Getting Virtual: Why Your Strategy Should Include Hybrid Events
Are virtual components a part of your event strategy? Here’s why they should be.
From livestreaming a keynote to holding an entire event online, adding virtual elements to an event delivers value to attendees and brands alike. Virtual event components enable more people to take part and to showcase high-touch experiences and top-quality production. This leads to greater awareness and, in turn, makes it easier for you to reach (and exceed) your event goals.
Virtual events are an integral part of your robust event strategy
Adding virtual elements enhances your holistic strategy and creates the opportunity for additional revenue and brand value. We’ve seen advances in the technology that enables virtual events, and the sky’s the limit for how brands can creatively implement these measures. What are the benefits of virtual events and events with hybrid live/virtual components?
Expand your reach.
By allowing anyone to join in, from anywhere in the world, you’ll remove barriers to entry and let more people participate. (Sometimes millions and millions more.) This heightens inclusivity by expanding the range of people who can attend remotely, but attendees who are there in person will also enjoy a more flexible experience. Individuals who are traveling, have schedule conflicts, or prefer a different environment for any reason will be able to tune into your content if you give them flexible options to do so.
Brands already use virtual components to different extents – one of our nonprofit clients webcasts their keynote to increase reach to an additional 2,500 viewers, and we’ve seen another client livestream a product launch that was viewed by 10 million. Microsoft, a client of ours, uses hybrid and fully virtual events, as does another prominent social media company that used a distributed keynote model with a livestream alternating between locations.
Opus Agency used a hybrid live/virtual event format for our own yearly internal meeting, Team Connect. With multiple offices and a significant remote workforce, it wasn’t feasible to physically bring everyone together. We implemented a simulcast for our main offices and presented the livestream to remote employees, which created a seamless experience for all.
Seize opportunities to extend brand experiences.
Events are a chance to showcase your organization’s commitment to high-touch experiences. Instead of sending a press release for a new product launch, hosting a virtual event will create a more notable experience and allow you greater influence over your viewers. You could also use virtual elements to augment touchpoints before or after a live event, to personalize content delivery, or as a strategic component to any type of event.
Measure more, and measure accurately.
Virtual events facilitate easier and more comprehensive tracking. In addition to the questions you ask attendees at registration and in post-event communications, attendees could be prompted to answer demographics questions upon logging into the event platform. You could send out micro-polls during the content, surveying attendees in real time. Use digital tools to gather data so you know exactly who is in the room and how long they’re there.
Add options to your contingency plan.
Having a backup plan is a smart choice. Being able to switch to a virtual (or partially virtual) event is a way to stay nimble in our fast-paced world. Sometimes our industry is affected by unforeseeable events, and holding a virtual broadcast will increase your flexibility.
What should you consider when planning virtual events?
Content: It’s not a presentation, it’s a branded broadcast.
Bring remote attendees into the conversation while making the experience compelling and translatable. The content could be delivered in a different way (think: a face-to-face conversation, simulcasting from multiple locations, or a reporter-on-the-street format) – there’s a wide world of different presentation styles to explore. Create content that can be leveraged post-event for blogs and social media to boost the virtual experience, or syndicate your conversations to extend your content’s lifespan even more.
Your virtual programming is also free to bypass the scheduled breaks of a live event. In a hybrid live/virtual event, you could use this time to add value for remote attendees. Keep the content rolling with exclusive sessions, curated conversations, and a dedicated MC to ensure the remote attendees enjoy polished programming.
Engagement: Enrich the remote experience.
You’ve already created a valuable event, so why not extend this experience (and add even more unique touchpoints) to remote attendees. Let’s take a cue from the sports industry, which adds commentators, replays of significant moments, halftime shows, notable stats, and other extra information for people who watch the game from their home. The experience may be different than being at a game in person, but viewers at home have extra ways to engage with the content.
Consider ways to keep the focus on your event in a multi-screen, multi-tasking world. You could gamify the experience for virtual attendees, offering prizes or other rewards for engagement. Create opportunities to interact, with peer-to-peer dialogue and networking, question submission, live polling, and a live social feed so they feel a sense of connection with each other and the larger event. Community building extends well beyond the scope of the actual event – use this time to set up future conversations.
Even for virtual and hybrid virtual/live events, you will likely have hubs of remote attendees. This is an opportunity to create a brand-controlled viewing party or networking session and extend touchpoints even further. For Google I/O 2019, the brand facilitated nearly 500 worldwide viewing parties.
Technology: Leverage tools to create what you want.
The technology needed to execute virtual events is here, and it’s only going to improve over time. We enjoy secure, reliable systems that will accommodate any type and scale of event and create a streamlined experience for attendees. Brands can customize elements of the platform to ensure a cohesive experience or personalize it based on attendee profiles. An event production team can quickly arrange a broadcast system, which allows a hybrid or virtual element to be easily adopted into your strategy.
Looking ahead, we see virtual and hybrid virtual/live events getting bigger and better. Adding virtual components as part of your comprehensive event strategy will help you extend reach, provide flexibility to attendees, create more brand experiences, enhance measurement, and plan for the future.
Contact us if you’re ready to go virtual, grow your virtual presence, or are wondering how to go beyond the webcast!