Hybrid events – adapting experiential marketing to the new normal?
Post pandemic, businesses are deferring physical events as wave after wave sweeps across the world. At the height of the lockdown, thousands of organizations discovered the power of virtual events hosted on Zoom, Google Meet, Cisco, Webex and Microsoft Teams.
This virtual expansion has opened up whole new avenues for global participation. As the world begins to open up again, many are hosting hybrid events to continue to engage their remote communities while welcoming back regulars to physical events.
As we work remotely, hybrid events are still accelerating global connectivity. In fact, experiential marketers are using hybrid events to create a whole new integrated interface with the adaption of VR technology and the Metaverse. Let’s take a sneak peek at the significance of hybrid events and their academic, business and lifestyle applications.
What is a hybrid event?
There is no denying the fact that hybrid events help bridge the gap between virtual and online interaction. From trade shows, conferences, retreats, sales kick-offs to global town halls; hybrid events offer answers to both connectivity and continuity of engagement long after the event is over.
Virtual events were a solution for millions of people to come together without meeting in person during the pandemic. Many people cannot attend events offline for a variety of reasons.
- Poor health
- Limited travel spend
- Smaller venue capacity
- Geographical differences
Hybrid events help connect people globally, but more practically, this is also a matter of financial advantage. Hybrid events help cut down the expenditure on planning an all-inclusive physical event. With voluntary choice to join in-person or attend online, ticket sales are also higher as people who would normally not attend – are now able to join virtually.
This blog will explore how hybrid events are being used as a vehicle for communication across different areas in 2022. After reading this blog, you will understand different types of hybrid events and how/if these events can help you with your own brand marketing.
Types of Virtual Events
There are two types of hybrid events; internal and external. Let’s take a brief look at both of these.
Internal Hybrid Events
This type of event is when the internal audience of an educational institution, community or business organisation needs to be gathered for an event.
Think sales kick-offs,in-service seminars, global town halls, larger team meetings, company spirit weeks and even networking socials.
When it is not possible to take all the stakeholders into one single space, that’s when internal hybrid events come into play.
External Hybrid Events
External hybrid events involve your external audience aka customers, prospects or learners of an educational institution, community or business organisation that needs to be gathered for an event.
Think conferences, trade shows, live product demos, themed retreats and exhibitions.
External hybrid events offer a platform where the brand can communicate with the customers.
Vital Elements of Hybrid Events
Hybrid events are not as easy to organize as they seem. Capturing and holding the attention of audiences online is one of the biggest challenges marketers face today. While Instagram and other apps keep updating their functionality, the central principles of organizing a hybrid event remain the same. Let us look at some of these principles.
Just like with any other form of communication, you need to bring new, interesting content to the table in order to hold your audience captive. The key to a successful hybrid experience is your ability to rope in both your online as well as offline audience for shared interactions. Ask the following questions. Hybrid events are like a bridge that connects both the online and offline audiences. You can open an app that gets you in touch with communities, chat rooms, business card exchanges and Q&A forums. It will be very helpful in engaging and network with both online and offline members.
- How can we enrich the hybrid experience by enhancing dialogue?
- What is each set of audience looking to get out of this event?
- How can we facilitate networking through this event?
- How do we want our online and audiences to connect before, during and after the event?
Be honest with your audience – this goes without saying. Whether you are offering a digital ‘gift’ in return for reviews or there is a technical glitch, transparent communication can contribute to a trusting long-term relationship with your audience. In order to build trust, ask your audience the following questions.
- What worked about this event for you?
- What did not work so well?
- What would make this event better?
- Did this event help you achieve expected outcomes?
Timing is everything in a world full of content chaos. Starting your event campaign 1-2 weeks before a small event makes sense. However for a large-scale event you may want to extend the pre-event marketing duration. In fact, the time of day is also important. According to eventscase, 8 am-12noon is the highest engagement between the slots. While there is no magical formula for the perfect timing, being mindful of your audience availability can significantly boost attendance. Ask your team the following questions to master timing.
- What is the size and purpose of our event?
- When should we start the pre-event marketing?
- What time of the day should the event take place?
- What are some post-event activities we can conduct?
Hybrid events are challenging as the customers are online and are always distracted by the pop-up and follow-up advertisements. Therefore, add a touch of personalization and use innovative content. Personalized messaging helps in better engagement with the customers making it easy for the hybrid events to work successfully. It provides solutions to the customers according to their problems making it easier to attract the customer’s attention. Have a look at our previous blog to know about the working of email marketing.
Where can we use hybrid events?
Hybrid events go far beyond the traditional applications such as team meetings and academic lectures. Take a look below to see the wide variety of areas in which hybrid events can be used.
Business conferences, meetings and trade shows are conducted using hybrid events. Product demos, meet and greet networking as well as information distribution are some of the ways in which organizations can use hybrid conferences. Here are some areas in which hybrid events have been used with success
- Creative Communities
- Grassroots Organizations
- Corporate Businesses
- Professional Consulting
- Corporate Training
Online webinars were around before the pandemic. Today, hybrid webinars are used in every sector imaginable. Wellness brands use hybrid webinars to promote their workshops or products. The healthcare sector focuses on hybrid webinars to raise awareness about socioeconomic, health and psychological issues.
Sales agents use them for opening calls as well as to provide ongoing value to their customers. Here are a few organizations that have used hybrid webinars successfully in the past. .
- Community Centres
- Recreational Facilities
- Interest & Support Groups
- Universities & Schools
- Performing Arts Academies
- Gyms & Fitness Experts
- Content Creators
Perhaps this may be one area in which hybrid events are adopted extensively – now and in the future. Schools, universities and vocational institutions have used the online-offline model to continue functioning during the pandemic. Due to the nature of training and learning, the following are some of the areas in which hybrid events can be extensively applied.
- Vocational Education
- Educational Entrepreneurship
- Curriculum Development
- Educator’s Guild & Space
- Counselling Services
Online connectivity helps in providing the students a portal to gather information about their syllabus whereas the offline group can be useful for extra activities like digging up the old questions papers, assessments, and much more. This helps in creating a better educational platform for the students.
At the start of the blog, we set out to explore how various businesses and organizations are using the hybrid event model in 2022. We looked at types of events, best practices and various avenues for application. In the next blog we will cover a step by step plan on how you can plan your own hybrid event.
If you need help with organizing a hybrid event, contact us, we can make the entire process hassle-free and fun.