It's tempting as an event planner, to replicate the experience of an in-person event for attendees who are participating in it virtually. But more often than not, this can be a hindrance.
I’ll explain it better with an analogy.
Baking and cooking are similar, yet different. Both require rigid planning to ensure key ingredients are put in the right amount, but the act of cooking and that of baking are very different. When cooking, a person can make adjustments by adding a pinch of salt or spices to flavor the dish while it cooks. Baking, on the other hand, follows a completely different methodology. Once put in the oven, the baker cannot interact with the cake by tasting it and adding/ diluting the sugar. Cooking has a direct hands-on interaction with ingredients; baking doesn’t have the same luxury.
If someone were to approach cooking the same way as they would approach baking, they would create a pretty lousy dish. The same would happen if you try to approach the virtual aspect of your hybrid event like the in-person one. It’s only by understanding the differences and opportunities that go with each, can you plan a hybrid event that delivers the best experience.
In-person events are often paid for, and that’s where the revenue comes from. Virtual events, on the other hand, are rarely that way. Unless you’re going to provide food, prizes, swag, and highly sought after happy hours, it’s challenging to charge the price of a physical event for its virtual counterpart.
So does that mean that I am going to lose all that registration revenue I get from an in-person event?
Not really. Unlike in-person events, virtual events have no physical boundaries, enabling you to get registrations from around the world, albeit at a lower price. More registrations mean more attendees, which leads to more engagement and exposure, and ultimately that means more data and pipeline to activate post-event.
Ensure you have deep value that is unique to virtual attendees, to make up for the fact that they are missing out on some human-to-human engagement. This way, all attendees feel they got full value from time invested, regardless of whether money was invested or not.
People attending a virtual event are from all over the globe, located in varying time zones. While some may be watching your event early in the morning, others may be tuning in at night. Be cognizant of this fact and plan your event at a time that will work for the majority of your target audience.
At an in-person event, you don’t really have to think about coinciding time zones.
Okay. But what about the duration of both the events?
In-person events have fixed schedules with simultaneous sessions and activities. A virtual event, on the other hand, should have a schedule that does not make it monotonous for virtual attendees. Do this by offering sessions in smaller, bite-sized chunks, with sessions that can be played on demand, or breaking the event into multiple shorter days instead of one long day. Factor in enough breaks for people to eat, chill or take personal breaks.
Empower your virtual attendees to be a part of the event as per their schedule, not yours.
An in-person event has the support of an environment brimming with excitement. It’s easier to grab people’s attention because here, people’s body language and the buzz of the physical surroundings are all at play.
A virtual event requires you to get more creative in order to grab and hold the attention of your audience. Here’s where you can take the help of surveys, polls and chats to enable real-time discussion and feedback. Get a moderator on board to help you bridge the gap between the speaker and different audience cohorts. Make presentations that have video, and more pops of color; get attendees to participate in Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions or encourage them to move to networking lounges. In a nutshell, jolting engagement among your virtual attendees means the majority of attendees will lean in, which leads to greater event success at the end of the day.
“MIX 2022 activated all of this and more, garnering a gamut of social media attention and applause from the attendees.“
Sponsors market their brands in an in-person event largely with in-person offers, face-to-face product demonstrations, giveaways, and raffles. The lack of these physical elements in a virtual sponsorship have to be solved for virtually by giving your sponsors the desired limelight. Send push notifications during the event to draw the attention of the audience towards the sponsors. Give them shout outs in the event feed. Offer them an opportunity to sponsor a session. Nudge the attendees to visit the booths, with incentives to learn more from sponsors.
And most importantly, give your sponsors what they came for – data, data, data! How many attendees visited? Where are those attendees from? What do we know about them? What actions did they take? Did they request a product demo? Did they drop a business card? Provide them the full value of a virtual event sponsorship.
The most common error you may make while planning a hybrid event is to use the same metrics for both the in-person and the virtual event. For example, measurement of engagement at an in-person event can be a factor of the number of attendees present at the venue. For its virtual counterpart, engagement would depend on the number of 1:1 interactions via chats, number of attendees visiting sponsor booths, lounge meetings and more.
The data here gets more granular — you get everything from, who downloaded what resource to who watched it live and when. You can map the entire attendee journey and evaluate it against different virtual event Key Performance Index (KPI)s to build your sales pipeline.
To wrap it up, whether you’re cooking or baking, good food and good desserts should be delicacies that people remember. Similarly, designing a great hybrid experience should only be about making an impact with well placed engagement activities, segregated delivery of content and judicious use of the budget.
MIX 2022 is an example of a hybrid event that Hubilo hosted keeping the above points in mind – and trust me, it turned out to be a spectacular show! Head to the on-demand content to see how Hubilo activated its first ever global hybrid event.