Virtual events, conferences and webinars, and the hybrid versions of these have become critical components in content plans and strategies. It can be quite challenging to create a content plan that provides for management of your content assets, marketing cycles and integration of your community.
There are many components to a successful virtual or hybrid event plan. These range from selecting a great platform for delivering the events, to managing them before, during and after the event. It’s not as simple as just setting up an online meeting and inviting people to your meeting.
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Here are some of the key questions we can help with…
Hybrid events are those events that are held in both an in-person environment (people physically attend the event) and and online environment. Sessions can be held in both environments, and can originate in either. People can attend online or in-person. The power in these is that if an attendee is unable to attend in-person. they always have the option of attending virtually. That’s the magic and promise of hybrid events. No worries about cancellations on the part of the attendee or the event, the show can still go on in the best venue on an attendee-by-attendee basis.
Hybrid events have many additional benefits that range from additional revenue opportunities for show organizers to new options for exhibitors to new options for attendees. It’s extremely important that hybrid events be well-integrated into the marketing and messaging presented surrounding your overall event, and that careful planning occurs to prevent cannibalization of your online or in-person events.
The actual delivery of the event relies on a platform selected by you, that supports virtual events, hybrid events and the support and functionality around them. First, awareness and registration – you’ll need to have a way for people to find out about your event, who’s speaking, what the topics are, what the schedule is. These are typical elements of a conference information and registration site. (We refer to this as a the event microsite.)
Second, you need to fully understand the options that are supported by the platforms you’re considering. Can you take credit card payments? What types of sessions (live, pre-recorded, simulated live, on-demand) are supported? How are sessions captured? What is required of speakers? What types of monetization are part of the platform – how do you make money? Can you have sponsorship options? Exhibitors? What support and assistance is included with a given platform?
Your virtual or hybrid event will have tools associated with it. These range from recording tools to session setup tools, scheduling options, configuration and customization options and more. Many times, these include reporting, and even event audit tools that you can use to test and validate your setup. Keep in mind that a virtual or hybrid event is the same as an in-person event in many ways. You’ll set up a schedule of sessions, have exhibitor booths, outline the different rooms you’ll be having sessions in, and so-forth.
Managing the actual event while it’s occurring includes watching over attendee interactions, monitoring sessions and video feeds (both pre-recorded and on-demand) and providing support for questions that may arise. Much like an in-person event, it’s important to quickly address any issue that may arise.
Evaluating the effectiveness of a virtual or hybrid event will depend heavily on your own required metrics. Attendance, interaction, time in sessions, booth visits, overall attendee satisfaction and overall exhibitor satisfaction (which is in turn driven by many factors) are all going to play into your analysis and reporting on the event. It’s important to consider how long people attended sessions, whether they came to a session and left (suggesting they didn’t see what they needed or expected) or stuck around for a good period of time, etc.
Your own evaluation of the event will need to be laid out early on. Your priorities and objectives will drive the manner in which you build out your virtual or hybrid event strategy. You’ll need to know your primary objective, be it attendee education, exhibitor leads or both (or neither) and this will dictate the way you want to set up schedules, how you’ll show sessions and more.