Karen Peterson is a member of Strategic Choice Partners, and helps direct sales companies with their event and incentive planning. She is a Certified Meeting Professional with more than 30 years experience working with direct selling companies.
From RFP development to contract negotiations to travel & transportation, Karen knows the ins and outs of event planning.
Embracing the Hybrid Future of Event Planning
The last two years have been tumultuous for the hotel, incentive and travel industries, but the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer and becoming sharper.
As the event industry prepares to return to live events, they’re using the latest trends in event planning along with lessons they learned about engagement, virtual content and attendee analytics to fuel their in-person event planning strategies.
The “hybrid meeting” is our future for now. Some people are totally in for meeting in person and others are still a bit skeptical and want to do meetings virtually. It’s easy to understand why, and formats are changing to meet the “new” formats for in-person experiences and virtual.
Beyond the skepticism of guests, though, hybrid events are also proving to be effective and economical as a more global approach to event-planning moving forward. Although we can’t wait to get back to meeting in-person, the benefits of virtual events are tough to ignore. These types of events reduce risk, cost and carbon footprint. At the same time, they improve flexibility, analytics and audience reach. Most would agree that nothing beats an in-person event, but sometimes the payoff doesn’t match the payout.
A hybrid event attracts both remote and in-person attendees. They can gather at a venue to network, see products and enjoy the experience. At the same time, people who cannot or don’t want to travel can take part from their computers and mobile phones. In many cases, the in-person event needs and space is greatly reduced, allowing for cost-effective ways to reach the masses.
Hybrid events also address risk very well. Planning hybrid events is a good way for companies to protect themselves in case of health and other emergencies. If conditions shift and people can’t travel, you can switch with the click of a button to an all-virtual model.
Despite the benefits, hybrid gatherings still pose challenges. If you don’t plan carefully, they can be quite complicated, and even surprisingly costly. Most companies are scrambling to figure out the right software packages for streaming and interaction. Given that new technologies are launching constantly in this space, today’s solution isn’t always a match for tomorrow’s event. That makes them hard to pull off successfully – especially with today’s smaller planning teams and budgets. Sometimes we make putting together a hybrid event more complicated than necessary.
For example, many marketing teams stitch together a patchwork of point solutions to produce hybrid events. This adds complexity. You must manage different vendors and struggle with systems that don’t always work in sync. Some things to consider when you are planning a Hybrid event:
1. Simplify technology.
- Use technology that handles virtual, hybrid and in-person events on a single platform. All-in-one solutions merge data across in-person and digital activities.
- As such, they make life easier for marketers, attendees and stakeholders.
- Unify branding.
- Deliver deeper customer insights.
- Provide a comprehensive view of return on investment.
- Make sure your platform also powers events of all sizes. It should handle everything from small webinar-style virtual meetings to large hybrid conferences. You’ll cut training and operations costs with one platform for all planners, from newbies to pros.
2. Pump up engagement.
Deeper engagement is the number one way to improve the virtual attendee experience. Onsite attendees enjoy the meetings, receptions and energy of live events. Remote attendees miss out on these experiences. Plus, they face continuous distractions, from emails, social media, home life and more. This makes it harder to capture and keep their attention. Have someone, or a team, dedicated to keeping your virtual attendees engaged.
3. Make virtual experiences special.
- Bake engagement into event design from the start. Play upbeat music as attendees log onto the platform. Enlist a dynamic emcee to provide a warm welcome. Run quick trivia challenges while attendees wait for the rest of the group to join.
- Deliver the best possible content. Uncover the topics attendees value most. You can conduct pre-event surveys and check their signups and comments in chat. Get top-notch speakers. Make virtual sessions interactive as well, using polls, activity feeds, Q&A’s and chat.
- Great virtual events are like TV talk shows. Data shows the most engaging digital sessions include panel discussions and interviews. Attendees want more than one speaker presenting a PowerPoint.
- Feature live, TV-news-style interviews for online eventgoers when in-person attendees break for lunch. Talk with influencers for their take on the day’s top stories. Your producer can also give attendees a virtual backstage tour. They’ll learn something new about hybrid event production.
- High-quality video is key to engaging virtual content. Consider recording keynote sessions in a studio. Or use a virtual platform with cloud video production software. You’ll get tools to deliver broadcast-quality content and reduce the risk that comes with these productions.
- What if Covid variants cause cases to spike right before your event? Pre-record some content with industry leaders. If you must cancel the in-person part of your program, you’ll still have valuable content. After each recorded session, conduct live Q&A’s, so attendees can interact real time with speakers.
In many ways, hybrid events offer the best of both worlds. They expand opportunities to connect with prospects, educate and build your sales pipeline.
Any event professional working in today’s landscape knows that planning a virtual event is no easy feat. You can’t just stream a live event and call it virtual. Virtual events need to be engaging interactive experiences.
That’s why choosing your tech partner is vital to success. And even then, the day of an event can be especially nerve-wracking for event producers. What if you have connectivity issues? Bad sound clarity? Unprepared speakers? What do you do then?
Stop pulling your hair out! By preparing and taking the right steps, your virtual event will go off without a hitch.
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