By Anna Anisin, founder at DataScience.Salonoversee community and business development.
Since the first quarter of 2020, there has been a major shift in the way events are organized and experienced. The ‘business-as-usual’, personal experiences only became virtual when it was impossible to get together physically. People then became fascinated with virtual events, so hybrid became more popular when normality returned because of the flexibility it offers to combine virtual and in-person experiences in one event.
However, when it comes to hosting your corporate events, there can be a dilemma as to which of these event formats is best for you, especially when it comes to budget considerations and monetization considerations.
This article highlights the important factors to consider to help you make a favorable decision about how to organize each of your events in a way that can help you achieve your business goals.
So what factors should determine the ideal event format?
An event format should not be chosen based on guesswork alone. It should be influenced by your business goals, the audiences you target, and your event budget.
• Event Goals
Is your event learning-oriented, a networking event or both? Are you interested in generating revenue or leads? An event focused on content will thrive in the virtual space. Virtual helps you save costs and offer a wider reach. Also, revenue and lead generation goals can guide you in choosing which format is most appropriate. However, if your event is primarily focused on networking, then personal contact is the way to go. That’s because networking virtually has proven difficult for many.
• Concentration of your audience
Are your target audiences concentrated locally or globally? If global, are most of them willing to travel to a location to participate in the event, or is it a mixed crowd with people eager to participate from their screen? In-person experiences can be planned for a local audience, while hybrid or virtual can be ideal for a global audience.
Your event budget largely determines what you can do. So keep your budget in mind to streamline your plans.
When does it make sense to keep your event ‘virtual-only’?
A virtual event is the best option if you’re interested in sharing a limited amount of content and don’t have plans for networking and other physical interaction with attendees. Another reason you might consider virtual only is if you want to achieve more with less budget. Once you’ve found a suitable tech stack that won’t cost a fortune, you can reach a wider/global audience with your event.
It also only makes sense virtually if you want to find speakers, sponsors and volunteers everywhere without incurring huge travel costs. In addition, virtual provides the capability for real-time event analytics that can be used to measure engagement, track survey results, facilitate Q&As, live chats, etc. When done right, virtual events can also help increase your event’s ROI.
When should you go completely in-person?
As much as there are robust technologies that help people meet and communicate seamlessly, no software can completely replace human physical interactions. It’s those physical interactions that can really make for long lasting relationships. For example, when people physically meet each other, there are more networking opportunities. Speakers can read the space and make their presentations more impactful.
Also, sponsors have the opportunity to meet leads in a warm way and get in touch with them. In person events, you can create happenings around the main event, including hosting VIP dinners, cocktail hours and entertainment. This means you can even create tiered event tickets to increase ROI.
Once you’ve “locked in” attendees to a physical event, you’ll have the most attention. On the other hand, you cannot have the full attention of virtual event attendees who may have several other tabs open while your event is in progress.
Go for ‘hybrid’ to have both personal and virtual benefits, but…
Hybrid helps you physically connect with a local audience while providing content to a wider or global audience. There are event apps that help integrate both the physical and online components into one event ecosystem. Attendees can access the event with personal or virtual tickets depending on their preferences, and this format reduces outright cancellations as people can upgrade from virtual to personal or downgrade as appropriate. Everyone has an offer that fits their budget.
The only challenge with the hybrid event format is that it takes a bigger budget to create. To make an event truly hybrid, it needs to be immersive for both in-person and virtual attendees. This requires both the full budget of a physical event and that of a virtual event combined, along with additional resources to manage both. Therefore, hybrid events are only recommended for companies with a large audience, so that the costs can be recouped.
There are no hard and fast rules for what event format is best for your business. You may have to try out different formats first and then stick with the one that gives the best results. However, it is also good to consult with critical event stakeholders such as speakers, sponsors (partners) and attendees before making a final decision.