Should You Host Hybrid Events?

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Virtual events have been a saving grace for B2B, with many event marketers transitioning to digital-only expos and conferences due to Covid-19. But that doesn’t mean physical events won’t make a comeback!

According to research from event platform Bizzabo, roughly 90% of event marketing experts will attempt to reincorporate in-person events into their marketing strategies by fall 2021 and 97% agreed that the future of event marketing would be a hybrid of both physical and virtual events.

Brian Gates, SVP of Marketing & Strategy at RainFocus, an event marketing platform, agrees with this sentiment, arguing that in-person events have always used a “virtual component” to reach additional audiences.

“Future events may see value in creating specific virtual content to run alongside a physical event,” said Gates. “A good portion of companies have reached audiences that are eager to participate but unable to attend due to budget/time constraints. This group tends to be end-users of their products or services and would gladly participate in technical virtual content.”

Gates explained how the physical components of events are not dead, and that finding a way to accommodate both physical and virtual audiences is more impactful for companies in the long run.

Plan Balanced Hybrid Events With a Data-First Strategy

When trying to create hybrid events, event marketers need to maintain continuity between the two different mediums. Both the physical and virtual parts of an event must contain speakers, information and opportunities that operate under the same themes for maximum engagement.

According to Gates, event marketers can strike that balance by finding the right mix of physical and virtual engagement that resonates with a target audience. Some segments will respond better to virtual 1:1 meetings while others prefer in-person networking sessions, but both segments are receiving the same experience or information.

By keeping the experience consistent across both physical and virtual events, event marketers can gather data from both mediums to understand how their brand is viewed and drive more leads from their events.

“Our data-first strategy has ensured that as organizations dial in the right mix of virtual and physical engagement for their events,” Gates explained. “All of that data is tracked cohesively. Marketers will be able to see which activities (digital and physical) drive the most engagement and for what segments, which activities drive conversions and understand how to maximize the value of an event within their entire event portfolio.”

With access to both virtual and physical data, event marketers can better cater to buyers’ interests while creating quality hybrid events with a longer shelf life.

Perfecting the Hybrid Events Model With Content Hubs

Despite audience preference, virtual and physical events are not all that different from one another. Gates explained that if the themes and information are consistent across both mediums, then the only difference is the way the audience consumes the content.

Gates highlighted the importance of virtual hubs, and that physical events can greatly benefit from virtual on-demand information that extends the impact of the event. RainFocus uses its RainFocus Portals to provide target audiences access to their virtual events before and after they end, and will most likely utilize these hubs in their future physical events to drive further engagement.

He also provided three examples of content that event marketers should include in their hybrid event hubs, specifically:

  • 1:1 scheduling that allows exhibitors and attendees to register for video conferences with brand representatives;
  • Recorded live streams that enable registrants to access sessions and conferences on-demand; and
  • Content libraries that provide on-demand videos and content related to the event.

“Physical events have always required a virtual component of some sort,” Gates continued. “Before many of our customers switched over to virtual, they were already seeing tremendous value from having a virtual hub for their attendees, speakers and exhibitors. The only difference is in how content is being delivered.”

Republished with permission from Demand Gen Report. For more insights into event marketing and RainFocus’ event tactics, check out part 1 and part 2 of this series from Demand Gen Report. Learn more about digital events in Digital Events Are the New Black.

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