Top Five Reasons to Make Your Event Hybrid
Over the last decade, the growth of hybrid events (in-person + virtual) has changed the event landscape. While many already benefit from adding online options to their events, there is still some resistance based on the fear that hybrid events would reduce in-person attendance.
With that said, let’s look at some numbers and the major benefits that hybrid events offer event organizers.
1. Increased Revenue
It’s no secret that advertising and brand awareness is at the core of every event. Adding a relatively low-cost online component to your event will simply broaden the advertising space available to the participants and sponsors involved. In opening the event up to a wider customer base, many organizers see a substantial increase in registration numbers. This increase is also due to a lower overall cost for registrants; less travel and less time means less restrictions for registrants (Frost & Sullivan, Inc. 2008). Try encouraging both the virtual and in-person audiences to engage with the major social media outlets during the event, driving both event participation/communication and brand marketing simultaneously.
2. Expanded Member/Customer Base
Perhaps the greatest advantage to a virtual event space is that it is essentially borderless. Participants from different countries and time zones can join in from the comfort of their own homes or offices. Although it seems obvious that throwing a larger net will grab more fish, your fear might be online event might reduce in person attendance. If I offer an online option, people may choose it over in-person event. Yet the data that’s available suggests that these fears are unfounded. In fact, the truth is that hybrid events do not appear to detract from in-person attendance at all. According to research from MPI Foundation, 67% of event organizers saw no change in the in-person attendance when offering hybrid events in the first year. Additionally, 23% of the participants saw growth in their hybrid events in the following year, totalling a very compelling 90% of participants who saw static or increasing attendance numbers in year-after-year hybrid events (MPI 2011).
3. Extended Event
Like the expansion of the customer base, virtual event platforms provide a wider reach for the event. Geographically, your event can take place in any city, country and in front of any audience anywhere in the world, opening the door for expanded advertising, greater brand awareness, and new market infiltration. Temporally, virtual events do not have a beginning or an end, as viewers can watch and rewatch at any time. For advertisers, this temporal loop allows for an ongoing relationship with the customer base. Another important point is the recording of virtual events means that they can be available on- demand for as long as you want. Further, they can be turned into courses with little additional costs.
Virtual events also expand the event and the advertising mediums available. While social media is a large part of all events today, hybrid events allow for a far greater online presence, which can increase organizational exposure and real-time audience promotion through social media channels (Pearlman & Gates 2010).
4. Increase Engagement from Online Attendees
Today, participants are expecting more personalized and participatory events from their hosts (Talwar & Hancock 2010). By adding a virtual component that utilizes rapid-response communication tools, such as social media and smart phones apps for both live and virtual participants, honest and non-disruptive discussions can take place concurrently with the events. Furthermore, without any geographical, temporal, financial and/or accessibility restrictions, the diversity of responses can be greatly improved upon as well.
There is also a question of novelty when discussing virtual events. While it’s tough to argue that anything virtual is a passing fad these days, there is definitely a novelty attraction that occurs in the early stages of technological adoption that early-bird companies can capitalize on.
5. Knowing your Audience
Finally, incorporating a virtual event space can help organizers track and understand their audience better. There’s the clear benefit of having a visual and textual record of the event and the discussion it generated, but online events also allow organizers to see accurate and analytical representations of their audience’s interests and participation. This can provide sponsors with an opportunity to create more effective personalized and directed advertising.
Today’s audiences are comfortable communicating online, and creating a space where discussion can spill out endlessly can only be beneficial. Hybrid events also provide a much more effective and immediate way for associations to engage with attendee’s online avatars, which can expand their immediate and future networks. Today’s organizers are developing creative ways of blending the live and online environments by using QR codes, phone apps, and social media to create more immersive and engaging event for participants in all mediums.
Frost & Sullivan, Inc. Webcasting: The New Essential Ingredient of B2B Success. Palo Alto, CA: A Frost & Sullivan White Paper, 2008.
MPI Foundation. “Meeting Pros are from Mars, Attendees are from Venus; Techniques for Creating a Remarkable Hybrid Event,” 2012. Accessed 24 March 2016. http://www.mpiweb.org/events/wec2012/hybridevent.
Pearlman, D.M & Gates, N.A. “Hosting Business Meetings and Special Events in Virtual Worlds: A Fad or the Future?” Journal of Convention and Event Tourism, 11 (4) 247-265, 2010.
Talwar, R. and Hancock, T. “The Shape of Jobs to Come.” Possible New Careers Emerging from Advances in Science and Technology (2010 – 2030), 2010.