Epic Virtual & Hybrid Events: 6 Ways to Win in 2023
March 23, 2023
While it is exciting to resume in-person meetings, virtual and hybrid events remain critical. According to the Skift Meetings 2022 State of Business Events, 64 percent of event professionals offer a virtual component for their major events. Why? Because digital options provide attendees with a contingency plan in case of unforeseen circumstances that may prevent travel. With a virtual or hybrid format, you can quickly switch if conditions change.
However, online events can present challenges. Without careful planning, registrants may not attend, attendees may leave early, and exhibitors may not attract high-quality leads.
This article will share virtual/hybrid event tips, ideas, and examples to help you overcome these hurdles. Continue reading for best practices on how to:
- Skyrocket engagement with immersive, bespoke virtual experiences
- Produce successful Super Bowl-inspired hybrid events
- Simplify planner workflows
- Stretch your budget
What’s the difference between virtual and hybrid events?
A virtual event is a gathering where people experience all content and activities online instead of meeting in person.
By contrast, a hybrid event mixes virtual and in-person formats. It connects online and on-site audiences through shared content and experiences. Virtual/hybrid events can be anything from small, straightforward meetings to complex trade shows and conferences with hundreds of thousands of attendees.
What are the benefits of virtual and hybrid events?
When utilized efficiently, these formats can broaden audiences, establish fresh revenue streams, boost sustained engagement, and minimize risk while also reducing environmental impact.
Moreover, virtual and hybrid events produce valuable data, which can be leveraged for business intelligence. This data offers significant insights into attendees and more precise reporting. You can use this information to showcase a favorable return on investment and make real-time and future improvements to your events.
6 Virtual & Hybrid Event Best Practices
These tips, tools, and examples below will help you dazzle attendees and make online events shine.
1. Identify your audience.
Your target audience will influence almost every aspect of your gathering.
What speakers and topics will inspire people to register? What activities will grab attendees’ interest and keep them glued to the screen? Where are they located? How many people do you hope to attract?
- Advanced virtual/hybrid event platforms let you host as many attendees as possible online. Extend your event’s reach with a solution that can host audiences of all sizes.
- Analyze data from your event in the past to see what offerings resonated most.
- Ask attendees about their interests and goals when they register. Keep questions to a minimum to make the process quick and easy.
2. Create your event strategy.
A comprehensive strategy outlines event goals, budget, and action plan.
Start by clarifying the purpose of your event.
Maybe you want to build community, delight customers, or increase memberships. Also, consider what attendees hope to gain. Build their networks? Learn new skills? Or a mix?
Next, establish your budget. With so many virtual/hybrid event tech features to choose from, your budget provides a true roadmap for what you can offer.
Hybrid events add costs, including extra content for the virtual audience. For example, camera and production crews to capture sessions for streaming or a roaming emcee to share the excitement from the exhibit hall floor.
On the other hand, hybrid offers savings as well: Less food and beverages for a smaller in-person audience and remote speakers to reduce travel costs. You also have new revenue streams, like more sponsorship opportunities, which you’ll hear more about below.
3. Make engagement easy.
Despite the advantages, hosting a successful online event can be difficult. Engagement remains planners’ top challenge. But you don’t need to settle for lackluster participation.
Pump up engagement for your virtual and hybrid events with tips and tools like these:
- Bring virtual and on-site audiences together using photo booths, AI-driven recommendations, and one-on-one video conferencing
- Produce behind-the-scenes videos and exclusive Q&A sessions with influencers
- Help speakers tailor sessions to audience needs through instant polling and voting
- Ratchet up networking and sponsorships with next-level gamification
- Enliven presentations with live surveys, Q&A’s, quizzes, prizes, and chat
- Encourage collaboration via small, interest-based breakout sessions
- Add fun with activities like live music breaks with deejays and requests through chat
Break out of the mold with bespoke virtual/hybrid event design.
Drive engagement off the charts with an immersive virtual/hybrid event like this example below:
A data and AI company wanted to mix learning, engagement, and fun during its five-day virtual sales kickoff. To help them achieve their goal, Stova created a custom Where’s Waldo-style environment with the look and feel of a videogame.
Employees competed for prizes while searching for avatars of C-suite execs and taking quizzes about the new product line-up.
