The Future of Events: It's About Flexibility & Choice
Jun 14, 2021 2:20:00 PM
Just because marketers and attendees miss certain aspects of physical events doesn’t mean events will quickly rebound in their pre-pandemic form. Businesses won’t immediately deem travel essential, and attendee psychology has changed over the last 12-18 months. Specifically, the pandemic altered the way many of us value time, and this means event planners will have to rely on a fundamental understanding of the content audiences want and the format in which they want to access it to win attendees’ time and attention.
In this new landscape, event planners will have to present attendees with flexibility and choice. Fortunately, hybrid events are built on this premise, and a lot has been said industry-wide about their appeal and long-term potential. But amidst all the chatter around the future of events and potential of hybrid events, 6Connex has forged ahead and actually worked with clients in hosting a virtual event (in record setting formats, such as the USC Commencement Ceremony). The 6Connex perspective is based on experience, not theory; and we have a fair amount to say about why hybrid events work, how hybrid events work best, and the role technology plays in their success.
What we’ve noticed when we first meet with event planners to discuss hybrid events, is that there’s a common perception that “hybrid event” means “in-person event that’s live-streamed and available later, on demand.” While this is certainly one way to approach a hybrid event, we’d argue instead that event planners think of their hybrid event as a menu, from which attendees can order any item in any category to satisfy their appetite. For example, if an attendee wants an in-person experience, he or she can attend in person. If he or she wants a virtual experience, he or she can attend virtually. If an attendee wants to physically attend a multi-location conference in their hometown but sit in on a presentation on another continent, it’s possible. And if an attendee wants to participate in networking sessions in-person but view technical presentations in the quiet of a hotel room, he or she can make that happen too. You get the picture!
The choice and flexibility of a hybrid event extends well beyond the logistics of attendance. With a hybrid event, attendees can download content in the language of their choosing. They can use match-making apps to network with peers in their same industry, or with their same title, or in their same country of origin. They can visit the booths of on-site and online sponsors alike, and they can do this at a time that’s convenient for them. Not to mention, regardless of whether they’re on-site or off, they can participate in polls, engage in games and contests, and promote their experience via social media.
To build this attendee “smorgasbord,” however, you need to partner with a virtual event technology provider that has a vast array of features and functionality in their “pantry” (sticking with the food analogy, here); which is why at 6Connex, we’ve created what we refer to as the “Open Universe.” Open Universe basically means that our virtual event software is technology agnostic, allowing clients to integrate the tools they use day-to-day with our platform, as well as enabling them to seamlessly leverage any number of our technology partnerships. For example, we partner with Interprefy to enable our clients to host large-scale events in any language. Our partnership with Snapbar allows event planners to add in-person, hybrid, and virtual photo booths to any event. Leveraging our partnership with CaptionIT improves event accessibility by ensuring all event activities are captioned. And taking advantage of our partnership with Walls.io helps event planners build a social media wall featuring any and all social media channels.
Believe it or not, the list doesn’t end there. MediaPlatform, Webinar.net, Slido, Spotify and more are all at our event planners’ disposal, empowering them to provide an almost endless array of engagement tools offering flexibility and choice for attendees. With this flexibility and choice, each attendee can then create a high value event experience according to his or her definition of “high value,” which unlocks deeper engagement and creates more opportunities.
In the post-pandemic landscape, attendees aren’t the only ones seeking flexibility and choice. Event planners too need the agility that a hybrid event can provide. For one, they’ve learned the hard way that when you don’t have a virtual event component in place, you’re left scrambling when the unexpected threatens your in-person event. And for another, they’re now working within a new set of constructs. Not every attendee, speaker, and sponsor will be willing to travel. Not every venue will be willing to operate at full capacity. Not every business will fund event activity at pre-pandemic levels.
Fortunately, hybrid events allow event planners to consider a vast array of possibilities when building their event plan. Gone are traditional boundaries, such as size and location; which means events can attract a wider audience, engage a broader panel of speakers and sponsors, present a deeper content agenda, and take place over a longer timeline. Again, technology plays a huge role in the future of events, and savvy event planners will turn to virtual event platform providers such as 6Connex to give them the variety they need to seamlessly plan and execute hybrid events that achieve their event KPIs.
