The 3 Pillars of a Successful In-Person, Virtual, or Hybrid Event
We believe that every great in-person, virtual, or hybrid event revolves around:
– Stellar content
– Immersive networking
– And of course, your valuable sponsors
The best part is, these pillars apply regardless of whether you are planning an in-person, virtual, or yes, even hybrid event. Having stellar content drives attendees to your (sometimes virtual) seats. Immersive networking keeps attendees at your event and keeps them engaged along the way. And your sponsors motivate attendees to register for your event, while providing you with a bit of notoriety and funding.
But how do these pillars apply to in-person, virtual, and hybrid events?
Pillar 1 – Event Content
High quality content is critical to the success of an event. When we think about in-person event content, things like keynotes, workshops, printed programs, banners, and exhibitor booths come to mind. But when combined with virtual content, it can become so much more!
An integrated hybrid experience is the future.
Types of Event Content
Sessions: Whether attendees are viewing them live at the venue or from their laptop screen at home, speaker sessions are one of the main draws. Keynotes, panels, workshops, Q&As and other interactive sessions allow attendees to learn from thought leaders in the industry.
On Demand Content: Recorded content that is made available for asynchronous viewing by attendees can add value to your events. It helps busy professionals, parents, and community members fit event content into their schedule. It can also be used to supplement live content prior to the event or allow attendees to look back on their favorite sessions or presentations after a session or event is over.
Most of our viewing experiences are already centered around on demand content! How often do you find yourself tuning into the original broadcast of a TV show these days? I’d bet that a more common occurrence is logging into Hulu or Netflix to binge watch a show on your own schedule. Why shouldn’t the same flexibility be offered for event content?!
User Generated Content: Some of the most engaging content can come from the attendees themselves. Users can share ideas, hot takes, questions, and key takeaways with each other for an interactive experience. At a live event, members of the crowd can ask speakers or panelists questions and share ideas, but virtual attendees want to speak up too.
Virtual user-generated content can also be a great way to boost attendee interaction and provide additional networking opportunities. This content can also double as social proof for your event. After all, in this day and age, aren’t we all content creators on some level? The vast majority of people are already comfortable engaging online, in forums, and creating short videos. People of all backgrounds, professions, and ages are already using social media.
Sponsored Content: Sponsors play an important role in events. They can also generate interesting content for attendees! Sponsors can hold live or recorded sessions or workshops, host networking activities, and set up an exhibition booth to speak with attendees about their products and services.
Sponsored content should go beyond a sales pitch. It should be interactive and tailored to the interests of attendees to deepen customer relationships and turn prospects into hot leads. Virtual and hybrid sponsored content can also be curated and refined based on the insights gained from attendee interactions.
In-Person vs Virtual Content
Regardless of the delivery method, providing stellar content is important. Most people are now accustomed to virtual work meetings, happy hours, and even fitness classes. So, creating a virtual experience for attendees is truly not as challenging as you may expect.
According to a survey conducted by Markletic, audience engagement and interaction are the top concerns of event planners when pivoting to virtual content. These are understandable concerns. However, it is possible to bring the interaction, engagement, and excitement of in-person events into virtual content.
You may not recreate the exact energy of a live event with your virtual content. They are different activities, and that’s ok! Virtual content has its own special energy and purpose. But it’s still important to create engaging and interactive content tailored towards the interests of your audience. The majority of virtual event attendees cite networking and education as their primary reasons for attending virtual events. Focus on developing educational content that will provide genuine value to attendees and encourage participation and interaction.
Bridging the Gap with Hybrid Event Content
Hybrid events give you the best of both worlds – and will likely become the norm over the next few years. Hybrid events provide all of the benefits of an in-person event, while also being inclusive to those that can’t travel to or physically attend. They’re an excellent way to include remote employees, working parents, disabled attendees, and reduce travel expenses for companies wishing to send staff to conferences or events.
There is a certain art to creating quality hybrid content. If you choose to make a session available on location and virtually, avoid getting caught up in trying to cater to both audiences simultaneously. If speakers are trying to monitor the virtual chat while fielding in-person questions, it will come across as hectic and disorganized.
Instead, separate the two.
This doesn’t require two separate sessions or separate content necessarily. You can upload recordings of live content for on demand viewing. If you want to do both live, have someone other than the speaker moderate the virtual chat and collect questions so that the speaker isn’t distracted by trying to engage with virtual attendees while running an in-person session.
It’s also a great idea to pre-record content for hybrid events. Have speakers record videos with their introductions and 101 level content. This allows them to maximize their session time, and helps attendees decide which speakers they’d like to see. You probably wouldn’t attend a concert without listening to some of the artist’s songs first, so why attend an event session without getting a preview of the presenter and their content?
Adding a virtual layer to your in-person activities through hybrid events opens up a wealth of opportunities to expand content and help attendees find the content they’re most interested in. We also have a Recommendation and Prediction Engine that can help your speakers tailor their hybrid content to the audience. Both sides can gain valuable insight and plan accordingly for the event.
