In Australasia, we’ve been spared the worst effects of the Coronavirus pandemic that has caused so much devastation internationally, with our strategy of aggressive suppression working to the extent that most sectors of the economy have been able to look at opening up again.
That said, physical distancing remains a feature of the new, post-Coronavirus landscape, and it is having a lasting impact on workplaces, the travel and hospitality industries, indoor events and mass gatherings.
So what does that mean for our event strategies, as we contemplate schedules heading into 2021?
If 2020 was the year of the online event — and the vast majority of us attended many more virtual events and meetings this year than we ever have before — 2021 may be the year of the hybrid event, in which physical and virtual components both play a role.
A recent survey of industry associations – a sector which drives a majority of its revenues from events – found that 70% of respondents intended to make permanent changes to the way they run events.
For most, this included a substantial shift to online and hybrid offerings, with 70% saying the ability for participants to be able to attend a face-to-face event remotely was either a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ priority.
There are lots of options when it comes to staging hybrid events: you can include a live stream filmed at the event and you can provide key sessions on demand. You can also pre-record sessions, or mix and match online and offline content distribution.
Here’s why we think hybrid events will be big in 2021:
1. Virtual is now an expectation
Virtual events are here to stay and most of us have already made the necessary adjustments when it comes to attending online events successfully.
According to the 2020 Redback Report, two in three of us now attend more than 6 virtual events a month and half (51%) of us expect to attend even more virtual events in 2021.
Four in five (79%) of us agreed some of the time or more with the statement: “Virtual events are as good as or better than the physical version of the same events”.
So if you’re not including online as part of your overall 2021 event strategy, you’re not catering for a large proportion of your market as well as putting overall attendance numbers at risk.
2. Hybrid offers the ultimate in accessibility
Hybrid events can open your event up to more people than would ever attend a physical event. For some events we’ve been involved with, up to four times as many people attended online as would normally attend face-to-face.
This is partly because including a virtual component makes your hybrid event accessible to anyone with an internet connection, regardless of where they’re located or whether they can travel.
That said, some people do like to attend in person: by strategically catering to both audiences, you should be able to boost overall attendance.
And some of us — it has to be said — are getting a little stir-crazy working from home all the time. That provides a great opportunity for a strategic hybrid event strategy to be successful.
3. What could be more convenient?
Hybrid events should be able to be viewed live remotely, in sync with the face-to-face event, or be viewed on demand at a time of the viewer’s choosing.
This makes it more convenient than ever for your audience to attend your event — even if they choose to attend some days or sessions in person, and view others on demand.
4. Maximum sponsor impact
Combining live and face-to-face event sponsorships can maximise the reach of your sponsors and provide them with the impact of a physical presence, the accessibility and clickability of an online component and the best of both worlds when it comes to sponsoring something like a live-streamed session.
Work with your sponsors to figure out what will be the most effective combination to reach their goals.
5. New revenue opportunities
Most people are willing to pay to attend virtual events online if the content is good.
With the right formula when it comes to physical and online ticket prices, and a strategic approach — you might consider offering virtual tickets only to those not based in the local area — it’s possible to increase overall ticket revenues for your events and create new revenue streams.
Keep in mind that you may only need a smaller live venue if a large part of your audience prefers to attend online, which can help keep costs down.
6. Make it a social occasion
Live simulcasting your physical event sessions on your social channels adds broader social reach and instant shareability to your existing audience as social networks including LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube prioritise live streams.
Simply film and webcast some of your event sessions using a webinar provider who can simulcast them live to your preferred social channels and create a sense of occasion and immediacy around the online side of your live events.
7.Lend an ear
Depending on the event, not everyone wants to sit glued to their computer screens watching the video.
For keynote speakers that depend on charismatic delivery to get their point across, try offering an audio feed for those who are listening while out and about,or based in areas with unstable broadband; or try turning the session into a post-event podcast.
8. Let your event content live on
Your physical events are no longer just a moment-in-time proposition.
When you incorporate a virtual component and make it available on demand, your content can live on, attracting views and sharing your message online well past the day of the face-to-face event.
9. Showcase your creativity
The shape your hybrid event takes is only limited by your imagination.
Include live interviews with a Q&A that encourages questions from online attendees as well as those in the room, sponsored live lunch’n’learns, quizzes, wellness classes, networking sessions combining a physical and virtual audience, combined live and virtual trade halls, and so on.
For more on the latest trends, facts and hacks when it comes to staging a hybrid event, download our ebook. Or reach out to a Redback sales consultant for more information.