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Going hybrid: How to leverage virtual events when live events return

Even when physical, in-person events return, virtual events will remain relevant. They’ve gained a lot of traction in recent months and their many benefits – and best practices – will not quickly be forgotten.

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that while in-person events are greatly missed and will always have a place, virtual events offer a superb way to distribute content and to network. And they’re here to stay.

Which is why it’s worth exploring how to enjoy the best of both worlds: hybrid events.

Hybrid events will be the next ‘new normal’

There will be times when a virtual event is the only option. This is certainly the case in many parts of the world, where indoor gatherings are not possible. But as physical events eventually happen again – as they are doing in some territories – the opportunity to go hybrid is a real possibility.

Hybrid events can be created from many types of gatherings: tradeshows, conferences, seminars, workshops and more. What they all have in common is the ability to combine live ‘in-person’ activity with virtual components. What’s more, it seems likely they will form an essential part of the events industry going forward.

What are the benefits of a hybrid event?

There are a number of benefits that hybrid events can offer. These are some of the most significant ones that you can realize.

1. Greater audience outreach

Hybrid events that offer both in-person and virtual attendance options can expand your reach to a much larger scale. Not only do they allow you to connect with audiences who are unable to physically attend your event, you have a new way for audiences to engage with your brand.

Virtual attendance creates new avenues for social sharing and distribution of content, new sponsorship opportunities, and exciting ways to build powerful communities online. Because your content is also online, you can include a greater variety of content formats from speakers, influencers or companies that might complement or enhance your own presentation topics or theme.

It’s also much easier to secure talent for a hybrid event than an in-person one as presentations can be done from anywhere in the world, and fit more easily into otherwise-busy schedules.  

What you’ll end up with is a much larger audience, more available presenters and guest speakers, and new avenues for content distribution and engagement.

2. Less space can mean greater margins

Going hybrid is a great way to accommodate attendees who are unable to travel or take time out from their busy schedules.

If your event has sizable online participation, you won’t need as much physical space at your venue.

For organizers, this means not only a smaller venue can be booked, but also reduced inventories, less logistical hassle, and ultimately – lower expenses and higher margins.

3. Good for budgets of any size

Hosting a hybrid event works with almost any budget and provides cost savings benefits for everyone involved. For organizers, having limited capacity at an onsite venue and unlimited virtual attendee slots makes hosting a large event possible even while on a budget.

Hybrid events mean reduced travel costs for your crew and attendees. This comes especially as work-from-home becomes the new normal for companies and employees around the world.  In the same way, your sponsors can save on travel and accommodation costs, by sending fewer representatives to your event. If you include virtual sponsorships as part of your prospectus, your sponsors have the option to participate fully online while still generating value.

When budgets are tight, hybrid events are a good way for bridging the gap between cost and results for both your sponsors and attendees.

Also read: How to run a professional-grade, fail proof virtual event

4. Improved return on investment (ROI)

ROI can be difficult to calculate considering all the moving parts. However, hybrid events have been shown to offer increased ROI potential, due mainly to increased audience reach and attendance.

With higher attendance, comes greater views and value for sponsors. And with that, comes the potential of more sponsorship signups or upgrades after your event.

In addition, the ability to re-watch and share the on-demand presentations from your event promotes further visibility and interest in your brand.

This presents an excellent opportunity for organizations trying to spread the word about their cause – or related information that can help viewers – beyond their existing audience pool.

5. The ability to harness valuable data

Perhaps the most important benefit of a hybrid event is its ability to harness event data.

At a live event, organizers can do a headcount to calculate how many people participated in a session. But with a hybrid event, you don’t just get information on participation numbers – you also get valuable insight into which sessions are being attended, how long attendees spent in them. You can also gather information about attendees’ interest through a variety of online formats such as Q&A sessions, polls or quizzes.

Meanwhile, sponsors can tap into essential information on booth traffic and attendee engagement, which can help prove a positive ROI.

Because of the virtual nature of hybrid events, you can obtain many more trackable metrics that will help you improve your future content and event experiences – metrics that you simply cannot measure with an in-person event.

Planning for a hybrid event

For many of us, physical events may be impossible for now. But they’ll remain a part of the post-pandemic world, although they won’t be the same as before.

For one, health and safety concerns will persist and organizers will have to accommodate with the safe distancing measures in place. Registrants might also be reluctant to attend a physical event, especially if it’s held abroad.

This is where hybrid events will help to plug the gaps. From livestreaming events to remote viewers, to chatrooms that facilitate interaction between both online and on-site participants – the digital elements that we’ve become familiar with will see greater implementation in physical events as they prove their mettle in the new normal.

If you’re considering running a hybrid event, do talk to us about how we can help deliver it successfully. It’s never too soon to be thinking ahead and putting plans into motion.

About the author

As Content Marketing and Campaigns Manager, Fiona oversees all marketing-related content initiatives within the APAC region. She has over a decade of collective experience in journalism, public relations and marketing communications across tech, finance and real estate industries.

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