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Why Do I Need To Be Here? Notes From A Hybrid World

March 8th, 2022 Mark Bornstein

Last week I got a reminder of just how much things have changed over the past two years. I want to share this story to give you an idea of what our “new normal” will actually look like and show you the possibilities that lie ahead.

The story starts with this: physical events are slowly beginning to come back. Finally! Last week our friends at Demand Gen Report, held their annual B2B Marketing Exchange Conference in Arizona. In person. With actual people. Together. Awesome!

Once Upon a Conference…

Webinar World 2017

B2BMX is a great conference and one that ON24 has been a sponsor of for many years. And with Omicron ebbing, we decided to once again participate. We would have a booth at the expo and a speaking slot at the event, but there was a problem … I was already scheduled to speak at three other events or webinars that same week — virtually.

Yes, I could have flown to Arizona and presented those other events from my laptop, in my hotel room but that’s risky. Bandwidth issues alone made me nervous about it. Not to mention that it would not have looked or sounded great either.

So, we made a different decision. I would present at the B2BMX conference but from home. Wait, what? Well, yeah, isn’t this the hybrid era?

So here is what we did: when people came to the room to attend my session, they were given a special URL. My video and slides were projected onto the main screen in front of the audience, but with our “hybrid mode” event interface they could use their phones or laptops to respond to polls, ask me questions, download content, click on CTAs and participate in a trivia contest for prizes, just like I would normally do for a webinar or virtual event.

And it worked. And it was fun. And the audience response was great.

Achieving More With One Event

Virtual events and conferences allow you to achieve more results from your events at a fraction of the costs.

But that’s just the beginning. Since we were creating this hybrid experience anyway, we decided to invite a virtual audience to participate as well. So, now I was presenting to more people, in a more interactive way, than I normally would have.

Wait, Mark, are you saying it was more engaging than if you had actually been in the room? Well, let’s review the facts:

    • I was able to present to more people by having both a physical and virtual audience
    • A typical conference breakout session features a presenter who talks and the audience listens. That’s it.

In this session:

    • There were more than 30 questions submitted, many of which I answer in real-time
    • More than 90 people responded to polls
    • There were 46 content downloads or clicks to other CTAs
    • We did a trivia contest that both physical and digital audiences could participate in

Which takes us to the data.

Realizing The Conference Data Dream

An example of the ON24 prospect engagement profile.

In previous years, the data that we got on a session attendee was just that … that they attended the session. What else was there to learn about them? If someone asked a question, there was no way to capture who it was.

But now, we suddenly had all this engagement data. And based on poll responses, questions asked, and content downloaded, we had a much better picture of who our best leads were, and what they were interested in. And that was a game-changer.

Finally, let’s get back to the reason I couldn’t attend the event in person; I had three other virtual events that week. And because I didn’t get on that airplane to Arizona, I was able to present to close to a thousand additional people, generating much more pipeline, at a fraction of the cost.

I will let that marinate for a second…

So, Why Do We Need To Be Anywhere?

Virtual and in-person events can compliment one another.

A final thought:

After my session at the conference, someone asked “Why do I even need to be here?”

And there were many great answers to that question: maybe to get away from the office (or house) and enjoy an immersive conference experience, maybe to see colleagues and peers, or maybe just to blow off some steam after being locked up for two years and have some fun.

But did he really need to be there? Did I?

Will I be at B2BMX next year? I hope so, it’s a great conference. But everything has changed and anything is possible. This new digital-first world means anyone can be anywhere, physical, digital, hybrid … it’s all streams of engaging experiences, that connect us wherever we are.

So, I will see you “out there.”

Mark