Pillar 2 – Networking
One of the largest benefits of events for attendees is industry networking. Many people wrongly assume that networking only works if you meet in-person and get to shake their hand. The truth is that virtual and hybrid events can provide great networking opportunities if executed correctly.
Networking is already a hybrid activity.
Think about it. What do you do after meeting someone at a conference or professional event?
The correct answer is sending a follow up email and/or a LinkedIn request. You should already be turning these in-person encounters into virtual connections. Social networks allow you to turn brief encounters into lasting connections that can be leveraged throughout your career. Adding a virtual component prior to the event can also make in-person engagements more meaningful.
Adding a Virtual Element to In-Person Networking for Hybrid Event Harmony
Even in-person events can benefit from a bit of virtual pre-gaming.
Navigating an in-person event and finding the right people to talk to can be time consuming and a little bit awkward. If you are only going to be in town briefly to attend an event or conference, you’ll want to make the most out of your time. A great way to do this is to set up meetings and dinner plans with other attendees prior to arrival. This also allows you to get some of your introductions out of the way and skip the awkward small talk.
Set up at least one digital option for pre-event networking. Some popular options include:
- One-to-one messaging
- Group chats
- One-to-one video calls
- Small-group video calls
- Content previews and discussion chats
- Short social media-style micro videos
Consider utilizing multiple digital networking options to give attendee’s options. Everyone has different networking preferences, and some options can be intimidating. We recommend a message or chat option in addition to a video option so attendees can network the way they want to.
Allow users to find relevant professional connections to meet up with during the event. Also encourage attendees to find others with shared interests to coordinate post-event social activities with or provide suggestions on local restaurants or attractions.
Post-event networking is just as important! Provide an opportunity for attendees to share their thoughts, follow up with speakers or sponsors, and connect with other attendees who’s contact information they may have forgotten to get.
Pillar 3 – Event Sponsors
Sponsors bring credibility (and funding!) to your event. The key is for the sponsorship to truly add value.
We’ve all attended events where the sponsors seemed mismatched, unengaging, or poorly integrated into the event. The sponsorship should be adding value to the event, for the attendees and the sponsoring company.
Developing a Strong Sponsor Strategy
Regardless of whether you’re putting on your event in-person, virtually, or taking a hybrid approach, there are a number of ways to integrate sponsors and exhibitors while encouraging attendees to engage with them.
In-Person Events: Sponsors are largely experienced with in-person events. They likely have their tents or booth materials ready and a key set of talking points for their sessions. Providing pre-event information on sponsored activities can help produce a higher turnout to sponsored sessions and help attendees plan which booths to visit.
Virtual Event: Sponsors of virtual events don’t need to be limited to a Zoom presentation and a couple shoutouts or logo appearances. They can still interact with attendees in a meaningful manner virtually.
Afterall, the goal of sponsorship is to generate business and brand awareness, and high-quality leads come from meaningful interaction.
You can help provide value to your sponsors and attendees by providing personalized sponsor and exhibitor recommendations to them throughout their virtual event experience. One way to do this is to utilize Social27’s Recommendation and Prediction Engine. The Recommendation and Prediction Engine provides attendees with only the most relevant sponsors and exhibitors, content, and people based on their chosen areas of interest. It then learns from their activity and continues to serve them the best content, sponsors, and people as the event goes on. That way, the more they engage, the more they’ll get to learn about and connect with your sponsors and exhibitors.
Many of the standard forms of sponsored content and sponsor interaction can also be translated into a virtual format. Virtual sponsored sessions or virtual exhibition booths can help facilitate meaningful exchanges between sponsors and attendees.
A common mistake made at virtual events is talking at attendees rather than talking with them. Be sure to plan out some opportunities for attendees to ask questions, set up meetings, and have conversations with sponsors. Social27 Virtual Event Platform provides many features including sponsor microsites (virtual booths), sponsor chats, and of course our Recommendation and Prediction Engine to help sponsors reach attendees.
Hybrid Event: With a hybrid event, there are a multitude of ways for sponsors to engage with attendees both virtually and in-person. The methods discussed above can all be utilized for a hybrid event.
The Future of Hybrid Events
Newsflash, we are now living in a hybrid world. If you aren’t integrating remote-friendly, virtual content into your events, it’s time to start.
The coronavirus pandemic shifted companies even further towards distributed work models. Our social experiences have been partially digital for a long time – thanks to the rise of social media, online dating, and the culture of constant connection through our phone screens.
Integrating virtual and face-to-face experiences can add an unprecedented layer of depth, accessibility, and connectivity to events that will allow for the development of stronger connections and learning experiences. According to Forbes, 2021 will be the year of hybrid events.
Don’t be afraid to dive into virtual or hybrid events. They truly do not require complex cutting edge technology. You can start performing them with your current technology and within your own budget, and Social27 can help.
Social27 Virtual Event Platform provides you the tools to properly engage your attendees and bring them the best content, networking opportunities, and sponsor connections. If you’re ready to dive into the next phase of successful event coordination, click here to book a demo!