We all know it’s a difficult time to be planning physical events, and sometimes it’s hard to envision how to shift all that effort to digital platforms and make your event completely virtual. It’s a big adjustment and we’ve all been through so much change recently.
By the same token, increased remote work has resulted in a huge workplace cultural shift to online formats that will probably never revert to the previous status quo.
There’s been a massive increase in video conferencing and digital events — in fact, we’ve seen a 78% increase in remote webinars so far this year compared with the same period last year — so there’s never been a better time to make digital events part of your marketing mix.
What to do?
Why not shoot for the best of both worlds and add a digital component to your next physical event?
Whether you live-stream the event, film it and provide key sessions on demand, pre-record sessions, or mix and match online and offline content distribution, virtual elements can generate some great benefits for the event itself, for your audiences and for your brand’s future event program.
Here are some of the key reasons you should seriously consider hosting a hybrid physical and digital event in 2021:
1. Risk mitigation
Planning and staging physical events is time-consuming and expensive at any time. These days, it’s also inherently risky.
Not only can no one know with certainty what the future holds, creating uncertainty around when face-to-face events will be able to resume, but many people’s attitude to attending non-essential physical events has shifted.
Lots of people continue to work remotely and to avoid travelling by public transport, some are nervous about the health implications of joining mass gatherings and others belong to vulnerable groups and need to minimise possible exposure to health risks.
Offering a digital version of your online event not only mitigates against the risk that restrictions on public gatherings and transport will tighten again in 2020-21, throwing all your well-considered plans into chaos, but it provides access for those groups that might be unwilling or unable to attend in person.
2. Enables you to reach new audiences
Including a virtual element in your event schedule in 2021 opens up your events to new audiences in other geographic markets — such as interstate and even overseas.
On average, two in three digital event attendees view events at a time that suits them — which means offering on-demand access can provide access to untapped audiences outside your own time-zone and local area.
At Redback, we’ve seen online audiences eclipse the traditional audience for physical events by as much as 400%.
So it makes sense to maximise the return on your event program by extending its reach to all relevant audiences.
3. Generates content for other channels
Online video is a growing channel in 2020-21, and most brands would like more of it.
Filming, pre-recording or hosting your 2021 event on demand will provide you with new video content and plenty of ways to use and re-use it.
On average, three in four webinars (76%) are still shown live, but this figure has dropped significantly from 84% a year ago, according to data from our most recent State of Webinar Marketing research.
Simulated live webinars jumped to 17% from 10% a year ago, reflecting the increased interest in pre-recording sessions, and two in five webinar users (41%) now pre-record video, up from 34% last year.
Three in four webinar users also always make their webinars available on-demand, the research shows — with that figure set to rise to 82%.
All of this means the wonderful expert subject matter that is shared in live events is no longer a point-in-time proposition; it can and should live on across your broader marketing mix.
4. Opens up new revenue streams
If you’ve never included a virtual element in your physical events before, consider the value of doing so to your wider audience.
Most audiences will pay for valuable, insightful, expert content — particularly if it addresses urgent industry issues or contributes to continuing professional development accreditation points.
You may be able to create an online content subscription or charge for on-demand access to your event line-up. If your audience is growing, so should your revenues.
5. Expands sponsorship opportunities
Online event streams and on-demand content provide new opportunities for sponsors to get in front of your audience.
From online branding for sponsored sessions, to lead-generating calls to action, additional resources, competitions and so on — there are lots of ways to create sponsorships that benefit both attendees and your commercial partners.
These will usually reflect your offline sponsorships, but unique online content may also open up online-only sponsor opportunities.
6. Hybrid events are highly measurable
Adding a digital component to your physical conference or event adds an additional layer of accountability through measurement.
Unlike face-to-face events where you’re asking people to fill out a paper form, pull out a mobile device or respond to a post-event email, online events allow you to capture feedback in the moment on the same device on which an attendee accessed your event.
You will get a much better feel for your audience’s favourite speakers, preferred topics, favoured formats and session-by-session engagement via online polls in your webinar platform.
There’s no doubt virtual elements can generate some great benefits for your brand’s broader event program.
Turn your activations into a hybrid event program and you’ll reap the benefits of extending your amazing content across all the channels your audiences use.
Redback Connect manages virtual and hybrid events for customers across Australia. Contact one of our consultants if we can help you run your next hybrid or digital event.