Hybrid events: Blending in-person and digital experiences to extend reach and build engagement

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The pandemic rapidly forced companies to adopt new working behaviours. Many of these behaviours have remained in place, albeit less intensely, since the height of the pandemic. Although many companies are seeing workers return to the office more regularly and face-to-face events are seeing larger attendances, there remains a fundamental shift in behaviours and expectations that will continue to shape how marketers are best able to engage customers and prospects.

Pre-pandemic, one of the areas many B2B marketers found success in engaging prospects was through in-person events. Before the prevalence of Zoom and Teams as a regular communications tool, these events were predominantly in-person only. Depending on budgets, some event organisers may have filmed events to package up content for future use, but live-streaming was relatively rare, and using AR and VR to engage digital attendees was unheard of.

As we identify in our 2024 B2B marketing trends report, Stand out from the crowd, physical, in-person-only events, are a thing of the past. Blending physical and digital interactive experiences via an omnichannel approach is crucial if you are to stand out in a competitive landscape.

Rather than being a hindrance to your event planning, hybrid events can offer several benefits to the organisations that successfully execute them. 

First, you can grow your reach by providing invitees with the option to attend in person or online this can extend your audience further than those in your geographic location. 

Similarly, they can increase accessibility by removing barriers to attendance such as transport limitations, scheduling issues, or personal commitments. 

Hybrid events also allow you to gather and leverage data. You can track engagement and develop customer pipelines directly from registration. You can even customise post-event communications according to whether invitees attended at all and how they did so. 

Finally, hybrid events can often cut costs and be more environmentally sustainable. Spaces can be smaller, catering less costly, physical collateral and energy use can be limited, and attendees don’t all have to travel to attend.   

Planning and executing a blended event can be daunting for a marketing team who has not undertaken one before. Those who have organised in-person events of any size will recognise the need for close attention to detail regarding attendee enjoyment and engagement, but also for you to deliver what the business requires over the course of the event itself. Partnering with suppliers experienced in supporting digital elements of events is key to ensuring success.  

The purpose and size of the event, the number and type of attendees you expect to host, and the extent of your budget will all determine what is possible and what should be prioritised when planning a blended hybrid event. However, we recommend two key areas should always be considered.

Live streaming

This creates an immersive environment and helps attendees, both virtual and physical, feel part of the experience. This helps prospects learn about your business and products and builds trust in your brand.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

These technologies are fantastic for demonstrating products and bringing them to life. This creates a memorable experience that is shareable and increases your visibility. It is important that these should enhance the attendee experience and not simply be a gimmick. Working with experienced suppliers to best showcase your company and products via these channels is crucial.

As well as events, this blended approach and use of technology can be used in other parts of your marketing and communications program. Internal communications, for example, can be enhanced with these experiences. Using Augmented Reality (AR) for training can create a memorable immersive experience for your teams. For businesses that have adopted a hybrid approach to work, blended experiences are crucial to onboarding, engagement, and retention of staff.

As demand generation experts, our specialist team at onebite can help you learn more about these shifts in B2B marketing and how to leverage the latest trends into your marketing plans and drive your audience to action. 

Whether you want to plan an event, launch a new proposition, refine your strategy to build competitive advantage, or amplify your brand to grow market share we’d love to hear from you.

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