What Marketers Need to Know About Hybrid Events
Marketing events and in-person experiences have faced some rocky challenges in recent years, but 2023 is shaping up to be a comeback year. In fact, 90 percent of B2B marketers and 70 percent of B2C marketers executed at least one in-person, hybrid or virtual event in the second half of 2022, and most anticipate their event marketing budget will increase this year. Common B2B events include seminars, webinars, thought leader speaking engagements, trade shows, career development programs, exhibitions and conferences. Hybrid events are at the center of this growth, incorporating both virtual and in-person elements to create widely accessible and profitable experiences that balance audience needs. To gain a competitive edge in this rising space, it’s important to understand what hybrid events can accomplish and how to harness the benefits.
Defining Hybrid Events
The definition of “hybrid” is straightforward, but also wide-reaching. A hybrid event combines both in-person and digital components, accessible and customized to both audience formats for an optimal experience. Hybrid experiences cover everything from large-scale, televised stadium events to smaller in-person programs that accommodate virtual attendance via video-conferencing tools. Most importantly, a successful hybrid event incorporates a dedicated experience for live and virtual audiences to interact with speakers, activities, displays, and other attendees.
Hybrid Programs Are Growing in Popularity
The COVID-19 pandemic threw event marketing into a state of “adapt or fail,” and virtual options became a rapid replacement for in-person activities. The trend quickly became the norm and today 72 percent of marketers predict the transition to incorporating virtual elements into live events is here to stay. Event organizers soon realized that virtual capabilities broadened the reach of their event efforts to wide audiences, including international reach, and supported new levels of engagement. This opened possibilities for hybrid goals to address in-person preferences with the increased reach capabilities offered by virtual options. Large enterprise-level companies in particular benefit from hybrid events to increase reach across their vast networks. In fact, according to Markletic’s questionnaire of over 3000 respondents, 63 percent of companies with 2000–5000 employees included hybrid events in their event portfolio.
Who Hosts and Attends?
Typically, B2B hybrid events are put on by businesses or associations affiliated with a particular industry. They can be specific to a single company’s network or clientele, or appeal to a specific community based on location, identity or corporate role. Hosts and speakers consist of expert thought leaders who share actionable insights, practices or services that can benefit attendees.
Where Do Hybrid Events Take Place?
Hybrid events require both a physical venue and a virtual platform. While video conferencing software such as Zoom or Google Meet have features to support virtual and hybrid events, there are also dedicated platforms that integrate and streamline hybrid experiences. Specialized event platforms such as vFairs or InEvent include tools to support lead nurturing through event registration, referral tracking, analytics and email marketing integration. During the event, a virtual platform enables interaction with the host, content and other attendees through features such as live streaming, polls, Q&A, networking chat rooms, and even 3D virtual environments and augmented reality.
Benefits to Businesses
Marketing events, in general, provide powerful opportunities for businesses to make lasting connections with prospects, clients, employees, and stakeholders through experiences that highlight their interests, needs, and values. Hybrid events combine the benefits of both in-person experiences and personal interactions with the reach and flexibility of virtual technologies. Virtual attendance opens doors to make connections with prospects, clients, vendors and others who may have limitations when it comes to travel or accessibility. Built-in analytics tools can provide valuable insights about target audiences. Further, hybrid events foster connectivity within a company’s network, manifesting an interconnected community built on sharing valuable insights, mutual support and meaningful communications.
Opening Paths for Connection
Because many of our interactions with customers and prospects occur online, it can be difficult for target audiences to get to know the people behind a brand, especially in the B2B space where storefronts are typically digital. Hybrid events offer the ideal opportunity to create valuable connections between brands and prospects, customers and other stakeholders. By understanding which type of events resonate the most with target audiences, businesses can create hybrid events that foster relationships that stimulate business growth.