The Future of Events: It's About Flexibility & Choice
Dec 28, 2022 10:00:00 AM
With 2022 came a return to “normal” activity for many, and the event industry saw an uptick in in-person events. Perhaps the workforce needed to dedicate their time to a conference without interruption, or maybe they needed in-person connections to maintain good mental health, or possibly they were craving human interaction to build their network and make new relationships.
Just because there was a surge in in-person events, however, doesn’t mean virtual event platform features disappeared. On the contrary, the pandemic altered the way many of us experience events, and several virtual event features, such as QR code use, event networking apps, and on-demand content, became popular with event attendees.
Another phenomenon that emerged post-pandemic is audiences’ consideration of sustainability in their decision on whether - and how - to attend an event. The pandemic exposed many of the benefits of virtual and hybrid events, including sustainable events. More event attendees are sensitive to the adverse environmental effects of in-person events, such as waste, travel-related carbon emissions, and more.
Going forward, event planners would be wise to rely on a fundamental understanding of the content audiences want, the format in which they want to access it, and the event experience attendees are seeking to win audiences’ time and attention.
In the current landscape, event planners must 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. But amidst all the chatter around hybrid events, 6Connex has actually built an enviable roster of clients hosting hybrid events (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 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 the same industry, with the 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 an event tech integration 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 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 product 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 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 plans. 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, and savvy event planners will turn to event solution 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.
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. There’s no limit to the format the content can take: printed collateral, recorded demos, podcasts, etc.
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 sharing 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 audiences can participate and to 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. Post-event, the presenter gains additional publicity as organizations use their virtual venue for long-term marketing.
Hybrid events are a nimble sales and marketing tool. By removing attendance barriers, they create a larger potential lead pool and empower event planners to create a personalized experience for these leads. Furthermore, their ability to shapeshift from an event to a media experience gives them staying power, which means they can continually feed sales pipelines. Similar to a news site, a hybrid event can offer long-term on-demand content formats and engagement opportunities. In fact, some companies are capitalizing on the evergreen nature of their hybrid events, regularly promoting the virtual content through social media and paid marketing channels to keep attendees coming back. In this way, organizations have transformed their hybrid events into a continuous revenue stream, using their virtual features to sell products, promote third party advertising, and direct attendees to sponsor websites.
6Connex is the leading provider of in-person, virtual, and hybrid event technology. Our secure, cloud-based platform expands audience reach. It 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 in-person, hybrid, and virtual event solutions. Contact our event software experts to request a virtual event platform demo and learn more about the 6Connex approach to hybrid events.
 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