How to Maximize the ROI of Hybrid Events in 2021
Event producers, participants, sponsors and exhibitors were thrown into the deep end of the virtual event pool in 2020. The restricted access to personal interaction with and between the participants led to the booking of virtual meetings as a supplement to virtual events and offer valuable face-time.
Now that millions of Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19 and business travel becomes safer and more profitable, many marketers are predicting that in-person corporate and industry events could return to normal by 2022.
While this is certainly a good sign for large trade shows and corporate events, many industry shows and user conferences will be billed as hybrid events for the remainder of 2021: a mix of virtual and personal elements. That means you need to adjust your event strategy.
Hybrid events: what to watch out for
A characteristic of hybrid events is that the number of virtual (or digital) participants exceeds those on-site by a large percentage. MWC Shanghai in February recorded 25,000 participants on site and almost 125,000 virtually.
At hybrid events, meetings and networking are a major goal for attendees whose business depends on building critical relationships and learning. In person or remotely, attendees want to see the latest technology and products and learn how to apply them in their business.
Exhibitors also want to get in touch with participants – customers or interested parties – and help them make decisions.
For event marketers who manage the presence of their brand at a hybrid event, the question arises of how a presence can be designed that optimally interacts with both personal and external participants in order to establish a meaningful dialogue with these prospects and customers and promote business opportunities.
The first step is to define event goals. Will the focus be on bringing a product to market or presenting a new partnership? Would you like to draw attention to innovations in an existing technology or accept orders for a new service? The responses from your sales, product, leadership, and other teams will shape your communication strategy.
Next, define the time period over which you want to get in touch and interact with prospects and customers. For example, the personal component of a hybrid event can take place over four days, but it is possible to extend your interactions with prospects and customers well beyond that.
Think globally too. Remote attendees will be attending from multiple time zones, and your organization will meet more of those people if you allow them to schedule a time that works best for them – before, during, and after the event.
Your event strategy: Maximize engagement and make your brand voice heard
Many of us are trying to figure out how events can feed into our marketing strategy this year and next: What’s the best approach to events now? How has the audience changed during the pandemic? How can you encourage engagement? Let’s find out everything. Check out this free 3-session event now.
Five Audience Engagement Strategies to Maximize the ROI of Hybrid Events
In the weeks leading up to your hybrid event, these five audience engagement strategies will maximize your ROI by increasing the number of your valuable customer and prospect engagements.
To increase your potential, consider a robust meeting automation platform that simplifies the process of planning, managing, and reporting on the prospect and customer engagements you want to book.
1. Set up your inbound meeting mechanism
Ideally, you would direct all of your event attendees to a central web location where they choose where and when to meet. You might want to meet up for a demo at the booth, meet with your sales representative, or make an appointment with your industry or product expert. By creating an “Incoming Meeting Inquiry Page” that automatically lists available time slots, you make it easy for prospects to book this meeting while the idea is in the foreground.
Your system should include a review and approval process and automate calendar invitations and video conference information for meeting attendees.
2. Build momentum through preplanning
You should maximize the number of meetings associated with the event. So incorporate links and buttons into all of your digital marketing programs within 6-8 weeks. The links should enable your prospects and customers to book certain activities, e.g. B. Register for a session, sign up for a demo, book a meeting, meet the expert, etc.
In the meantime, your sales team should schedule meetings with customers and prospects based on opportunity data, previous discussions, and other indicators.
3. Focus on scheduling demo meetings
At any large hybrid event in the industry, personal attendees can easily walk to a booth and schedule a demo. But you can also schedule demos in the land of virtual events.
To book more demos with qualified prospects, define different demo types that are optimized for specific lead categories. You can then assign these demos to different topics, products or services and speakers for personal and virtual participants.
Promote the demos in your outbound activities so attendees can book themselves while you capture details to pre-qualify and ensure the right team members attend.
4. Integrate tracks and sessions into the meeting mix
For most B2B brands, events are an opportunity to inform prospects and customers. Tracks and sessions are part of most hybrid events and can easily be expanded for your remote attendees. Integrate them into your pre-event promotions and invite your sales team to nominate their top prospects and customers.
Here, too, consider how you can extend the availability of tracks and sessions to the months after the event.
5. Provide opportunities to meet with the expert and meet with the manager
Some prospects and customers may want the information they need from someone other than a salesperson. A “Meet the Expert” or exclusive “Meet the Executive” program for VIP customers plays a decisive role here by making your internal industry, product or department experts available for scheduling.
The program can be added to your Incoming Meeting Request page and automated from there. I’ve seen a customer schedule hundreds of MTE meetings around a one-week customer event – all virtual, everything fully automated.
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Hybrid events offer the best of both worlds in many ways. Regardless of whether it is a personal meeting on site or a virtual meeting in the following weeks, you have hundreds of ways to retain prospects and customers and thus to inform, to increase awareness and to build your sales pipeline and your sales potential.
The trick is to offer prospects and customers as many ways and options as possible to book themselves and define their own buyer journey. If you can also automate the set-up and follow-up process for meetings, you will maximize the ROI of not only your hybrid events, but virtual and in-person events as well.
More resources on hybrid events
Three Event Marketing Trends to Help Boost Business and Protect Attendees in a COVID Era
Business as Unusual: Shifting live events to digital and hybrid experiences
The future of marketing events in the age of COVID-19