At 6Connex, we encourage our client base to create “attendee parity,” meaning there is no difference in event opportunities for in-person versus virtual attendees. Then, we empower them with a host of features and functionality to achieve it. Some clients may take advantage of digital badges, in the form of a QR code, that’s scanned at sponsor booths, attendee sessions, etc., and tracks all attendee behavior in a like-to-like fashion. Other clients love our AI, which recommends activities, content, contacts, etc. to each attendee both before and throughout the event, sending push notifications and personalizing the event experience to increase engagement. Many clients incorporate our 1:1 chat function, which helps attendees easily find and connect with in-person and virtual attendees. And still others leverage their 6Connex virtual environment for post-event marketing, re-purposing popular content for a weekly blog series or social media campaign to increase exposure and opportunity.
Also, did we mention the flexibility and choice in reporting? Oh, the metrics! From event registrations, to behavior data, to session ratings and beyond, 6Connex reporting tools are an all-you-can-eat buffet (again with the food analogy!) of analytics and intelligence, providing event planners with myriad ways to prove event success and identify sales and marketing opportunities.
According to AIM Group International, 72% of corporate sponsors are interested in participating in a hybrid event. Why? You guessed it: flexibility and choice - the basis in the future of events.
For starters, hybrid events give sponsors access to a larger audience. The math here is pretty easy: a larger audience means a larger lead pool, and a larger lead pool means more revenue in the pipeline, which is usually the primary reason sponsors participate in events.
When it comes to audience participation, hybrid event solutions provide sponsors with more ways to engage. For those of you old enough to remember, Burger King’s tagline used to be “Have it Your Way,” and in our opinion, this sums it up for hybrid event sponsors:
There’s no limit to the amount of content they can make available – before, during, and after the event, and there’s no limit to the format the content can take: printed collateral, recorded demos, podcasts, and more.
Here at 6Connex, we’ve seen event organizers get really inventive with their sponsors, leveraging our technology to build a menu of hybrid sponsorship opportunities that include 1:1 chats, live streams, branding opportunities, and particularly popular – games.
And once again – oh, the metrics! All the wonderful data analytics we highlighted above for event planners are available to sponsors too, enabling them to accurately identify and effectively nurture leads, spot trends, and measure ROI.
A key contributor to event value is the content and the learning, and again – hybrid events delight event planners and presenters alike with unprecedented flexibility and choice when it comes to building event agendas. With travel and timeline barriers removed, presenters who may have previously been out of reach are suddenly accessible, giving them exposure to new audiences, and giving audiences access to new and in-demand presenters.
Furthermore, presenters can choose the medium with which they’re most comfortable to share their content. For example, one presenter may choose to share his or her content live, while another may choose to pre-record their message.
There’s no end to the ways for audience participation, and how the audience can interact with presenters. At 6Connex, we encourage our clients to share content pre-event to attract attendees to speaker sessions, then leverage tools such as live polls and Q&As during the session to connect the audience to the speaker. Post-session, match-making tools and networking lounges allow attendees to meet with speakers, and post-event, the presenter gains additional publicity, as organizations use their virtual environment for long-term marketing.
Hybrid events are a nimble marketing tool, and they are the future of events. They serve a larger audience and empower event planners to create a personalized experience for attendees, sponsors, and presenters at every touchpoint, ultimately increasing the value of the event. By increasing event value, attendees, sponsors, and presenters are likely to keep coming back – building lasting relationships and creating long-term revenue streams.
6Connex is the leading provider of virtual and hybrid event solutions. Our secure, cloud-based platform expands audience reach and drives in-depth content engagement for marketing, sales, recruitment, training, and HR communities to make for successful online events around the world. Our product portfolio includes virtual environments, learning management, and webinars. Demand more from your virtual and hybrid event solution. Request a virtual event demo, or contact our event software experts to learn more about the 6Connex approach to hybrid events.
Have Questions? Please call 1.800.395.4702, or email us at email@example.com.
 Forbes.com - Four Reasons Your Company Should Pivot To Hybrid Events
 PR Newswire - 6Connex's Virtual Venue Platform Supports USC Commencement Ceremonies
 International Conference Partnership - INCON Partner News 2020
 YouTube - Vintage Burger King Commercial - Have it Your Way - 1974