As the marketing and event world continually adapts in response to transitioning back to in-person events, there’s been an uptake in the popularity of hybrid events. It’s the perfect combination that provides an opportunity to engage a wider audience while providing the excitement of an in-person option—for those that are comfortable, of course.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid events are gaining even more relevance. You can keep in-person attendance limited while still reaching enough people through an online component.
The idea of hosting a hybrid event might sound simple — broadcast your live event over the internet while hosting that same fabulous in person meeting and let the magic happen. Except, it doesn’t work that way.
To get the benefits of event marketing from hybrid events, it is important that the planning is right. Planning involves more than just choosing a venue that also supports a studio option for your favorite virtual event platform, although that definitely helps. You also need to think carefully about event design, participant experience, and how to bring it all together so you don't leave anyone out. Avoid these five common mistakes when planning your next hybrid event.
1. The Price Is Not Right
The in-person experience can differ quite a bit from a virtual experience. This means the pricing will vary too. Don’t make the mistake of charging the same from both in-person and virtual attendees. And definitely don't make the mistake of not charging at all.
How do you price the virtual component of your event? Dig around a little in your industry and see how your competitors are doing it. A common strategy for virtual participation is a "freemium" model. Consider what content is worth charging and what would be useful to give away for free in order to generate more leads.
MPI's upcoming hybrid event, World Education Conference, is being hosted in Vegas and online. They have three options plus a great risk-free guarantee where they're charging for virtual, in-person, and hosted buyer options providing a buffet of choices for their attendees. These stair steps allow value to stream through (no pun intended).
2. Shopping for Wi-Fi Providers Too Late or Too Little
The internet forms the most crucial part of the technology component for a hybrid event. For your hybrid event to run smoothly and for you to ultimately realize your objectives from event marketing, it’s important that you can provide uninterrupted audio and video to all the participants — in-person and virtual.
Add it to your site inspection and ask if the venue will be able to handle the bandwidth needs of a full livestream plus the in person traffic. Have a backup so that no one is left behind if the internet decides to act quirky that day. If you're not sure what the AV team is telling you, ask a friend or ask the Director of Sales to refer you to a consultant or person on site who can help you decipher the Mbps, ups, and downs of the wifi pipe that will fit your meeting needs.
To get the Wi-Fi component right, figure out how participants are likely to use the internet. If it is a training event for a software product, for instance, where participants are expected to follow along, you will need a higher bandwidth. If it is just a launch event where attendees are only expected to check their emails and social media casually, the bandwidth requirement will be much lower outside of your studio or virtual component. The last thing anyone wants is a laggy experience, especially if they’re expecting interaction comparable to being in-person.
Check the Wi-Fi capabilities of the venue and whether they can support your total number of attendees. In case they cannot start negotiating early on with internet service providers. Ideally, start negotiating at least six months to a year before the event is scheduled. You do not want to lose your bargaining power by leaving it to the last minute.
3. Limiting Giveaways to In-Person Audience
Don’t make your online audience feel left out. If you have giveaways planned for your in-person attendees, do something similar for your virtual audience.
Consider sending gift bags in advance to those that have registered to the event virtually. Gift coupons they can redeem online or free software giveaways are also good ideas to enhance the virtual experience of your event.
Gifting suites onsite plus the gift experience offered virtually through partners like Global Gifting or Saddleback Leather Co. ensure your participants at home and in-person feel like the honored attendees they are.
4. Not Planning Your Content Carefully Enough
Very often, people will opt to attend an event virtually for the lack of time. They can’t be glued to your event all the time. When you’re planning a hybrid event, make sure you repeat some of the content for your online audience during the event. Maybe you can have an on-demand component for your event so virtual audiences can tune in at their own convenience.
Breaking up your content into short durations is also a good idea. With virtual attendees that don’t want to stare at the screen all day, not providing breaks could cause them to leave at the click of a button.
Good event design was important before, during, and continues to be a driving factor after the pandemic. Your in-person attendees will be grateful that you aren't relapsing to the same old event after all of that disruption in 2020 and your virtual audience will lean in even more because you've not forgotten them as you've moved back to in-person as well.
5. Forgetting the Engagement Part for Virtual Attendees
Simply providing an uninterrupted A/V stream will not hook your online audience. And while they may stay if they have paid for the event, lack of engagement will not leave a good impression, which can hurt your brand image.
Create contests for virtual participants. Hire a separate moderator to field questions from online participants. Train your speakers on how to engage an online audience while also speaking to the participants in the room. You can offer special content for your entire audience, regardless of location, such as behind-the-scenes footage to engage them and take them on a film-like adventure that breaks the fourth wall and keeps people connected.
Like other kinds of digital marketing strategies, event marketing hinges on maximizing engagement with your audience. Tell them about the audio-only rooms, the networking space that is there where they can talk to their colleagues in person and online together...all the fresh ideas you had during 2020 can continue to grow and thrive as you hybrid your event up.
Bringing it all together
Having an experienced event production company on hand can be invaluable. Hosting a hybrid event for the first time can be overwhelming without the right tools or expertise. Partner up with experts who can help you walk the fine line between making it perfect for your virtual audience while still engaging those that can make it in person. Talk to our team at Nifty Method about bringing your hybrid event to life.