As the nation considers a return to in-person events, companies face a potential ‘black hole’ of data. Months of virtual engagement have meant that businesses across sectors have become used to an almost constant flow of information from their audiences. It is now time to consider how this can be maintained as lockdowns ease.
Hybrid events supported by quality technology can provide a long-term solution to this challenge. Their dual nature includes both virtual and physical elements, enabling some face-to-face interactions whilst still allowing businesses to gather valuable data insights that can boost growth. They will ensure that brands continue to drive meaningful engagement, built upon the diverse opportunities presented by digital infrastructure.
The amount of data offering insight into customer engagement has rapidly increased throughout 2020 as attendance at virtual events has grown. On the Eventbrite platform alone, nearly 75 million attendees registered for over one million virtual events throughout the year. Each of these interactions provides valuable information that can inform the marketing strategies of host businesses.
For example, organisers can:
- See which format of content is most appealing to their customers by tracking digital traffic
- Identify which themes are of interest by monitoring Q&As and live chat functions
- Track networking portals to understand which methods of communication generate the most impact for attendees
- Use interactive activities to gather live data insights as panels are ongoing
- Understand regional reach and levels of international engagement
- Ascertain levels of engagement on the platform outside of the one or two scheduled days of peak activity
Losing this data could significantly stunt business development
Hybrid events allow businesses to retain a virtual element to their engagement alongside the benefits of in-person interactions. This means that the relationship-building that happens at physical events is complemented by the meaningful insight gleaned from the data provided by virtual events. This can navigate the difficulties of securing meaningful insight from physical delegates. Filling this ‘black hole’ of data will be key to laying the groundwork for urgently needed post-pandemic growth.
The future of event technology
COVID-19 saw increased demand from businesses for platforms that are capable of hosting webinars, interactive chats and networking as standard. As a result, virtual event software underwent rapid development. Now, providers need to devote attention – and investment – to hybrid technology that can facilitate high-quality engagement for both virtual and physical delegates.
Hybrid technology should provide a range of elements that can ensure all attendees have an equally engaging, useful, enjoyable experience wherever they may be based. It should go far beyond the token gesture of live-streaming a scheduled roundtable worldwide. Whilst the tech will inevitably involve video streaming, it should also include other features. These include interactive communications channels and networking rooms that ensure all attendees feel valued and treated equally.
Flexibility is the key to growth
The attraction of hybrid events is that they focus on flexibility. The various engagement methods allow people to choose how they interact with an event – whether that means attending in person on one day and then joining virtually the next. This appeals to a new mentality, borne from COVID-19, as people develop a stronger sense of what is a truly valuable use of their time.
Technology will enable this flexibility, and there are already solutions for businesses of all sizes and sectors. Hybrid events themselves are adaptable by nature, and the digital systems at their heart can enhance a huge variety of brands through a meaningful arc of engagement. This engagement lifecycle can be sustained far outside the parameters of a conventional in-person function via pre- and post-event activities and communications channels.
The good news is that clients and organisers are already beginning to recognise the need for this shift. Pre-COVID, 65% of the briefs that Live Group received were for in-person events. Now, the majority of our clients are looking to discuss hybrid or virtual events, some of which are for functions as far ahead as the end of 2022. Evidently, events aren’t returning to a pre-pandemic idea of ‘normal’ anytime soon.
A new model
To maximise post-pandemic growth, businesses of all sizes need to be two things: informed and innovative. Hybrid events provide the perfect space to meet these two demands, by helping companies to stay ahead of the curve with limitless and flexible engagement that plugs the gap of potential data loss.
The development of event technology that underpins these capabilities is just beginning. The pandemic has been a shot in the arm for virtual events. The new, creative interaction methods need to be translated into long-term solutions for a society that is taking the first tentative steps out of lockdown.
Businesses who take advantage of this shift to hybrid will gain the advantage of consistent audience insights that can propel data-driven growth, whilst ensuring that their brand prioritises high-quality customer experiences. It is prime time to re-vitalise engagement, and business leaders should reach out to event organisers who are committed to helping it happen.
Live Group is a leading events communications agency based in London, which prides itself on its expert delivery of powerful communication strategies designed to bring clients closer to their audiences, whoever they be and wherever they are. Drawing from its live event roots and using a powerful combination of content creation, creative design and technology, Live Group works with its clients to build highly effective audience engagement, which capitalises on a range of data insights.
Live Group manages everything from the design and strategic delivery of live experiences, project management, and digital solutions, with every element assessed and enhanced to ensure clients objectives are met.