Are virtual/hybrid events the new normal?
Vincent Yap
Director, Integrated Marketing Solutions, Pico Singapore

The need for virtual or hybrid experience has never been so critical for the event industry as it is now, with a global slowdown of the MICE and travel business. There is a sudden exponential growth in the demand for virtual or hybrid events to replace or extend their physical counterparts.

The technology for virtual meetings has also existed for the last decade, albeit improving in efficiency and functionality.

But before we dive into the technology, these are some of planning considerations for a virtual event:

1. What are the objectives and programme format of your virtual/hybrid event?

Having a clear understanding of your goals and programme will help decide the technology platforms that would be most appropriate for your event, e.g. no. of single-session tracks, multi-session tracks, need for a virtual networking lounge or business matching, the need for a tradeshow and virtual booths, etc.

2. What is the revenue strategy for your virtual or hybrid event?

Creating a list of digital inventories for sponsorship sales and the entitlements for the virtual attendees. For a hybrid event, how would you position your pricing strategy to avoid cannibalising on your onsite attendance? And would you consider extending the content beyond the physical event?

3. How would you create a seamless virtual onboarding experience for your stakeholders (attendees, exhibitors and sponsors, speakers and VIPs)?

Create clear user journeys that determine how each stakeholder can easily confirm their participation and attendance at the virtual/hybrid event. This would assist in understanding the level of integration between the digital platforms that would be required.

4. Did you modify your marketing plan to optimise your audience engagement for the virtual/hybrid event at pre-event, at-event and post-event phases?

Develop an integrated marketing strategy that utilises the virtual content and opportunities of your event, to enhance your outreach to the right target audience with the most effective channels. For example, a flash sale, literally, of a popular keynote session on live-video that is offered only in the last 15 minutes before the session starts.

5. What level of insights will you be able to retrieve from the experience?

This is critical for every event, but even more so for a virtual event with no physical experiences or interaction. The benefit of a virtual event is that everything digital can be easily tracked and monitored; the structured insights that can be obtained through polls and surveys and the unstructured data that can be obtained for analysis, e.g. dwell times, registration logs, check-in and out logs, etc. The insights will help you evaluate, reassess and develop an even better virtual/hybrid experience for your attendees in the next edition.

The key to a successful virtual event lies in the ability to connect-the-dots on the overall strategy and considerations mentioned, coupled with the use of the appropriate technologies to enable the event. As the Covid-19 situation normalises globally, the new normal of hybrid events will slowly but surely become more evident as the market embraces its potential benefits.

The article above was first published in TTGmice on 25 May 2020.