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How to Host Awesome Hybrid Events in 2021

Thanks to the Covid-19 global pandemic, the world of events and trade shows has been forever changed. The knee-jerk reaction by many was simply to cancel the in-person events, ramp up email campaigns and hope for the best.The declaration of a global pandemic had effectively caused the extinction of events.

Or did it?

Humans are naturally resourceful and resilient, and able to accomplish things first thought of as impossible. Shortly after the events industry ground to a halt, the virtual event industry was born. Platforms were created that enabled real-time, on-line networking; multiple, concurrent breakout sessions; and even virtual trade show floors. And where physical space allows, it’s even possible to have hybrid events with limited in-person activities and attendance, combined with a virtual presence.

Welcome to the future

For a few years leading up to 2020, there seemed to be a dichotomy in events. They were either all-encompassing and large, or limited-scope and intimate. The virtual event made it possible for both to co-exist, and as a marketer, it’s still your job to figure out how to get your brand in front of the buyers, gather the contact data and convert them to a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) before handing the lead off to BDRs or Sales Executives. But how do you have a successful virtual (or hybrid) event as a marketer?

Here are 5 ways your event can stand out and drive better results:

Name your event carefully.

It’s not a webinar. It’s not a Zoom meeting. Everyone is tired of those. Consider calling your event a campfire. That evokes emotions and memories for many people. Who hasn’t gathered around a campfire and enjoyed great camaraderie with friends? Consider the word summit. Again, there’s imagery and emotion in the challenge of a climb, along with the joy and exhilaration of reaching the top.

Include some aspects of in-person events.

Consider sending physical event kits to attendees. Include swag similar to what you might find at an in person event such as a conference shirt, water bottle, etc., and encourage attendees to wear their conference shirts during the online event. If your virtual event will be taking place all day long, use some of your budget to provide lunch to your attendee via gift cards to meal delivery services.

Explore advanced event platform features.

Most virtual event platforms have basic tools like polls, surveys or chat functions. To make your event stand out even more, consider platform tools like whiteboarding, ad-hoc breakout rooms, or even remote control of someone’s computer. These features really enhance the interactiveness of the event and drive much better engagement of attendees.

Prepare your attendees.

Having access to great tools for your virtual event is good, but for some people, it’s not enough to ensure success. Before the event begins, be sure to set your attendees up for success by providing them with directions on how to use the tools properly. If you have the time and/or resources, consider brief training sessions a few days before the event, or produce short videos to share with attendees before the event so they will know how to utilize the tools to achieve the desired results from the event.

Speakers and sessions.

Every event needs effective keynote and breakout session speakers. Be sure to find headline speakers who have a track record of being very engaging with audiences, changing the standard presentation into a two-way dialogue. Breakout session speakers are just as important, if not more important, since most events have many more breakouts than keynotes. Be sure your breakout session speakers are given the opportunity for dry runs with event organizers in order to secure feedback to improve the session if needed.

WIth proper planning your virtual events can provide a great experience for attendees, and superior ROI for your company. Long live events!

This post was contributed by Eric Dreshfield, Salesforce MVP Hall of Famer and Partner Marketing Manager at Active Campaign.

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