By Anna Anisin, founder and CEO at Formulated.by, overseeing client strategy and business development.
The event industry has been turned upside down by the global pandemic. Some in the industry have completely folded, while others have been forced to pivot to virtual offerings. While switching up your entire event model is never an easy decision, the cost of waiting (or, in other words, doing nothing) is much greater. This year has exposed almost everyone to virtual events, and a hybrid model is now emerging. This model will likely stick around, even after restrictions have been lifted. To help move you forward as an industry leader, I’ll start off by reviewing some high-level strategies to consider, and then I’ll get into the details.
First, what is a hybrid event? A hybrid event model strategically incorporates in-person and virtual elements for attendees.
When initially considering the strategy for your hybrid event, you’ll need to ensure the following:
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• Is your venue available and open to host events in 2021?
• Are your sponsors and attendees willing and ready to participate, and can they travel to do so?
• Do you have proper and sufficient insurance in place to protect you and your company?
• Are you prepared to go back to 100% virtual in case something arises?MORE FOR YOUThe Stock Market Is On The Edge Of A Historic CrashLeave America: How To Get A Second Passport (For Free) And Live Abroad10 Genius Questions That Will Help Your Staff Generate Ideas And Solutions
• Do you have the correct resources and budget for both virtual and hybrid events?
The hybrid event model can really vary, depending on many factors, such as purpose, budget, location, industry and audience. The biggest question to work through is which components should be virtual versus in-person.
A good way to start is by dividing your event into the following categories:
• Main event: This is the core live component of the event and could be virtual or in-person. Pro tip: Although there may already be event caps to factor in, you could market this as a VIP experience for 50-100 attendees.
• Live pop-up locations: Picture this as your in-person, on-the-ground reporters of 5-10 people reporting live from your main markets that can also be streamed virtually. Pro tip: This is a great opportunity to strengthen your community on the local level and engage with your community’s best ambassadors.
• Virtual: The best and most educational content should be saved for this portion of your event. Pro tip: Utilize this component to take advantage of your on-demand strategy as well.
• Digital: Social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook Live).
After you have bucketed your event categories and assessed which elements are better to engage your specific audience, you can then create the execution model — for example: live satellite pop-ups with a main, virtual component, including a strong digital strategy.
Now that you have your event strategy and hybrid component plan laid out, the next step is to find the right tech stack to execute your hybrid event seamlessly.
Some of my go-to tech stack tools have been:
• Web-based casting platform: This will allow you to pre-record elements, sync up slides, link up to social channels, field Q&As, give viewers a customizable console and line up a schedule.
• Communication and engagement apps: Think about tools like Slack or an event app in this scenario. Give attendees a fun way to mix up engagement with the community.
• Social media: Pick the channels where your community is most active, and nail those strategies.
When choosing the right tools, make sure to consider their customer service availability if an unforeseen problem arises, which it usually does!
An event won’t be successful unless you have good turnout and reach your ideal audience. The sales and marketing strategy for your hybrid event is just as important as the event itself.
• Before: Clearly communicate the value-adds to your target audience. What’s in it for them by attending? Is there a theme or story that you can incorporate into advertising? Mix up your mediums with text, graphics and video based on the ad channel. Leverage your subscriber base and opportunities for aligned community partnerships.
• During: It’s all about the energy. This can be a bit more challenging with the virtual elements, but possible. Think about ways to post, share and communicate the buzz.
• After: Remember that on-demand content strategy I mentioned earlier? Here is where it will come into play. Realistically, people might not be able to catch everything live. If attendees missed part of the live experience, advertise on-demand recorded access to the most educational pieces. Keep the energy going with pictures, highlights and the most engaging components.
The key and theme to all of this is successful engagement with your audience. Bring them into every piece of the hybrid event strategy, and ask for feedback. With feedback you can tell which pieces people are and aren’t resonating with and adjust quickly. Planning all of this can seem daunting at first, but remember, those who don’t adapt to market changes risk being left behind as industries evolve. By syncing up your hybrid event strategy in new ways, you can propel yourself forward as an industry leader who others look to.