The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) says the biggest change they are seeing in the event marketing space is the shift to hybrid events. Nearly two-thirds of marketers say they will be holding more hybrid meetings in the future.
Are hybrid marketing events right for your organization? What does it take to pull off a successful hybrid marketing event?
In this guide, you will learn:
— What is a hybrid event?
— In-Person, Virtual, and Hybrid Events: Weighing the Pros and Cons
— When to host hybrid marketing events
— How to market your hybrid marketing events
— The 5 Metrics You Need to Track
— Your Complete Pre/During/Post Execution Checklist
What is a hybrid event?
Virtual and in-person marketing events both bring different values to the table for marketers. On the virtual side, event marketers can be more flexible and creative in driving registrations, leverage technology to drive engagement, and drive more online actions throughout the event. With in-person events, event marketers can forge personal relationships, deliver unique value to white-glove customers and prospects, and increase brand awareness with a broader audience.
Hybrid events incorporate the best of both of these worlds. For example, marketers can promote a unique, in-person experience while keeping an online option open until the event starts for virtual participants. Hybrid events are also turning out to be an excellent way for marketing teams to ease back into hosting in-person events without shortchanging attendees who may not feel comfortable with going back to normal quite yet.
Hybrid events combine the unique, face-to-face relationship-building atmosphere of an in-person event with a virtual event's online, tech-driven content. These events are the best way to get the right people to your event, even if they don't feel comfortable traveling. Hybrid events are also a great way to scale back on costs by shifting traditionally large ticket items like travel or speaker sessions to online channels.
In-Person, Virtual, and Hybrid Events: Weighing the Pros and Cons
If you’re trying to decide whether a hybrid event is right for you, let’s compare the pros and cons of a hybrid event vs. an in-person event or a virtual event.
- Offer a unique experience to attendees
- Allow salespeople to forge connections and move deals through the pipeline faster
- Are the perfect place for networking between sales, customers, and prospects
- Create great opportunities for brand awareness through giveaways and swag
- Make it easy to collect attendee data and background information
- Open up attendee options to a larger audience of people
- Organically build evergreen content through video, social, and other platforms
- Are traditionally cheaper to execute than in-person events and do not require traveling expenses
- Combine the in-person engagement and unique experience of in-person events with the online reach and ease of virtual events
- Can be developed for more people across different buyer or attendee profiles (aka local and remote attendees)
- Take the most impactful parts of both in-person and virtual events into account to build the ultimate event marketing experience
- Require extensive budget approval for travel, booth setup, merchandise, dinners, etc.
- Can alienate potential attendees who may not be ready for in-person events or traveling yet
- Don’t always allow for accurate attendee data collection from conversations
- Are confined to the finite period of the event itself without creating evergreen content
- Can’t provide the physical in-person engagement many prospects are looking for from new vendors
- Rely heavily on technology and third-party platforms to execute flawlessly
- Make it easy for registrants to not attend or leave early with little control
- May require substantial planning and strategic effort beforehand to execute across multiple platforms and channels
When to host hybrid marketing events
If your team is considering hosting a hybrid event, ask yourselves these questions to determine if this is the right approach:
What value will a hybrid event deliver versus just a virtual or in-person event?
Planning and executing a hybrid event adds an extra layer of complexity to just a virtual or in-person event, so there needs to be a specific value to go with this approach.
Will your target attendees embrace this hybrid approach?
While your internal team may be excited about a hybrid approach, does your audience feel the same way? Before you start planning your big hybrid event, do a quick pulse check to see if this is something the market is interested in attending.
Is your team equipped to host a hybrid event?
Hybrid events require some pretty specific technology applications to run smoothly. Ensure your team has the right equipment and technology to deliver an optimal attendee experience, regardless of whether the attendee is virtual or in-person.
How will this event fit into your larger event marketing strategy?
While the cost of hosting in-person and virtual events may vary from event to event, hybrid events combine the costs – and the value – of both of these approaches in one. Hybrid events should have a clear value in your larger event marketing strategy to warrant the time and investment.
How to market your hybrid marketing events
After sorting through the pros and cons and answering these questions, you’ve decided to host a hybrid marketing event. Great! Let’s talk about how to market this event to get maximum participation.
While hybrid events encompass elements of both virtual and in-person events, the attendees for both sessions (your online and in-person elements) won’t overlap unless you are hosting a multi-day event with multiple options for in-person and virtual engagement. Marketing to two distinct populations – each of which is looking for something different out of your hybrid event – is critical for the success of your event as a whole.
Plan your in-person and virtual event strategies at the same time.
