Event planning has undergone some significant changes in recent times, with hybrid events now becoming commonplace. We explore planning and promotion before, during and after an in-person and virtual, hybrid event.
The Rapid Rise of Online Events
The pandemic saw the rapid adoption of virtual technology that enabled virtual events to take place during isolation. There were teething troubles, yet, what started as a knee-jerk response proved to bring practical advantages to event organisers and attendees.
Suddenly, it became possible to attend marketing, training and networking events in any part of the country or world. Conferences, courses and collaborations that would be difficult to attend in person became accessible from the home office. As a result, event organisers were able to increase attendee numbers and broaden their reach.
Without the associated costs of travel, accommodation and expenses, it became more affordable to attend courses and events. Cost savings were also enjoyed by event organisers, who didn’t need to pay for venues and refreshments. In some cases, this made it possible for events to be held more frequently.
The Shift Towards Hybrid Events
Since those early forays into online events, many of us have gained confidence in the use of virtual event management tools. As travel restrictions lifted and in-person events resumed, many still preferred the option of hosting or attending online events.
It became clear that a hybrid of remote and physically present delegates could optimise the return on investment of event planning. An event with a live audience creates more of a buzz and heightens engagement, yet inviting virtual attendees extends reach. This opens up the possibility of attracting fresh perspectives and new connections.
There are, however, some significant challenges with hosting hybrid events. Success is dependent on being able to simultaneously engage two distinct audiences. It takes much more than a live recording of an event to involve online delegates. So, how do you plan and promote hybrid events?
Before the Event
The first step with any marketing campaign is to have a clear vision of your goals, desired outcome and target audience. Hybrid event planning is no different. With these objectives in mind, preparation of the content can begin.
Be mindful that online delegates will be more easily distracted, so a rich variety of short, snappy content will help to retain everyone’s focus. Your event might include:
- Infographics to share key data
- Pre-recorded video content
- Ask the Expert Q&A
- Peer discussions – around the table or in virtual chat rooms
Taking Charge of Technology
Knowledge of, and confidence in, the technology used on the day is a must. This will help you to provide content in the right format for in-person and remote attendees. Practice using it with colleagues before the event and test all audio-visual components in advance.
Consider whether it would be useful to have someone other than the host in charge of the technology. A second host can take responsibility for technical operations, admitting delegates, arranging break out rooms and responding to questions.
Raising awareness of a hybrid event and encouraging event registration requires a strong and targeted promotional campaign, so consider:
- Social sites
- Paid advertising (on and offline)
- Billboards or digital signage
- Collaboration and affiliation
You also need somewhere to send interested parties – an event web page or website providing enticing information with simple registration and payment options is critical. Prepare automated emails to confirm bookings and follow up with event details and reminders. And remember you will need to adhere to GDPR and the data protection laws in this country.
During the Event
There may be minor issues with technical access or late delegates, so it is important to plan for this and to stick to the schedule. Address both audiences and use social media feeds, hashtags, polls and live Q&A to encourage participation from everyone. Consider what your two separate audiences are seeing – online may present quite differently to the physical event. Signpost throughout the event regularly reminding relevance to the overall theme, key takeaways and what’s coming up. Use the time offered by pre-recorded elements or group discussion to answer chat box questions or identify relevant points that can be discussed or shared.
Post Event Follow Up
Communication is key for retaining delegates’ interest and keeping them on your marketing list. Keep in touch with:
- A thank you email, with links to resources and upcoming events
- A review tool, such as Mailchimp or SurveyMonkey to request feedback
- An invite for sign-ups to your newsletter or social profile follows where information and incentives are shared
Don’t forget to gather and analyse event data to measure the impact of the event.
If the event was recorded, promote this resource to registered delegates that failed to turn up and on social sites for people who were unable to attend. This can increase sign up for future events.
Professional Support with Hybrid Event Planning
Hosting a hybrid event is time-consuming, but it could open up exciting new opportunities for your business. APM is experienced in all aspects of PR and event management. Our professional support can help you realise the advantages of hybrid events, without all of the stress.
Get in touch to discuss how we can help you achieve event success; call 07963 002065 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.