In-person events are at a crossroads, and it’s uncertain what the future holds. The pandemic continues to curb much of the large in-person events, as it has for the past 18 months. For this reason, there has never been a greater hunger for people to get together.
Research consistently shows that memories of fun experiences fulfill people in ways that merchandise cannot. However, data also reveals that marketers are meeting or exceeding their targeted revenues, while also saving money on large events and corporate travel. Events are clearly a great way to leave an indelible mark on your customers, but there may be less expensive ways to engage your audience and boost sales.
What will the future of in-person events look like for content marketers in 2022 and beyond? In this article, we will discuss the shift towards hybrid events and why convenience is key for organizing an event in 2022. We’ll also highlight the most important aspect of a successful marketing event, whether in-person, hybrid or virtual: creating and captivating your online audience with high quality content.
What is a hybrid event?
Hybrid events are events that offer attendees the option to attend in-person or virtually. Guests can converse or listen to speakers at the venue or remotely via Zoom or similar web conference software.
In more complex hybrid conventions, attendees can “check-in” via a virtual, digital twin world where their avatar can explore the exhibition floor to attend different booths.
As the virtual visitors pass through different booths, they are able to see and interact with the people in real-time almost as if they were physically there. The key defining aspect of a hybrid event is that both the guests and the speakers can attend in-person or virtually.
With the excitement surrounding the so-called metaverse – the concept of an online universe that connects people using 3D technology and virtual/augmented reality – it’s clear that hybrid events will become a lot more realistic and compelling in the future. The line between our real-life and our online life is becoming increasingly thin, opening the door for content marketers to use real-life events to create unique, evergreen social media content.
The hybrid event is the best of both worlds scenario where marketers can focus on the experience of the event itself as well as creating social media content around the event.
The hybrid event has a lot of advantages for marketers as well. Other than increasing your audience size beyond what a venue can hold, it’s much easier and less expensive to secure compelling keynote speakers from around the world. With hybrid and virtual events, industry professionals can speak to thousands of event attendees from around the world without the expense and time loss involved with travel.
Plus, hybrid events are a great solution for content marketers who want to use events to expand awareness of their brand. This is because hybrid events offer many opportunities to create content that is interactive, unscripted, and engaging. Let’s take a closer look at how to do this.
Where event planning meets content marketing
Organizations across the world have been affected by the pandemic. In many cases, companies have found ways to stay connected to their clients, employees, and vendors through Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other online collaborative software.
Surprisingly, salespeople have found that a Skype meeting with a prospect can get the same results as a one-on-one meeting that involves a plane ticket and a hotel room. Companies that once thought nothing of footing the travel bill for regional and international meetings are now asking themselves if they can’t just arrange a Zoom call instead.
Convenience is certainly a defining factor. Being able to put your product in front of as many people as possible virtually can widen your range and bring an even bigger ROI than physical sales meetings.
However, events can still be a powerful force for those in marketing. Unlike a sales meeting or convention, the goal isn’t just to network and to meet people in-person.
The event itself should be used as a wellspring of inspiration to create event content that is relevant well past the lifespan of the event itself. When an event is used to raise brand awareness, engage both in-person and virtual attendees, and create evergreen content material, the ROI can be huge.
Your event can be used to create a media library of templates and images that can then be recycled as new content once the event is over. Companies frequently hire freelance writers to reframe existing material or edit existing articles and videos to address more current events.
You can expect to pay at least $45 an hour for a quality freelance writer to create brand new content for your brand, but the overall cost is often much less for reworking evergreen content.
Events, whether in-person, virtual, or a combination of both, should use a strategy that involves the creation of organic, interactive content that engages audiences. The increasing popularity of hybrid events makes it even easier to expand audiences and shape your content marketing to the details of the event.
You can easily live stream your event to online audiences and even converse with them through live video or through a live chat. You can solicit your virtual audience for submissions as part of a challenge, or encourage them to tell a story during the event that intertwines with your own brand story.
Connecting your event attendees with a wider social media audience will expand the reach of the event and maximize the overall returns on investment.
As with all effective content creation, your brand must have a thorough understanding of your audience before coming up with a strategy. You can offer tailored blog content to customers who didn’t attend to entice them to attend the next event.
With the recent surge in popularity of online videos, you should also try to incorporate video as much as possible during your event. Consider live streaming and then uploading a video of your event’s speakers to your social media, or holding a live streamed Q&A session.
It’s not uncommon for a company to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a conference or convention but neglect its content strategy. In many cases, once the event is over, everything that occurred is quickly forgotten by the attendees, and not even shared with anyone else outside the room.
Instead, hybrid events force event planners and marketers to always think of their virtual audience during all stages of planning the event. This, in turn, creates a lot of opportunities to craft content that engages online followers before, during, and after the event. This engaging content will leave customers with positive memories rather than just focusing on sales.
The future is undoubtedly digital, but that doesn’t mean that events are over. It just means that events will be an even more powerful force in marketing, if used in conjunction with a carefully planned content strategy.
This post was written by Nahla Davies, a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.