It can be tempting to plan a full-scale in-person event and then add virtual events or details throughout as needed. While this may be helpful for your in-person event, this is not a proper hybrid event strategy. Event marketers should start from square one by planning their virtual and in-person initiatives at the same time to ensure a cohesive effort that fully encompasses what your event is looking to achieve.
Build your ideal audience profile for both event elements.
As we stated above, unless your event is a multi-day, multi-channel affair, you’re probably going to have different audiences for the in-person and virtual portions of your event. To effectively market to both of these diverse populations simultaneously, you will want to build ideal audience profiles before starting your marketing efforts.
— What does an in-person attendee look like? Is it someone in the city where your event is being hosted? Is it a specific job description or seniority level?
— On the other hand, what does a virtual attendee look like? Is it someone who may not need to attend the in-person networking event? Is it remote prospects?
Building out these audience profiles can help your team identify exactly which channels to use to market these segments down the road.
Promote your in-person and virtual event initiatives where they will have the most significant impact.
Just as event marketers look to the differences between in-person and virtual events to identify KPIs to measure, so too should they look to the different initiatives to determine where to actually promote their events. For many marketing teams, in-person events are often promoted through industry newsletters, personal communications like emails or phone calls, and even high-dollar direct mail invites. Meanwhile, virtual events are often promoted through social channels, links, and sponsored posts on LinkedIn.
With your ideal attendee profile in hand, your team can pinpoint the best channels to reach these audience segments. Just remember, you don’t have to promote both the in-person and virtual event elements in every campaign. Instead, try picking and choosing to highlight the aspects that will significantly impact that channel.
Leverage learnings from past virtual and in-person events to influence your marketing initiatives.
Even if this is your first hybrid event, this probably isn’t your first rodeo for marketing event initiatives. Look back at your previous events to help influence how you will market your event to potential attendees.
Do you have a population that is highly receptive to email marketing? What about shout-outs during other events? Tracking what works and what doesn’t for these online and offline events can help ensure you’re using the proper channels to promote events moving forward.
The 5 Metrics You Need to Track
As you are planning your hybrid marketing event, you also need to set the stage for which metrics you plan to track. Forget the vanity metrics and focus on the ones that matter.
For many marketing teams, tracking event ROI has always been pretty straightforward. There were in-person events and virtual events, each with its own set of associated metrics. Registrations, attendees, demos completed, demo requests, brand reach – the list goes on. However, hybrid events need a slightly different approach to tracking.
Here are the key metrics event marketing executives need to track during your next hybrid marketing event:
#1: Attendees per channel
While a hybrid event combines both in-person and virtual event activities, it is a good idea to track attendance and registration across the different channels. This way, your team can have an informed look at which activities perform higher across the board.
#2: Marketing efforts per channel
If your team sees that your virtual speaker session, for example, has a higher attendance rate than your in-person demos, take a look at your marketing efforts. Did you promote the online speaker sessions more than the in-person activities? Tracking your results back to marketing and promotion efforts can help calculate ROI.
#3: Brand awareness
One of the most important metrics to track across both in-person and virtual events is brand awareness. This means Google Analytics (how many times your brand was searched online), social mentions, interactions, and even content downloads.
#4: Customer/prospect growth
To truly move the needle and show your executive team the relationship between demand gen efforts and sales, you need to track account growth. Was your in-person networking session able to move a prospect from ‘lead’ to ‘opportunity’? Did an online demo video result in a customer upsell for a new feature? Track it and let your executive team know.
#5: Overall ROI
The overall ROI of hybrid marketing events combines all of the above hybrid event marketing data and other more straightforward metrics, such as budget, leads, registration, etc. If you’re presenting to your executive team on hybrid events, you will need a precise number to show them just how successful things are.
Your Complete Pre/During/Post Execution Checklist
Ready to put on your hybrid marketing event? Let’s bring everything together for this checklist to make sure you’ve got everything ready to go.
Here are the key steps to take pre-event.
___ Set your hybrid event KPI goals.
Like any marketing event, hybrid marketing events require clear goals and KPIs to be defined early on in the planning process. This will allow your team to develop marketing strategies to address these goals and build impactful event execution strategies. Make sure you identify KPIs for both the in-person and virtual elements of your event and the overall event itself, so there is data attributed to every part of the event. Remember, you will be tracking hybrid event marketing data in two ways: in-person event marketing data and virtual event marketing data.
___ Determine which elements of your event will be virtual and which will be in person.
One of the biggest misconceptions of a hybrid event is that the virtual and in-person details need to be mirror images of each other. Not only is this wrong, but it is also more strategic to have different yet complementary elements across the board.
Let's say, for example, that your team is sponsoring a speaker session at an in-person conference. Perhaps you broadcast a pre-session roundtable with the speaker virtually beforehand, stream the session, then have a live Q + A post-session. Anything the two attendee groups may miss can be sent as a follow-up or posted on social media for general consumption.
