If 2020 was the year of the virtual event, what’s the outlook for 2021? I do not think anyone expects “the same ole” meeting environment. Virtual platforms became the “go-to solution” when COVID-19 brought the industry to a standstill.
And now, as vaccine rollouts become more encouraging, does this mean “same ole, same ole” live events? Or is virtual here to stay, in some way, and present a way to enhance live events?
And, if organizers need to meld live and virtual events together, what does this mean for an event’s communications strategy?
Hybrid: A Second Event?
Industry insiders point to hybrid as the new normal. Hybrid events may bring in a larger audience, and cater to both those seeking to return to in-person events as well as those that are unable or are not ready to attend in-person.
But does a hybrid event mean you have to execute two events?
- A live event, for the in-person audience with an exhibit hall, ancillary events and educational programming. You can’t eliminate anything that attendees have come to expect from in-person events.
- A virtual event, for your remote audience. Yes, you can stream programming, but how will you make your attendees feel welcome and connected?
And, if you’re producing two events, do you need two approaches to communications vehicles?
Unique Communication Offerings
Rather than adopting a “one-size-fits-all” approach for your communications strategy, take a step back and think about what each audience will be seeking:
- In-person attendees will most likely welcome the return of the mobile app. But what about print? They will still seek the exhibit hall list/floor plan and daily schedule in a print format. A show daily will both complement your mobile app and generate non-dues revenue.
- Virtual attendees will seek unique content developed with them in mind. Don’t just hit “record” and stream sessions. Video tours of the exhibit hall, Q&As with speakers and an exclusive digital daily newspaper will make them feel valued. And don’t forget about a virtual exhibit hall guide, so attendees can learn more about exhibitors and connect with them, even if there isn’t a virtual exhibit hall.
Promote On-Demand Content
Will you be making on-demand content and session recordings available to both in-person and virtual attendees. Use both your print and digital show dailies to remind attendees about content they may have missed, or the “hot” sessions of the conference.
Two Show Dailies? Really?
Yes, we are suggesting that you create two unique daily publications: a print vehicle for your in-person attendees and a digital publication for your virtual attendees. Why?
Each has unique expectations in terms of what they hope to take away from your conference. Don’t expect a “one-size-fits-all-approach” to work any more. It just won’t.