For businesses that rely on physical trade shows and conferences – the lifeblood for many sales teams – the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant pivoting to virtual events. As vaccines rolled out and more people have received them, confidence in in-person events is growing again albeit at a more cautious pace than before.
While some are happy to escape the four walls of their homes to attend in-person events, there are some who may not want to be or cannot be at an in-person conference. There are varied reasons for this, the most pressing of which is the COVID-19 pandemic.
As far as industry conferences go, hybrid events will likely become the new normal as the world returns to some semblance of normalcy. In this post, we’ll cover four key marketing ideas you can use to promote your next hybrid event.
1) Leverage Previous Attendee Lists
If your conference has had the privilege of hosting prior events, don’t forget to leverage that list of attendees.
As we mentioned before, a cross-section of conference-goers are looking for events that take their needs into consideration. If they have attended your conference or trade show in-person before, they are likely already aware of the value your event provides. You can leverage the trust they have already built with you and present a virtual option for your conference as well.
In your advertising material – landing page, ads, social media – make sure you clearly state that the conference is a hybrid event to encourage sign-ups.
2) Make the Virtual Experience Worth Their Time
Most of us have had to work remotely over the last year and a half and have become more familiar with video conferencing technology than we’d like to admit. Many of us are also quite tired of long days that involve us sitting in a lone room looking at people in small boxes on a screen.
“Zoom fatigue” is real.
How will your hybrid event be more than an extended day of video conference calls?
Your event planning team will need to make sure you communicate this clearly in your conference marketing material.
If you’re thinking about how to turn your hybrid event from boring video conference calls and into an engaging event, it will require some creativity on your part. But don’t worry, it is not as hard as you might think.
Here are some ideas for mixing up the virtual portion of your hybrid event:
- A virtual networking lounge where attendees both live and virtual can mix and mingle with others
- Use a conference hashtag on social media to encourage conversations before, during, and after sessions. This is an old practice that is especially useful with virtual events. Hashtags are also powerful because:
- If the hashtag garners enough traction, it could potentially trend on platforms such as Twitter and thus expose the event to more people who may then choose to attend the next one.
- If there are specific highlights of a talk that someone missed, they can find information through posts associated with specific hashtags
- The conversation will generate a sense of belonging amongst attendees and they will be more likely to return to your event as a result.
- Break up sessions so that instead of long, full-day sessions like we had with in-person events, the sessions are shorter and more engaging.
3) Leverage Sponsors and Speakers to Help Promote the Event
If you are not leveraging your sponsors and speakers when it comes to promoting your hybrid event, you should start right now!
Often, the companies sponsoring and individuals speaking at your event are already excited to share that they will be in attendance. You may find that they are sharing this as part of their own events calendar.
So how can you encourage sponsors and speakers to market on your behalf?
- Create social media images with your unique marketing messages and send them to sponsors and speakers encouraging them to share on their own social networks. If you’d like to take this a step further, create personalized conference marketing images for individual sponsors and speakers. Below is an example of a personalized speaker image from a cloud security conference, Hacktivity.
- Encourage them to use conference hashtags when they are creating posts about the conference.
- If you can do brief interviews with select speakers, you can post these as “teasers” of what attendees can expect
4) Use Storytelling to Sell your Event
Human beings are wired to connect with compelling stories. Some of your favorite (or worst) memories are based on a story you can tell with surprising detail.
Scientific conferences are notorious for leaving storytelling out of marketing because many assume it involves high-level emotional theatrics. Storytelling can be much simpler than that. As a science-based hybrid event, you can incorporate storytelling into your brand by thinking of the specific journey your ideal attendee is on.
Are attendees at your event to seek insight on breakthroughs in next generation sequencing? Why is this important to your attendees? What will the knowledge they learn through your hybrid event help them accomplish? Will it lead to breakthrough cures for difficult diseases?
Tell those stories.
An example of how simple storytelling can be used for an event is this video by the American Anthropological Association, which highlights the diversity of its members while promoting their conference.
Tips for After Your Hybrid Event
Now that you’ve successfully hosted the hybrid event, it’s time for the follow-up. Here are three ideas that will set your hybrid event up for future success.
- Send out post-attendance surveys to learn what attendees’ experiences were. This will inform the improvements you can make to subsequent events.
- Create a video highlight reel of your event. If this is done well, you can use this reel to market the next event. This can include both in-person and virtual sessions.
- The fortune is in the follow-up. Events are powerful because they can create life-long customers and clients. If your company hosted the conference, have your sales teams follow up with people who indicated interest in specific products to follow through with the sale.
Hybrid events are here to stay. They might involve extra planning, but they are quickly becoming an industry must-have. Having a plan to successfully market your hybrid event will take some of the edge off organizing and these ideas will get you started on the right foot.Keywords: event marketing, hybrid events, in-person events, online events, science marketing events