5 Ways to Optimize B2B Hybrid Events in 2021 and Beyond

By Brecht Fourneau, Senior Director of Marketing, Aventri

Hybrid is the future of B2B events.

It’s easy to see why.

This format offers both virtual and in-person experiences. 

Although we can’t wait to get back to meeting in-person, the benefits of virtual events are tough to ignore. These gatherings reduce risk, cost and carbon footprint. At the same time, they improve flexibility, analytics and audience reach.

Still, marketers agree nothing beats in-person events for generating leads and closing deals. 

A hybrid model combines the benefits of virtual and in-person gatherings. That’s why I believe it will be the prevailing approach for B2B hybrid events in a post-Covid world.

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Bigger Audience, Less Risk

A hybrid event attracts both remote and in-person attendees. They can gather at a venue to network, see products and enjoy the experience. At the same time, people who cannot or don’t want to travel can take part from their computers and mobile phones.

Planning hybrid events is a good way for companies to protect themselves in case of health and other emergencies. If conditions shift and people can’t travel, you can switch with the click of a button to an all-virtual model.

Despite the benefits, hybrid gatherings still pose challenges. If you don’t plan carefully, they can be costly and complicated. That makes them hard to pull off successfully – especially with today’s smaller planning teams and budgets. 

These five strategies below will help you bypass the hurdles. You’ll find technology tips and tools to maximize business value for B2B hybrid events in 2021 and for years to come.

Let’s dive in…

  1. Make hybrid events easier.

True, events take more effort when they mix virtual and in-person experiences. But marketers often make hybrid more complicated than necessary.

For example, many marketing teams stitch together a patchwork of point solutions to produce hybrid events. This adds complexity. You must manage different vendors and struggle with systems that don’t always work in sync. Point solutions create friction for attendees and stakeholders, too. They need to master different systems to get the most from your event. 

Simplify technology.

  • My recommendation? Use technology that handles virtual, hybrid and in-person events on a single platform. All-in-one solutions merge data across in-person and digital activities. As such, they: 
  • Make life easier for marketers, attendees and stakeholders
  • Unify branding
  • Deliver deeper customer insights
  • Provide a comprehensive view of return on investment
  • Make sure your platform also powers events of all sizes. It should handle everything from small webinar-style virtual meetings to large hybrid conferences. You’ll cut training and operations costs with one platform for all planners, from newbies to pros. 
  1. Pump up engagement.

Deeper engagement is the No. 1 way global event marketers want to improve the virtual attendee experience. This goal was cited by 68 percent of respondents in a recent survey by Aventri. 

Onsite attendees enjoy the serendipitous meetings, receptions and energy of live events. Remote attendees miss out on these experiences. Plus, they face continuous distractions, from emails, social media, home life and more. This makes it harder to capture and keep their attention.

Make virtual experiences special.

  • Bake engagement into event design from the start. Play upbeat music as attendees log onto the platform. Enlist a dynamic emcee to provide a warm welcome. Run quick trivia challenges while attendees wait for the rest of the group to join.
  • Deliver the best possible content. Uncover the topics attendees value most. You can conduct pre-event surveys and check their signups and comments in chat. Get top-notch speakers. Make virtual sessions interactive as well, using polls, activity feeds, Q&A’s and chat.
  • Great virtual events are like TV talk shows. Our data shows the most engaging digital sessions include panel discussions and interviews. Attendees want more than one speaker presenting a PowerPoint. TV talk shows have engaged viewers for ages. Use this proven format to make your event a hit with virtual audiences, too.
  • Feature live, TV-news-style interviews for online eventgoers when in-person attendees break for lunch. Talk with influencers for their take on the day’s top stories. Your producer can also give attendees a virtual backstage tour. They’ll learn something new about hybrid event production.
  • High-quality video is key to engaging virtual content. Consider recording keynote sessions in a studio. Or use a virtual platform with cloud video production software. You’ll get tools to deliver broadcast-quality content and reduce the risk that comes with these productions.  
  • What if Covid variants cause cases to spike right before your event? Pre-record some content with industry leaders. If you must cancel the in-person part of your program, you’ll still have valuable content. After each recorded session, conduct live Q&A’s, so attendees can interact real time with speakers.
  1. Drive hybrid networking.

“How do you bring online and onsite attendees together?” This is the question marketers ask me the most – and for good reason. Connecting the two audiences is key to optimizing B2B hybrid events.   

Keep conversations going… and going.

  • Choose a mobile event app that’s optimized for hybrid. You want mobile and virtual platforms working as one. This way it doesn’t matter if eventgoers are in the same room or across the globe. They can interact real time through video conferencing and chat.
  • Attendees want to connect in small groups with people who share their interests. To this end, create hybrid breakout rooms equipped with live Q&A’s, polls, whiteboards and chat.
  • After main-stage presentations, bring both audiences together for small, interest-based roundtables. Train moderators to lead lively discussions. Using mobile and virtual platforms, participants can gather around whiteboards to solve shared industry challenges.
  • Empower participants to click on profiles and invite others to connect 1:1 or in small groups. After breakouts, they can keep conversations flowing through videoconferencing and chat.
  • Hybrid events are content engines. Post-event, cultivate an online community. Savvy marketers use this strategy with great success to drive engagement and e-commerce beyond the original event. 
  • Populate the platform with sessions, a marketplace, sponsored content and chat lobbies. Members can connect with a global community of like-minded leaders and peers. 
  • Let attendees access this gated resource for free to build community. Or drive revenue through packages for niche audiences. Also sell VIP tickets providing access to thought leaders.
  1. Make it personal.

When you vastly expand your audience, attendees need efficient ways to connect with great prospects. Artificial intelligence plays a vital role here. It helps people make the most of their time at B2B hybrid events.

Let AI enhance the journey.

  • Registration and engagement data provide a window into attendees’ business goals and challenges. Make sure attendees opt in. Then let AI pair up eventgoers who share interests. They can view profiles, start chats and arrange to meet virtually or in person.  
  • Leverage AI recommendation engines to suggest sessions, activities, exhibits and groups as well.
  • Major EMS solutions learn from many events held on the same platform. Meaning, recommendations get smarter with each event. Let AI help you craft the ideal attendee journey.
  1. Deliver ROI.

The pandemic has made it more important than ever to show ROI. Fortunately, event data lends a hand.

Let me explain how this works. Virtual event platforms, mobile apps and digital badges generate a goldmine of data. For example: session participation, dwell time, digital networking and exhibit booths visits, to name a few. This data provides insights into event value as well as customer preferences and buying intent.

Drive business value.

  • All-in-one platforms merge data into a suite of reporting tools. Slice and dice information across physical and virtual audiences, for one event or your entire portfolio. 
  • Leverage the data to solve issues in real time and enhance future B2B hybrid events. 
  • Also build consistent customer profiles by integrating your event platform into your marketing stack. 
  • Then track the attendee’s buyer journey over the long term. You can show with hard data the role your events play in generating revenue and strengthening your company’s bottom line.
  • Business intelligence from events can inform everything, from content to email campaigns, digital advertising and more. Use B2B hybrid event data to enhance your company’s sales and marketing moving forward.

………………………………..

In many ways, hybrid events offer the best of both worlds. They expand opportunities to connect with prospects, educate and build your sales pipeline. 

Leverage these strategies to streamline workflows and engage attendees onsite and online. You’ll not only optimize B2B hybrid events. You’ll also generate valuable data to customize marketing and drive business value for years to come.

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