perhaps never be able to attend if your event was solely in-person. In fact, some studies have shown that 98% of people attending hybrid events never plan to attend the event live initially, because they are unsure of how it works and its benefits. 

Through hybrid events, you make it easy for people who want to attend your event but cannot make it to the physical venue, and for people who want to try out your event without investing a lot of resources and efforts from their side. 

Hybrid Events Have More Scope for Sponsor Opportunities 

Businesses that wish to market their brand at events are particularly interested in hybrid events for two major reasons. 

One is the increased reach. The more the people who attend the event, the more leads these brands get. These leads are the main reason why brands do sponsorship in the first place. 

Two is the increased ways to collaborate. If the event happens only live, then the brands are forced to sponsor only the live collaterals. But with the virtual space entering in, brands can now sponsor live streams, event applications and more. This offers flexibility for them. For you also, since now you can have a live sponsor and a virtual sponsor. 

Another reason is brands get more data with the virtual element of the event. The demographics of the people, how they interact with their brand, and other reportable metrics are incredibly valuable for these brands to rethink their strategy in this unprecedented environment. It’s easier for sponsors to see through hybrid events if they have spent their money well. 

Reduced Costs All-Around 

Lockdowns have actually contributed positively to the environment thanks to reduced emissions. Going hybrid enables lesser people to travel to the venue, so lesser overall carbon footprint. Also, since there are less in-person attendees, the accessories and materials (such as disposable items) are less used. 

Hybrid events also reduce travel costs for the attendees. Sponsors can cut their costs on travel by sending fewer people to represent the brand at the venue. Work from home has become a huge part of the new normal, and many top companies across the world have even permanently provided that as an option for its employees. If you want to cut costs when being tight on budget, hybrid events are the best solutions. 

Get Access to More Data 

Not only can you get a participation number from virtual events, but also know how they engaged during the session and when they dropped out of it. 

You can determine the interests of your audience by analysing session participation, and this can help you better plan and conduct your future events. 

For sponsors, they get essential information on engagements with their virtual booths and attendee engagement, giving them more return on investment. 

Through various hybrid event platforms, you can access valuable insights that software automatically tracks. In the case of live events, many of these insights are almost impossible to determine. 

How is Hybrid Event Different from Live Event?

There are some differences to the two formats apart from the most obvious one: Live events are entirely at a physical venue with in-person attendees, and hybrid events are a mix of physical participation and virtual audience for the same event. 

In terms of effective communication, pure live events have the upper hand as nothing beats face-to-face communication. Hybrid events are trying their best to bridge this gap through highly interactive virtual platforms, but some essence of it will never be replaced. 

Hybrid events help in cost savings more than live events. There is a reduced investment at the physical venue due to a lesser number of attendees. You can cover up for the cost of setting up the online platform by selling more tickets since an online medium opens possibilities for a worldwide audience. 

In terms of preparation, hybrid events most ideally require separate teams to work on the live medium and virtual medium, because the technicalities in both are very different. Also, the marketing strategies for both are different, as in, for hybrid events audience targeting is on a much wider scale than for in-person events.

More likely in a hybrid event, there will be technical issues which can cause delays. To minimise this, ensure that all the participants clearly understand how the event will progress through. Make sure that the event platform you choose is user-friendly and intuitive. Conduct testing and dry-runs of the event and use only experienced tech people working on the back-end of the virtual event element.

How to Run Hybrid Events Instead of Live One?

In order to successfully run a hybrid event, here are some points: 

Hybrid events are a great chance to market to a wider audience, that is, your secondary and tertiary audience. Create their user persona, personalized marketing messages for them and use this medium to expand your audience network. 
If you are conducting a hybrid event, most likely, there will be vendors for the live component of it. It’s time you negotiate with these vendors because your in-person audience size has become small, and you need to divert your money to the virtual component as well. 
For the live component, reassure people that it is absolutely safe to attend your event. Describe to them in detail about the various measures you have taken to ensure social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19. 
Create two different streams of registration for your live audience and virtual audience. The more personalized you make, the more special will they feel. 
It’s better to sell a hybrid ticket instead of a live ticket. Situations are still tricky worldwide, so you never know when you will have to cancel your live event. Instead, sell hybrid event tickets and give the attendees a chance to use the same ticket to attend offline, if they wish to. 
Plan content in a way that it will engage your virtual audience very well. Then you can tweak it to make it engaging to the live audience as well. Since the virtual audience will be attending through an online platform, it is a bit of a challenge to keep them engaged throughout. 
Make sure your event content is available on-demand. This improves engagement on the event. On-demand content enables the audience to consume it whenever convenient for them. 
Have a host dedicated specifically for your virtual audience. Remember, they need to feel that they are very much part of the mix. The emcee can brief the audience about the engaging opportunities, networking sessions and other real-time information about the event. 
After the event, send out some feedback form for all your attendees. Work stringently according to their feedback, to improve on your further events. 

How Hybrid Events Helps Event Planners During A Crisis

Firstly, we are all living in a crisis, aren’t we? Once any unforeseen incident occurs, which forces you to re-think about your event, you have three options. You can cancel the event, postpone it to a later time, or take the event virtually. But each of these options, especially the first two, can have a significant impact on your brand image, planning resources and costs. 

While some purists believe digital events are no-match for physical events, it’s not always true. If the purpose of the event was to share information and content, the virtual media works very well for them. In case of a crisis, you can accommodate bre-minimum personnel at your event venue and take the rest of the event virtual, therefore resulting in a hybrid event. 

It’s not rocket science to host hybrid events. The fundamentals of event hosting for in-person events remain the same in the case of hybrid events. For example, it is getting in the registrations, measuring the engagement rates, collecting event data, taking feedback etc. 

Platforms to stream your virtual event | GEVME Live

In case you decide to conduct a hybrid event, keep a back-up plan ready. For example, keep registration transfer terms and conditions in case the ticket holder wants to attend the online version of the event. 

If the in-person event attendees are unable to make it, offer them discounted rates. 
Record the sessions, and you can make them available on-demand once the event is over. 
Keep the schedule ready and strong beforehand, with exhibitors, speakers and other event attendees. 
Ensure maximum visibility online so that any crisis in conduction of a hybrid event does only least affects the sponsorships associated with the events. 

Conclusion

We, as event organizers are facing a very practical problem now in terms of risk management and preparation. In these times of rapid uncertainty, we are forced to adapt. In times like these, you have to drop the hat, think out of the box and make decisions regarding your events and meetings that will have solid business impact. Once this is more clarity after the crisis, you need to evolve how you conduct your events and move forward, putting better systems in place. Finally, just make your hybrid event product better by being smart about how you host your meetings and events, get the most data out of them and work them to provide maximum value to the attendee, event organizer and event sponsor. 

 

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