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In-person, Virtual & Hybrid Events: Has the M&E Landscape Changed Forever?

July 23, 2021
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Many of us are eager for normal life to return. For working professionals, part of that normalcy consists of business travel and attending meetings and events in person. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again — nothing can replace face-to-face relationship building. After 1.5 years of Covid restrictions, handshakes, warm hugs from familiar faces, those classic elevator pitches and the awkward small talk at networking events are all parts of the business travel experiences we miss.

However, before the pandemic, attending an in-person meeting, conference, tradeshow or industry event would typically require transportation, lodging, and meals, in addition to the often lofty registration fee. This tower of expenses quickly dissolves organizations’ annual travel budgets. 

Because there are significant savings attributed to virtual meetings, we believe virtual and hybrid events — which bring greater flexibility to location-bound business events — are here to stay. Thanks to this new trend, organizers have an incredible opportunity to expand their reach by engaging with attendees from across the globe.

Attendee Engagement in a Hybrid Space

Engagement continues to be top of mind for meeting planners who have always battled with programming vs. distractions. Keeping the remote portion of your audience engaged virtually is even more challenging. 

Below are a few considerations as you work through your hybrid event engagement strategy:

  • Ensure your content delivers value to the listener, with actionable takeaways, a topic that makes your attendees stop in their tracks, and most importantly, an engaging presenter. Pair this great content with top-notch production and second-to-none live-streaming bandwidth to ensure no lags or quality issues when broadcasting.
  • Find ways to interact with your attendees throughout the sessions and event days. Live polling companies have been around for years and one of the best is Sli.do, which offers live polling, quizzes and surveys. 
  • Use push notifications to remind your attendees where to go next, what’s happening in a virtual room or a connection alert to encourage attendee networking. 
  • Keep your social media platforms active and fun during the event by posting nuggets of knowledge from your presenters, exciting product or service announcements, images, or live streams throughout the day to engage with your event attendees and followers.
    • This is also a great way to drive value to your paid sponsors and give them extra visibility outside of the event itself. 
  • Keep an eye on the clock and plan your agenda, knowing that your attendees are at home, in various time zones, and sitting while listening (and hopefully not multi-tasking). Planners should be mindful of limited attention spans and provide shorter meetings with more frequent breaks.  
  • Get your audience moving as best you can. Suggest that your audience stand up and stretch or walk around the room before a session begins or in-between sessions. Incorporate placeholders on the agenda for a moment of relaxation through mediation or a guided stretching break.
  • Repurpose your F&B budget by emailing your attendees a gift card for lunch or a coffee break and encouraging them to support local businesses. Platforms such as Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes are a great way to keep your attendees fueled and alert during a long day of virtual meetings.

Attendee choice: in-person or virtual events?

As the economic landscape continues to recover, budgets will be top of mind for leadership. Virtual attendance offers a budget-friendly alternative to accessing the same valuable content while eliminating direct costs related to business travel. This also allows you to stay home and tend to other commitments. 

When faced with choosing where to spend your time and your budget, attendees will need to be selective and may need to limit attendance to a few key in-person events each year, while attending the rest virtually. 

As events begin to resume, organizers will be fighting for your attention (and budgets!). Drawing attendees in has never been more critical, and you’ll want to be sure to win over your guests! Focus on quality educational topics and valuable content, but planners should not lose sight of the other event elements that draw in attendees such as entertainment, inspiring or motivational keynote speakers, appealing locations, and ease-of-access. Place a solid effort on publicly defining your value proposition as your attendees will need to deliver a strong business case when obtaining approval for in-person attendance.

As a planner, you can drive additional value by providing attendees with access to an event library with online access to all speaker presentations and session recordings.  

Your key to success with any event is ensuring each of your attendees' time is well-spent. Your audience should walk away feeling more educated, having a few more solid connections or resources in their network, and leave with positive memories of their experience, regardless of if it’s in-person, virtual or hybrid. 

Virtual and Hybrid Events are here to stay!

While we encourage readers to do their due diligence in sourcing the right virtual event platforms for their needs, we’ve provided a short list below of some options for your consideration (in no particular order).

The following virtual and hybrid event platforms that have emerged and or increased in popularity over the years:

Hybrid Event Planning Checklist

If you’re planning your organization’s first hybrid event, you’ll find many similarities between an in-person event. M&E professionals will need to:

  • Source both a virtual event platform and in-person venue 
  • Choose a quality videography company for the live-streamed and recorded portions of your event
  • Curate an engaging and educational agenda for both audiences, complete with networking opportunities
  • Drive registration and event hype within your network, membership, and industry 
  • Create positive event buzz through your social media platforms and paid advertising
  • Provide attendee access to a library of recordings, presentations and event media
  • Gather qualitative and quantitative post-event feedback through attendee analytics, outreach surveys and questionnaires
  • Connect with exhibitors, sponsors, and presenters to collect additional feedback on their experience and ROI

In-person or Hybrid Events? Let Data Guide the Way

Determining which events you should host in-person, virtually, or as hybrid events — as well as which events your business travelers should attend in-person or remotely — are decisions that should be driven by data.

Access Corporate Travel Data with Traxo

If you’re ready to take a deep dive into your organization’s corporate travel patterns so you can make more effective, cost-saving plans for your company-hosted events and travel program, contact Traxo today. As the industry leader in business travel data aggregation, we can ensure you never have to make decisions about business travel with partial information again.

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