First of all, we want to preface this article by saying that it is NOT another “how-to plan a successful hybrid event” list. This post will be addressing Event Directors and Event Managers, introducing them to an innovative thought process in regards to hybrid events rather than drilling further down the mainstream checklist of requirements.
Our focus is on relationship building and taking ownership of the next phase of the hybrid format evolution. The event industry is still skittering at the in-person events vs virtual events vs hybrid events phase. This is your chance to step up and shape the future.
Planning an Impactful Event in 2021
Hybrid events may be new but they are the best alternative to in-person events at the present. This format was born in the pandemic as the industry’s means to adapt. And therefore it was a learning curve. This led to everyone following the same, collectively put together a handbook of how-to deliver and host a hybrid event.
But when everyone does the same thing, can you really be impactful? It is clear at this point that the hybrid event craze will stretch long past the era of the pandemic. Therefore it’s clear the format will evolve and new approaches will be developed. Now is the best time to take the lead and deliver an impact by being an innovator.
Put the Attendee First
Remember: the hybrid event format is evolving – it’s not turning into something completely new. Therefore the fundamentals of the attendees’ experience being the key are not going to be dismissed. Instead, the quality of the delivery, the purpose of the conversations and the value offered will all need to be upgraded.
Now that bridging the gap between two audiences has been mastered, your priorities should turn towards delighting them both to the fullest through juggling both virtual components and real-time experience. Treat early months of hybrid events as laying down the house foundation: now is the time to build. Ask yourself:
- What are your attendees getting from the event?
- How to encourage them to attend in person?
- Will this experience resonate with them in the long run?
- What will make them want to come back?
- How do you build a relationship with them as opposed to driving engagement?
- Do you make them feel special? Is your approach personalised?
- What unites them all?
Once these questions have been answered, let’s move to the next step.
Build the Community
Everyone’s always talking about building the community. Thought leadership, innovation and omnichannel approach are all the buzzwords always accompanying the former one and are constantly thrown about. But what do they all really entail?
A community consists of a group of individuals that share a common interest. It is usually built around mutual goals and ideas. Therefore, the person who comes up with an innovative idea and takes ownership of delivering it is a thought leader. The group with whom the idea resonates naturally flock around them and work together to achieve it coming true, forming a community. What it means to you is a skyrocketing audience engagement.
Simply put, to build a community you need to come up with a concept you will then deliver as an innovation addressing shared interests of you and your audience. This makes you the thought leader. In the early phases we have spoken about engaging virtual audiences via basic interactions on virtual event platforms. Next we will talk about ways of managing the community.
Ditch the Single-Approach Events
Hybrid events are still new, but we now see how impactful they can be. Sticking to a single approach would be a waste of potential. This is the time to take the next step forward. You can’t build a strong and loyal community if you limit their communication with you and one another, therefore you need to connect in-person and virtual attendees.
Virtual event platforms became the key tool for enabling communications across different channels. It is only logical that their functionality changes alongside the hybrid event landscape.
Virtual Event Platform to Engagement Platform
The conversations you have with the event attendees should not end after the event. Turning your virtual event platform into a place that keeps the conversation flowing is the first step of maintaining a strong, healthy community. Consider turning it into an app that members of the community can access whenever it’s relevant to them to communicate and interact with others instead of using it solely as a hosting platform.
Also, consider adopting a subscription model. It may sound odd at this stage, but take a broader look at this. People do enjoy feeling exclusive and an exclusive membership builds pride in being part of a community.
How do you ensure people are willing to pay for the services you offer?
We have covered that already: you put your customer first and give them the value they cannot get anywhere else. At this stage, you have a perfect opportunity for that.
Trust Your Expertise
You can add undeniable value to your community by simply sharing your knowledge with them. The pandemic pushed many of the key players out of the game and their spots are being filled by the newcomers. While they may be sprouting great new ideas and visions, you hold the upper hand: you have the experience, trust and practice-based expertise.
Use all of these to deliver bespoke experiences and value to your clients. Putting your knowledge towards ensuring their success will build relationships and loyalty.
Adopting the Events-as-a-Service Model
This leads us to a new concept emerging: Events-as-a-Service or simply EAAS. It is a model of close alignment with a single provider of services for a long period of time as opposed to working with different providers across every event.
Relationship is the Key
EAAS may sound like a madman’s idea, but so did the concept of the Earth revolving around the Sun. And just like the latter, it is fully provable. Having one provider to cover all of your needs will mean that your success translates into their success. Your commitment to each other will ensure transparency in communication, goals and execution.
EAAS is built on the relationship between you and your partner, where you both work together towards the same goal. Your event directors, ops directors, content directors, marketers and sales team can all easily align towards achieving groundbreaking results.
And do you know what creates strong, sustainable and loyal communities? You guessed it – relationships. Between you, your partners and your audience.
The era of hybrid events has just started and won’t be ending anytime soon, even with live events resuming. However, it is just at the start of its evolution. The innovators and trend-setters will get ahead of the game undeniably.
Are you willing to take the lead? We can support you.