September 22, 2021 Cheri Hulse
As marketers set out Q4 programs and plan for 2022, hybrid events continue to be a topic at the top of people’s minds.
The event format became the buzzword in 2020 as companies pivoted away from physical and optimistically started to think about what the future would hold. And you will hear from a lot of people that the future will be hybrid.
But I disagree… with conditions.
A Quick History of Hybrid Events
Before we get there, we need to take a quick pre-pandemic trip. If we hop into our time machine, we’ll discover that people were already doing hybrid events.
But, these early hybrid events were pretty crappy for digital audiences and the in-person audience wasn’t aware of their digital counterparts. Often, these would be large events with content streamed to at-home audiences.
Early hybrid events had no meaningful engagement opportunities for digital audiences, and they weren’t on an even playing field with their in-person counterparts.
Now, this type of hybrid event isn’t going to fly in the future. What we’ve learned in the last 18 months is that digital audiences crave engagement and interaction.
How Hybrid Events Have Changed
The bar has been raised as to what audiences expect from a virtual event. So, the hybrid events of the future must prioritize and capture the attention of the virtual audiences.
More importantly, marketers expect more from the data they capture at events. Event data for physical events was always a tricky subject and there wasn’t much to glean from “old school” hybrid events.
The hybrid events of the future will focus more on engaging virtual audiences and putting them on the same level as physical attendees when it comes to engagement opportunities and the resulting first-party data and buying signals.
Going Forward with Hybrid Events
Now that we’re back to the present day, marketers have a path ahead that will include navigating the three different delivery mechanisms for events: physical, virtual and hybrid.
No company will host every event as a hybrid event — that is not possible or in line with what audiences expect.
Please don’t get caught up in the hype of thinking that every event you do in the future will need to be hybrid. They will have their role, but only if marketers execute them well and make them of value for both physical and digital audiences. Marketers must be very clear about the audiences they want to engage and the experiences they want to create, then align the event channel to those needs.