Hybrid events allow an event organizer to combine a traditional live event with a virtual event. This ability offers a wide range of benefits to both the organizer and the attendees. While hybrid events are rapidly growing in popularity, they are not without their challenges. One of the most significant issues facing any event, but particularly those in a hybrid model, is that of attendance.
How do you get people to turn up in person and online? Fortunately, there are a handful of techniques you can use for boosting attendance for both the virtual and physical audience segments. Implement the points listed below, and you are sure to attract attendees and reap all the benefits hybrid events have to offer.
When it comes to planning and marketing your event, you need to know and understand your target audience. In the early planning stages, take some time to think about who it is that will be most interested in your event. If you are hoping to target a specific industry, for example, you need to develop content that will be both valuable and meaningful to individuals in that industry. Remember that your hybrid event can draw a worldwide virtual audience, so do not limit yourself to thinking about possible in-person attendees.
Thinking about a global audience does not necessarily mean expanding your niche. But, it does mean making careful decisions to be more expansive and inclusive in your content and event promotion. If, for example, you are hosting a conference for medical professionals, try to include a range of topics that would apply to providing care for different demographics or under different economic and cultural circumstances. The more work you do to speak directly to the interests and concerns of your target audience, the more likely they will be to attend your event.
One tried and true method for boosting attendance and ticket sales at an event is to create scarcity. People do not want to miss out on something fun and exciting! Creating ticket tiers is one way to promote scarcity and drive people towards a purchase. Early bird tickets, general admission, and VIP tickets are a great place to start. Early bird tickets can be offered at a discounted rate for a limited time. VIP packages can be put together to provide attendees with access to additional content or sessions.
Consider planning two VIP packages: one for virtual attendees and one for in-person attendees. Both can include branded event swag, exclusive access to speakers/presenters/exhibitors, priority access to networking sessions, private Q&As, and any other value you wish to provide.
To boost both the live and virtual attendance, landing top-talent is a priority. The right speaker can draw people to your event all on their own and naturally increase audience engagement by offering educational or entertainment value. A hybrid event allows you to cast a much wider net when looking for speakers. Generally speaking, at a physical event, event planners are limited by their budget or geographical region. With a virtual component, it is possible to attract a speaker from another state (or country!) without having to worry about logistics or over-the-top travel expenses.
Look to community and industry leaders. If they are near the physical event location, you can invite them to speak/present in person. But if they are farther afield, consider having them appear through a real-time virtual session or video conferencing set up. If the speaker is popular and engaging enough, your audience will eat it up no matter if they are there in-person or appearing through a video feed.
To increase attendance at your next hybrid event, you will need the right technology partner. A virtual event platform, like Accelevents, can support your event in several meaningful ways. For starters, you will want the platform to support event ticketing and registration. You want to make it easy for an attendee to purchase tickets and register online. The right platform will help you create a branded event website, support ticket types, with sales, enable registration, and integrate with event marketing avenues like social media channels and email campaigns.
The platform should also support your virtual event space. It should allow for live streaming, networking sessions, keynote and breakout sessions, virtual exhibit booths, sponsor and attendee management, and provide 24/7 live customer support. On top of your hybrid event platform, event organizers will want to be sure that they have all the right audio and video equipment in place. It is important to remember the virtual audience and try to provide a seamless, high-quality video experience for them.
If you have limited experience dealing with this type of technology, consider hiring an A/V specialist as part of your event team. If the event does not look good, you can be sure engagement and attendance will drop off.
We’ve spent some time talking about the necessary considerations for the digital side of your hybrid event, but you must also take care of those attending the live event. Ordinarily, an organizer would simply look for a convenient location with ample space and easy access for local and out of town guests. But since the coronavirus pandemic has created a “new normal” for all of us, it is essential to consider more than just the convenience of a venue; you must also consider the safety. If you do not create a safe event space, you can bet that a large number of potential attendees will not feel comfortable attending your event. They may choose to attend virtually, or they may just take a pass completely.
To keep the options open for more people, look for a venue that can accommodate social distancing protocols throughout. To ensure the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and proper sanitation techniques throughout the space, look for a venue with GBAC start facility accreditation. To receive this accreditation, a venue must pass a bio-risk prevention and harm reduction screening program and maintain various safety protocols. Choosing a facility with this certification will show a potential physical attendee that you have considered their safety and attempted to reduce their exposure to COVID-19.
One of the best things you can do to get people to attend your hybrid event is to let them know what to expect! While you may want to keep some surprises up your sleeve, potential attendees must see value in your content. Your event agenda should be set, or nearly set, early in the event planning process. The core of your event marketing should focus on what is contained within your agenda.
Make sure the day flows smoothly and that you have worked in a little bit of downtime to allow virtual and physical attendees to step away for a second. It is easy for attendees to lose interest if you do not give them this time. Each attendee has their reasons for attending the event. By laying out your event agenda and providing compelling descriptions for each session, you allow people to find their motives or intentions within your content. If, for example, members of your target audience are interested in networking, they will need to see ample networking opportunities presented in your agenda.
If you have lined up incredible speakers for your event, sharing the event agenda will help you highlight this. Remember, people have no way of knowing how great your event is going to be if you never tell them!
As stated above, you need to tell people about your event if you want them to attend. Develop a clear marketing strategy that reaches as many different places as possible. Again, a hybrid event can see a global audience, so you may have to think outside of the box to increase ticket sales and attendance. An email marketing campaign remains one of the best ways to promote your event. Send email invitations with strong subject lines and well-placed CTAs, and you are sure to get conversions.
Create an event page on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, depending on where your target audience hangs out online. Use these profiles to provide updates, share your past event successes, and attempt to generate excitement and engagement before the event. Advertise in local newspapers, industry publications, online event calendars, take out an ad on the radio and growing platforms like podcasts. In some instances, traditional flyers and event postering can work, too. You have already defined your audience, so work on a marketing strategy that will best reach this crowd.
Over the years ahead, hybrid events are only going to grow in popularity. And it isn’t hard to see why. They combine all the benefits of a digital event with those of a live event, allowing hosts, sponsors, and attendees to find additional value in the experience as a whole. But, as with any other event, to succeed, you must have attendees. The techniques listed above will help any hybrid event find their target audience and entice them to register and attend.