Looking Ahead, Strategies for Transitioning Events from Virtual to Hybrid

December 9, 2020

By John Woo, Jeff Youngs

Twentysix studio/Shutterstock.com

We can all agree that we've experienced a little bit of adversity and heartache in the past few months, and in many ways. Our teams quickly worked alongside our clients to find immediate turnkey options to transform their planned in-person events to virtual events.

We’ve been working with our clients over the past several months and have learned a lot about virtual events, what works and what doesn’t work. We also know the in-person events will return in the future, but we can learn from virtual events and take advantage of the benefits that online components add to innovate events. We are constantly connected via the various devices at our fingertips, so now more than ever, we must design events that keep audience connectivity top of mind.

In the words of Napoleon Hill: “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

 

Key Learnings and the Silver Lining of Virtual Events

  • Moment of Pause: In the event industry we are always moving from one event to the next and don’t always have time to truly take a step back to analyze learnings from our recent events. This unwanted pause in our industry has allowed us to reevaluate our content strategy and how we’ve generated content for the audience engagement.
  • Greater Reach and Awareness: A lot of people can attend events when they're virtual that they couldn't before due to travel budgets or the time commitment. It also allows various members of the offices to now attend, including the entire support staff of a team to join an event as opposed to just one or two main leads.
  • Accessibility and Multipurpose Content: Usage of content and how its delivered is an important factor in planning any event, but with virtual events, the content created digitally allows it to be accessed after the event, and can be reused for future programs and outreach.

 

Transitioning from Virtual to Hybrid

Our strategies and plans need to be attendee driven, because if we don't keep our audience in mind, then we're losing right out of the gate. When we talk about how we're going to transition clients from virtual to hybrid, what we see coming down the pike is a joining of the two things that we know and we love — live in-person events are going to come back, but we're going to need to keep some elements of virtual that will elevate the attendee experience.

  • Better Measurement and Analytics: Many platforms have live dashboards where you can see, minute to minute, where people are and what they're doing within the event. We can gain insight into attendee behaviors, including data for targeting content post-event marketing engagement more seamlessly.
  • Take Advantage of Digital Connectivity: Virtual is working well for education seminars, and some see potential in virtual halls. Virtual Networking is still considered a challenge. Leveraging the best of virtual “silver learnings” to amplify and extend the live event conversation/interaction throughout the year.
  • Reimagining Content Strategy: Understanding how people consume things and some of the best experiences that we've had to be able to transition is important, right? But as we start to think about this transition going from beyond the screen with large crowds to the in-person, there are a lot of things to consider. We need to create a digitally empowered event experience for all audiences.

 

Transforming General Sessions, Expos, Networking, and Breakout Sessions

From attendee journey to the user experience: We believe the future of events will lean heavily on the shoulders of experience planners who, with a background in digital, are experts at combining attendee/user data, behavioral insights, and brand strategy, and turning them into innovative end-to-end, omnichannel solutions.

  • Refocusing the Purpose of the Expo or Exhibit Hall: Current online event experiences do not have the same level of human connection nor level of touch as being there in person.
  • Build Your Event Holistically: The same as always; Discovery before Design or Content
  • Bring it All to Life: Have boots on the ground production teams for online and in person components of the event experience.

Very soon we'll be creating hybrid experiences that will encompass the live in-person experience, the digital online experience, and they'll be one experience for our clients and for their audiences. We call that our silver learnings for this time in history, and we're very excited to be bringing this to our clients going forward.

Listen to our previous ANA webinar to hear Jeff Youngs and John Woo talk through these concepts in greater detail.

John Woo is SVP of creative and design and Jeff Youngs is executive producer, both at GES Events.


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