July 23, 2021 Jade Shojaee
Everyone’s talking about “hybrid.” And now that in-person events are possible again, it’s not hard to understand why. Many of us are dying to dust off the ol’ business attire, rack up the mileage and brave those continental breakfasts we’ve missed so much.
Okay, maybe that’s taking it too far, but it’s safe to say that most of us do miss being in the company of our peers and sharing insights over a cocktail or two.
The thing is, not all of us are quite ready to mingle in crowded conference halls, no matter how much we may miss it. And the truth is, the past year has shown us how rewarding attending virtual events and digital experiences can be.
Had to take a call during a keynote? Missed one breakout to catch another? Watch it later on-demand. Need to get out of the 6 am corporate yoga class you swore you’d rock? Opt into the virtual session – no one will know you spent the hour eating pancakes instead. Just kidding…virtual yoga’s great.
The point is, with digital you really can be in two places at once.
Can We Have it All With Hybrid?
Hybrid gives us so many chances to take all of that in-person rapport we know and love, and combine it with the incredible audience engagement we’ve achieved with digital experiences. We can finally… (and there are only so many times in one life you can say this) have our cake and eat it too.
With hybrid events, we can achieve big things. But that doesn’t mean we are limited to delivering big events. When it comes to hybrid, most people are still talking about large-scale conferences.
And sure, it’s great to think big. But, what about the smaller events? The small-scale seminars, regional roadshows and roundtables?
When it comes to smaller events, should we be thinking bigger?
Experience firsthand how to combine physical and digital elements to create a shared experience, whether your attendees are in the same room or across the country.
Join us for “The Event Remix: How to Drive Hybrid Engagement.” Register Now.
Turn Big Events Into Small Targeted Experiences
Nobody has discovered the value of digital events more than the marketers who made it happen. With digital experiences, there are no budget and travel constraints. We can reach bigger audiences and capture much more data — and better data — than we ever could with our physical events.
In the digital realm, audiences can chime in, ask questions, network with their peers, respond to polls and even click through to other relevant content on our websites. They can revisit aspects of the event they may have missed or even tune into the on-demand version if they can’t make the live event date (talk about maximizing attendance rates).
And we can literally build the entire buying journey into one experience, as long as we take advantage of every opportunity. Within one event, we can include assets that are relevant to buyers from bottom to top-of-funnel, and give them the reins to drive their own experience.
Producing Hybrid Roadshows
You also don’t have to attract thousands of attendees to justify your event. Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to virtual and hybrid events. In fact, many companies, like Zendesk, are developing smaller hybrid events for unique regions, geos and languages.
For its most recent “CX Trends 2021,” Zendesk pivoted what was originally a large-scale virtual event into a series of smaller seminars tailored to each unique region and vertical.
To engage its global audiences, Zendesk used one halo event to create 17 different experiences designed to help business leaders identify the year’s top trends in customer experience and get best practices tailored to individual industries and teams.
Using a modular approach the team created a build-your-own-adventure type of experience for every audience subset based on industry and region.
The webinar produced for the event was translated into different languages (that includes various dialects of English for the various EMEA regions), and polls and content offers varied depending on the unique needs of each target audience. They did a fantastic job of expanding one singular idea into a global expansion catalyst.
And the audience insights they gathered gave them incredible insights that they used to convert prospects all over the world, into customers.
Pro Tip: Integrate salespeople into every event experience and enable them to interact with audience members through chat and 1:1 video conferences. [Discover ON24 Breakouts.]
Executive roundtables — Hybrid Style
Although their in-person event had been performing just fine, the team noticed many of their c-level executives in the European mainland were consistently not able to attend.
Travel and time constraints tend to impact c-suites most of all, so the Thomson Reuters team found a way to accommodate them by creating a virtual event component. The company turned its annual Risk and Compliance Summit into a hybrid experience before the term “hybrid event” even had meaning.
Thomson Reuters live-streamed its in-person presentations and included interactive elements to drive engagement such as relevant content offers, live polls, Q&As, and chat features. Remote attendees could chime in, share insights and ask questions alongside their physical counterparts. Its efforts paid off in a 51% conversion rate and 2,000+ unique content views.
Thomson Reuters is not the only company that struggles to get C-Level executives to show up to these events. Most companies have a hard time pulling this off. C-Suite execs are busy! But, when it comes to events like executive forums (CXOs) and roundtables, the show can’t really go on without them.
A hybrid model makes it possible to completely reimagine these types of events and accommodate attendees who just plain can’t make it in person, and who value events that give them plenty of opportunities to engage and collaborate with their peers.
Create partner Hybrid events
Teaming up with other companies is a great way to attract prospects and customers, and establish thought leadership. And it’s actually a lot easier to get partners to participate in the virtual components of your events. Why? They’ve got nothing to lose!
It costs much less to sponsor or co-host a virtual or hybrid event than it does a full-fledged in-person tradeshow or Civic Center conference. With hybrid partner events, you can welcome a more curated list of high-value prospects for a smaller, more intimate experience without losing the reach of a virtual event.
Within the digital space, partners can include their own unique content for attendees to download, and with virtual breakout rooms, attendees can split up into small groups whether they are attending in-person or remotely to collaborate, connect and network.
The Key is Engagement
No matter how you splice it, the key to a successful event (no matter what realm it takes place in) is engagement. And not all engagement is created equal.
In today’s digital world, who you engage and how you engage them is much more important than your ability to get someone through the door. A click or static download is not the same as a virtual event attendee who spends an hour of their time engaging with your content, answering polls and asking questions.
And the best part is, you don’t have to spend a fortune on huge event spaces to pull it off. It’s totally okay to host a few people in person and stream the experiences to your digital audiences. As long as you include plenty of engagement opportunities for your attendees.
A hybrid event should combine the best components of your digital and physical events to create one experience your audiences can interact with from beginning to end.
Get That Return on Engagement
It’s easy to get wrapped up in what hybrid is and isn’t… The key is engagement. It’s not enough to record the sessions from your physical event, upload it to your Youtube channel and call it a day.
Your audiences — whether they are attending from your fancy hotel ballroom, their living room or the top of Mt. Everest (warning: WIFI gets spotty up there) — want to be engaged, They want to interact with the experience. And there are so many ways to give them opportunities to do just that.
And it’s not just because audiences love it that you should include as many interactive elements as possible. Interactive experiences are data gold mines for marketers looking for 360-degree views of their buyers.
All of the engagement data you generate will give you deep insights into your buyers’ unique needs and their intent levels so you can personalize your follow-up and more effectively turn those event leads into customers.
Start Creating Epic Experiences
Case in point, hybrid enables us to rethink every type of event. And the timing couldn’t be better. Buyers today want to be in charge of their own journeys. They want to consume content when and how they want, and most of the time… they are engaging with upward of 17 physical AND digital touchpoints before ever getting on the phone with a sales rep.
Offering a virtual component to your events makes it possible and easier for audiences to attend and engage — and when they engage, they give us valuable insights into their unique needs and where they are in their journeys so can cater our follow up with their interest levels.
For more ideas on how to create epic hybrid experiences, register for “The Event Remix: How to Drive Hybrid Engagement,” on July 28th at 12 pm PT | 3 pm ET, a hybrid event about hybrid events where you’ll experience firsthand how to combine physical and digital elements to create one shared experience, whether your attendees are in the same room or across the country.
Click the image below to get started.