Lisa leads corporate marketing at Kaltura. She enjoys finding the right balance between the art and science of marketing.
As 2022 begins, businesses are planning the events and conferences that will carry them through the coming year, and while the future is still uncertain, marketers are seeking to create strategies that embrace the potential of the hybrid events spectrum.
As the executive vice president of marketing at a company that offers a virtual event platform, there is no doubt in my mind that companies will continue to use virtual events, as 64% of businesses said they were increasing their virtual events in 2021, according to Metrigy Research (via HBR). What’s more, a report from Kaltura, “The State of Virtual Events 2022” — which surveyed 1,250-plus organizers and attendees — found that nearly all organizers (94%) were planning for virtual events in 2022.
But the choice is no longer black or white. Just as remote work has given way to hybrid work, many companies have come to understand that events don’t have to be either virtual or physical. Within the continuum of events, there’s a balance that businesses need to find to create the right combination of in-person and virtual offerings based on their needs, audience and strategic goals. And the sum of these parts is what we call a hybrid event strategy.
Marketers should weigh the options in front of them when creating their annual event road map. While in-person events deliver a more traditional networking experience, virtual events can be executed at a lower cost and have a much broader reach. Virtual events also offer a way to continue hosting events even amid the uncertainty of the pandemic. Hybrid allows marketers to land in the space between virtual and in-person events when necessary.
Creating an overarching philosophy to maximize the impact of events over the course of a year is a challenge. Add in the need to find the right balance for a hybrid event strategy, and you are facing a new level of complexity. Here are the key factors to consider when planning your event strategy for 2022.
The Bigger Picture And Goals Of Individual Events
The optimal way to develop an event strategy with purposeful experiences and content is to determine the specific goals of each individual event within the larger strategy. What is the event for? Is it a product launch? Are you hosting a networking conference? Will it be an informational session on a new emerging trend?
Defining those goals, as well as the intentions of both hosts and attendees, provides marketers with a more accurate assessment of how to execute the event. There is a big difference between an intimate and exclusive networking event for industry leaders and a come-one-come-all experience intended to share the heartbeat of a company with the world.
Planners should also ask themselves a few more critical questions: Who are the attendees? How will they define success at this event? What should be the key takeaways for attendees? Find these answers, and others will start to fall into place.
Mapping Out Your Target Audiences
The intrinsic “quality” of event content means very little if the event itself falls on the wrong ears. Therefore, it is critical for businesses to think strategically about what audience they hope to reach with each event that they plan. Will you be speaking to partners or looking to expand your reach? Is it necessary for audience members to interact with each other, or is listening more important than collaborating?
In my experience, virtual events afford a much broader reach and higher potential impact. If no one needs to travel, participants can tune in from across the globe, and the number of attendees need not be capped because of event space capacity.
If the event is going to be geared toward an audience that craves networking opportunities and business development, then digital capabilities may be a secondary consideration. On the other hand, a content-driven event stands to benefit from a virtual or primarily virtual strategy, as it could allow a company’s message to reach more hearts and minds.
High-profile speakers who share insights and experiences can undoubtedly draw a crowd. Virtual events remove many barriers for event organizers looking to secure speakers. Unless a company is blessed with endless funds and industry connections, it’s nearly impossible to get dozens of industry luminaries in the same room at the same time. Prerecording some or all of the sessions and keynote presentations can ease many of the logistical complexities for organizers and speakers and allows attendees to watch the sessions that interest them at their convenience. Find the best mix of live and prerecorded sessions; the options are, and potential is, endless.
Respecting The Budget
Hybrid events rely heavily on vision and creativity, but financial limitations are an important reality check.
For instance, although virtual events typically cost less, hosts may also rake in less money from sponsors, participants and vendors. And while physical events may bring in more sponsors, they may lack the reach and long-tail value of virtual events where planners can record and share high-quality sessions with those who missed the event.
Unless they have a money tree, organizers should identify which events merit the extra investment of a physical event and always explore whether hosting a virtual event could potentially allow them to achieve the same goals while saving on expenses. And of course, when it comes to hybrid events, marketers should very carefully plan and execute to ensure that hybrid events not only provide the right experience to the right attendees but also that they don’t break the bank.
2022 is set to be a year of trial and error as companies experiment with finding the right balance of hybrid. Yet, to minimize the error and accelerate the path to success, it is important to align all internal team members on the strategic objectives of events.
All parties involved should understand the benefits of both the physical and virtual components and be able to leverage both as part of the company’s larger event strategy — but not necessarily every single event.
At the end of the day, both in-person and remote attendees should enjoy the experience to the same extent and walk away with whatever the event set out to impart.
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