Hybrid is very much in vogue as marketing leaders look to develop an event mix that delivers audiences flexibility, digital insights, and improved engagement. Indeed, in a survey we ran late last year, 58% of respondents agreed that all flagship events would be hybrid within 24 months. But while there are many compelling reasons to run a hybrid B2B event this year, it also comes with additional cost and complexity.
There are seven critical areas for B2B marketing and event leaders to consider as they plan their first hybrid events:
- Audience analysis. Do you know what kind of an event your target attendees would prefer to attend? And what their expectations are from both an in-person and virtual experience perspective? If you haven’t already done so, survey them regularly to understand their predilections. Can you identify any clear preferences among target personas? If so, you can use these to inform event experience design. You will also need to build in some flexibility, as attendees may change their minds as the event date nears.
- Hybrid event type. There are many different flavors of hybrid. For example, you could decide to have a small in-person event with a much larger virtual event to extend event reach. Or conversely, you could make your primary event virtual, with several local in-person viewing parties allowing attendees to experience the content together and drive greater interaction. Use the sentiment analysis to help identify the right type for your target audience.
- Audience segmentation. You’ll need to consider how you’re going to segment your audience for invitation purposes. For example, if you’re running a small in-person event, how will you select who to invite? You could consider inviting named contacts, specific personas, target accounts, using geographic proximity, or leaving attendees free to choose until event capacity is reached. All are valid options, but remember that the registration process and post-registration communications also need to support your segmentation strategy.
- Pricing strategy. Do you charge for your events? If so, you’ll need to determine your pricing strategy. The simplest option is to maintain a single price for all attendees, but you might want to consider tiered pricing for in-person and virtual attendees. Be careful before offering virtual attendance for free, though, as not only do you risk devaluing the content but you’re also setting a dangerous precedent for all future virtual events.
- Attendee experience design. You need to take equal care when it comes to designing both the in-person and virtual attendee experience. Both formats should deliver attendees a valuable and memorable (albeit different) experience. For virtual attendees, your focus should be on “humanizing” their experience and driving greater interactivity. Are you designing opportunities for live interaction (for example, submitting questions to presenters or responding to polls)? Are there physical items such as an event “book” that you can mail out to attendees pre-event that will enhance their experience? For in-person attendees, the focus should be on inserting more digital touchpoints to improve their experience and capture more data. Are you offering a contactless digital check-in? Are they able to access and view on-demand content? You also need to determine to what degree you want in-person and virtual attendees to interact with each other. For example, are you going to allow both in-person and virtual attendees to network 1:1 or just via session chat?
- Event management technology. Technology is a key component of delivering a successful hybrid event and one of the trickiest areas to execute successfully. Marketers should use the experience design and data capture requirements to help identify a shortlist of potential partners. Depending on the event type, this could include elements as diverse as registration and ticketing hardware, video production and streaming, and a virtual events platform. There are few providers that can offer all of this, although many will have partners they’re able to work with. As part of this exercise, you should also identify what event data you need to capture and ideally work with a vendor (or multiple) that is able to provide unified in-person and virtual attendee data and analytics.
- Event team skills and capabilities. Delivering effective hybrid events requires a wide range of skills and capabilities, from traditional in-person event management through to digital experience design and video production/streaming. Leaders should audit their current events team capabilities to determine if they have the necessary skills in-house or whether they’re going to have to look outside.
Join Erin Rampey, Daryl Wright, and myself on May 2 in person in Austin (or virtually) at B2B Summit North America, where we’ll be presenting on the new B2B event mix and how to select events that will drive engagement and interaction!