___ Market your virtual and in-person event elements both together and separately.
As you're planning an event, make sure you have a clear attendee profile in mind for both your virtual and in-person event elements. This will help your team market and promote your event more effectively. One example is to promote an online speaker session as a webinar with messaging, so that the webinar is part of a more significant event with more content and opportunities for engagement. Or, on the other hand, promote in-person options to potential attendees who may live in the same city or region where your in-person event will be held.
Just try not to alienate virtual or in-person registrants by being clear that, as a hybrid event, there will be similar learning and engagement opportunities regardless of how people attend.
___ Ensure you have the right tools in place to track your hybrid event KPIs and metrics.
The worst position to be in as an event marketer is to be mid-way through an event and realize that you aren't even tracking the hybrid event marketing data you outlined in your KPIs. Instead of waiting for your event to discover this, take the time before your hybrid event to double-check your technology. Do you have the correct virtual meeting platform to host your content and sessions? Do you have the right on-sight technology to stream in-person content virtually? Do you have traditional event tools like badge scanners and CRM integrations? Trust us – getting this out of the way before the day of your event can save your team a massive headache!
During the event
Here are the key steps to take during the event.
___ Make sure your online and in-person event staff are in sync.
Unless you are running all your event elements from the same place, your virtual and in-person event staff may be in different physical locations. During your event, make sure there is an open line of communication to keep things running smoothly.
This could be as simple as a dedicated Slack channel to keep people on task or as complex as a project lead checking in with different element owners throughout the day. Staying in sync is incredibly important for virtual attendees who may be subject to downtimes or 'waiting rooms' throughout the day if there is a lag in your online programming.
___ Check-in with your attendees and adjust strategies accordingly.
One of the best parts of hybrid events is the flexibility they offer. If someone registers for an in-person session and doesn't attend, you can send a note in real-time asking if they would rather participate in the online viewing later that day. Or, you can check in with virtual attendees and update session content to better reflect what they're looking for.
___ Don't forget to post!
Social media is the hybrid event marketer's secret weapon and constantly posting throughout your event is critical. Include links to register and attend your virtual sessions as they are happening in real-time. During and after any in-person programming, post highlight pictures, videos, or recaps to get people engaged. And, don't forget to do daily wrap-up emails or notifications if your event is more than one day.
As you’re celebrating your success in pulling off a great hybrid event, remember there is still work to be done. Here are the key steps for your post-event processing.
___ Review the numbers – but know how to make sense of them.
Understanding hybrid event marketing data can be tricky, especially if there are different KPIs for your in-person and virtual event elements. Instead of just looking at the in-person and virtual event marketing data in black-and-white (we had 15 demo requests from the 1 pm virtual speaker session), try to look at the numbers as part of a bigger picture.
How many overall demo requests came in throughout the event? Analyze your virtual event marketing data to see how many of these were from virtual sessions – was the 1 pm slot one of the highest attended sessions? Understanding the numbers you see as part of the larger event context can help your team make strategic recommendations and decisions moving forward.
___ Identify areas of success and opportunity.
While hybrid events combine the best of both event marketing worlds, they're also a great space to test new event ideas and strategies. Once you've crunched the numbers, it's time to identify what worked and what didn't. Maybe a customer demonstration that worked great in person and garnered some excellent responses didn't translate to a virtual audience, but the recorded demo by a salesperson did. It's all about testing and identifying these areas of opportunity so your team can optimize your next hybrid event.
___ Share your results with team and company leaders.
Event marketing is one of any marketing team's big-ticket items, which means it has plenty of eyes on the prize. Once you have your outcomes and findings, packet those numbers up to share with other team members, marketing leaders, and company executives. If your hybrid events show great ROI, don't be surprised if more sales leaders and executives take a more vested interest in your campaigns next time.
Optimize Your Hybrid Events with Circa
Hybrid events are more than just combining elements of in-person and virtual events. They are a comprehensive, holistic way for event marketers to engage with prospects and customers when and where they are most comfortable connecting. There are many moving pieces required to plan and execute a successful hybrid event – not to mention the demand gen efforts needed to ensure these events are successful – which is why we created Circa, the world’s only event marketing platform built specifically for demand gen and field marketing teams to deliver outstanding events regardless of the channel.
With sales, marketing, and operations working in collaboration on hybrid events, your team can unlock the value of experiential marketing and create incredible hybrid event experiences for your attendees. From virtual attendee insights to managing in-person leads and conversations, Circa can help your team optimize operations at every step of your event management process.
Contact the event marketing specialists at Circa today to learn more.