Creating the right strategy for virtual and hybrid events

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Creating the right strategy for virtual and hybrid events
Novelli carries 23-plus years of experience across all the spheres in marketing with unique expertise in growing brand and product revenues via growth models. Before Hubilo, Cathy served executive roles such as VP of marketing and communications at Rakuten Ready and leadership roles at Quantcast, Say Media, Pandora, Yahoo and Myspace, along with several others.

The pandemic has allowed marketers to wipe the slate clean when it comes to their event strategies.

Following the initial shock of the pandemic, when many events were postponed or canceled, some early-adopting brands quickly brought their events back to life in a new digital form, holding them online. Many countries and global regions are beginning to lift restrictions, yet there is still a considerable proportion of brands that are lagging when it comes to adapting their events for the new normal, which is hybrid.

By incorporating elements of both physical and virtual events in a new hybrid model, events can appeal to attendees who are comfortable joining in person without excluding those who are more comfortable joining online. Likewise, physical events can take place anywhere in the world, but attendees will not be required to travel and can simply participate through a hybrid events platform.

Before the pandemic, marketers’ event strategies were primarily focused on developing engaging physical events based on face-to-face interactions. But today, the virtual and hybrid environment can present some unfamiliar challenges. As a result, marketers need to consider how they will overcome these new challenges going forward.

Overcoming a new set of challenges

One of the biggest challenges that marketers can experience is how to truly engage attendees during events. With Zoom fatigue prevalent as a result of the switch to remote working, marketers need to understand the mindset of their attendees and what can be done to keep them engaged. Engagement can be driven by using an event platform that borrows elements of social media and video games. Attendees can be encouraged to post pictures, videos, and messages relating to the event on live feeds like those you would find on popular social media platforms. They can also be encouraged to interact with the content that is posted on the event feed.

Event platforms that include gamification features can help to drive even higher engagement. Event gamification can include awarding points to attendees for every engagement during the event and attending different sessions within the event. In addition, attendees can be incentivized by digital goodie bags or exciting prizes that will be awarded to those at the top of the leaderboard when the event concludes.

Understanding what is working in the event and what is not can be another significant challenge that is also exacerbated by not being able to measure attendee reactions and engagement in the way it can be during a physical event. Access to rich attendee data will help marketers understand how each element of their event has been received. An event platform that provides built-in analytics will allow marketers to digest this data on a granular level, such as how different audience segments interact with different elements and topics.

There can also be a perceived technical barrier for marketers when it comes to running virtual and hybrid events. They are typically comfortable running physical events on their own, but there can be some reluctance to do virtual or hybrid events for fear of not knowing how. This can be solved by selecting an events platform that is intuitive, easy to use, and provides round-the-clock support, including full support before, during, and after the event.

Driving ROI in the evolving event landscape

There are substantial ROI opportunities for brands that master their events strategies. The events sector is set to grow $774B over the next decade – nearly ten times higher than its value in 2020, according to Grandview Research. However, marketers will need to consider how they will strike the right balance between in-person and online elements. This is because there is a substantial cost difference between virtual and hybrid events meaning ROI will drop when in-person elements are added.

It makes sense for marketers to lean more on virtual events and take small, creative steps towards incorporating in-person elements. Consider starting with mostly virtual but running in-person watch parties in parallel, or something similar that allows you to test what is working and not, by market and audience segment. Data from each virtual event can then inform the way events with in-person elements are shaped and ensure they’re driving maximum ROI by targeting the right type of attendee and incorporating elements and topics that they know will drive engagement.

It all comes down to experience

Experience is everything, and this is the most important thing for marketers to remember. So many experiences that work in person don’t work virtually, and vice versa. Therefore, it pays for marketers to speak to their networks to ask and share what has worked for them and what has not. Events are undergoing a huge transformation, and sharing different experiences will be key to fashioning events along with delivering solutions and value for everyone, from the organizers to the attendees, to the senior stakeholders concerned about ROI for their events.

Want to find out more from executives and thought leaders in this space? Find out more about the Digital Twin World event, taking place on 8-9 September 2021, which will explore augmenting business outcomes in more depth and the industries that will benefit.

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