This one-of-a-kind event kept engagement sky-high for the duration and built excitement for the year ahead.
Let machine learning personalize hybrid and virtual event experiences.
Machine learning (ML) matchmaking is like Netflix for events. The technology suggests sessions and networking connections based on the attendee’s preferences as they evolve.
We find ML increases the length of time in sessions. It also boosts exhibitor booth traffic and generates leads that are further down in the sales funnel.
- Go beyond word searches and analyze actions signaling deeper intent. Did the attendee stay for the full keynote? Participate in related breakout sessions? Download a report?
- Delight attendees and sponsors with insightful recommendations for opportunities they would have missed on their own.
Create Super Bowl experiences.
Despite the advantages of hybrid events, many organizers worry about added costs. So, how can you produce profitable hybrid events?
The answer: Build equally engaging experiences for both audiences. And invite people to choose their journey.
Stellar hybrid events are like the Super Bowl. Each year, fans pack the stadium, while others have a great time watching the Big Game on TV.
People will pay for a Super Bowl experience. Get creative and take advantage of the incremental revenue opportunities of exceptional hybrid events.
Monetize elevated experiences.
We see profitability soar with innovative virtual/hybrid event technologies like these below:
- AI and ML matchmaking: Connect online and on-site attendees at check-in and create a warm welcome. Then sell sponsorships for an elevated arrival experience.
- Stova’s Onsite Solutions: Let on-site speakers and exhibitors go live and connect with virtual attendees for product demos and Q&As.
Stova’s onsite capabilities are a win-win. While some exhibitors network on-site, others host virtual sessions from their booths via the event app to amplify reach. Virtual attendees get answers to burning questions during one-on-one conversations with experts, as they do at in-person events.
4. Choose your virtual/hybrid event technology.
Seventy-one percent of event organizers say connecting virtual and in-person audiences is their #1 challenge with the hybrid model.
Modern platforms overcome this hurdle by combining virtual and on-site event technologies within a single solution.
All-in-one virtual and hybrid event platforms connect both audiences with the click of a button. Online and on-site attendees share experiences in real time via mobile and virtual applications.
Modern all-in-one event management software offers other benefits too:
- Simplifies workflows for smaller teams with short lead times
- Gives you the flexibility to switch formats fast in the event of travel or other mishaps
- Reduces costs compared to buying dozens of individual point solutions
- Delivers a seamless attendee experience
- Unifies branding
- Integrates with marketing systems to personalize event follow-up
- Presents a complete picture of event ROI
- Reduces risk of software failures and security breaches
5. Promote before, during, and post-event.
Follow these tips below to market your virtual/hybrid event with flair.
- Make a great first impression with a stunning, brandable, SEO-optimized event website that integrates with Google Analytics.
- Conduct video interviews with speakers and post them on your blog and event website.
- Curate photos, showcase attendee testimonials, and produce a fun video highlighting the best moments from past versions of your event to build excitement and encourage sign-ups.
- Share curated content snippets via social media during the event to grow your audience.
- When the last session ends, post photos and video content to encourage year-round engagement and create interest in next year’s event.
- Finally, track results throughout the campaign. With the right analytics tools, you can keep refining your efforts and build the largest, most targeted audience possible.
6. Schedule rehearsals.
Like the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall, epic virtual and hybrid events require “practice, practice, practice.”
Get support from your virtual/hybrid event technology partner before and during your event.
Testing and walkthroughs are critical to resolve potential issues ahead of time.
Create a checklist to help ensure everything runs flawlessly on the big day. Do you have enough bandwidth? Are the live streams clear? Do sponsor placements appear where they should?
Host practice sessions with speakers. And build interest with pre-event experiences that allow attendees to practice navigating the platform.
Reap the benefits of epic virtual/hybrid events.
We hope these tips and examples help you make the most of new solutions to meet attendees’ evolving needs.
- Complete research and give attendees what they want
- Build smart strategies to stretch your budget
- Make attendee engagement simple and fun
- Choose virtual/hybrid event technology that makes your life easier
- Practice, practice, practice for flawless execution
Ready to maximize the advantages of virtual and/or hybrid events? Book a free demo to learn how Stova’s event management software can help.
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