Engaging Attendees with Hybrid Events to Boost Business Impact

Hamilton Hamilton

The ongoing pandemic has prompted a fundamental shift in how we think about and execute live events. COVID-19 forced event organizers to decide whether to cancel, postpone, or transform their events.

But virtual events are a short-term solution to what most industry leaders agree is a long-term change in the events industry. When looking forward to the coming months and years, 62% of event organizers say that the future of events is hybrid.

62% of event organizers say that the future of events is hybrid

Virtual events offer a way for brands to connect with customers and other businesses while in-person events are on pause, but attendees often crave the connection of in-person experiences and trying to replicate that in a virtual environment can be futile. However, digital is not going anywhere as it is now an integral part of any event. Going forward, virtual offerings will be a great addition to existing events, supporting rather than replacing in-person physical events.

Hybrid events bring together the best of both worlds. In-person sessions allow groups of people to interact face-to-face while the addition of virtual spaces like digital trade show floors and live group chats allow more attendees to engage with brands and one another from wherever they are.

Let’s take a look at what a hybrid event actually is, how brands and consumers fit into this model, and how hybrid events can help maximize event success for brands.

What is a hybrid event?

A hybrid event is a trade show, conference, or other meeting that combines a live in-person event with a virtual online component. They’ve become a vital part of the events industry and will continue to grow in popularity in the coming years. Sixty-eight percent of event organizers who held virtual events in 2020 agree that virtual will be a bigger part of physical events moving forward.

68% of event organizers who held virtual events in 2020 agree that virtual will be a bigger part of physical events moving forward

Hybrid events combine in-person interaction and virtual environments, giving event managers valuable flexibility to adapt in our ever-changing world.

It is important to note that virtual offerings do not replace traditional in-person interactions in the hybrid event model. Instead, virtual events act as a complement to in-person events. Hybrid events integrate both digital and in-person interaction to deliver a unique experience for attendees while extending brands' reach.

Consumer and brand expectations for hybrid events

Most event organizers create their events for two main audiences: those who attend the event and the brands who participate in it. Understanding each of these audience's expectations is key for curating a successful hybrid event experience.

A study published by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research found that attendance at virtual events is primarily driven by access to educational content and keeping up with industry trends. Knowing that these are driving factors for participation, event managers should program impactful content to satisfy these needs.

Perhaps even more important than the substance of the content itself is how attendees engage with it. Event organizers and brand marketers should ensure all attendees — in-person and virtual — can engage with speakers, brands, and one another during the hybrid event. This is a powerful way to drive traffic and valuable participation that supports brands’ business goals.

Attendee engagement is a key factor in helping meet brand leaders’ number one expectation from events: sales lead generation. Thirty-two percent of brands say lead generation is the most important outcome from event participation and how you position brands in your hybrid event is critical to their success.

lead generation is the most important outcome in event participation

The benefits of hybrid events

One of the biggest benefits of hybrid events for event managers and brand marketers is the opportunity for attendee engagement after the event ends. Having a robust post-show strategy is a valuable way to continue delivering engaging content to participants while also giving brands a chance to nurture and grow leads.

A virtual event platform such as Hamilton EXTEND® gives both in-person and virtual attendees a place to go before, during, and after the event ends to continue interacting with other attendees and engage with curated content. These virtual environments offer brands the opportunity to extend the consumer experience beyond the show floor and drive valuable engagement.

Hybrid events also allow brands to capture important insights about their consumers. Event managers can see specifically what participants do while on the platform, which content generated the most engagement, and which content failed to build interest.

Platforms like EXTEND can capture information like how many attendees visited a virtual booth, attended a sponsored session, or watched a livestream for the full duration. Using these metrics gives brands a powerful set of information they can use to produce better content in the future and deliver higher business impact.

The future of hybrid events

Hybrid events are here to stay and brands who take the time to invest in learning about this style of event will see success in the long run. Successful hybrid event managers will understand the interaction between online and offline and will replicate their experiences in both a three-dimensional and two-dimensional environment.

Think of the future of hybrid events like a television show: you have a live speaker or performer, a live audience, and a strong technology platform to bring your content into households across the country or world.

Once you have the technology to deliver the content, you need to make sure that content is tailored to your audience. With waning attention spans online, event managers need to rethink their content. The evolution of the events industry during the pandemic has paved the way for other, more interactive technologies and opportunities to reach a broader audience beyond those who physically attend in-person. The experience is going to become more immersive and the digital will be an integral part of the in-person experience. And how your audience engages will need to adapt for both live and virtual attendees.

Learn how Hamilton EXTEND® can help create your next hybrid event and keep attendees engaged to drive business results.