Meet Pierre Boesinger, Head of Sales at SpotMe as he talks all things hybrid. Experienced Business Development and Sales Management professional with an FT Top 100 MBA degree and a strong attraction to event innovations changing the world while making people’s lives better.
Hear his thoughts on the evolving role of event tech and feel free to follow him on LinkedIn for more weekly insights.
The future isn’t virtual
I don’t like the term ‘virtual’ events…I know it’s been a buzzword in the world of events over the past year, but it just doesn’t seem to make sense to me.
What does virtual mean for an event really: the fact that you’re not onsite? When you watch a football game on TV, is it a virtual football game? No, it’s a real football game, which you watch on TV. Players are actually running, the game is actually happening, and your team is actually winning (…or not)! A FIFA21 game would be a virtual football game; potentially great, if you’re skilled at it, but virtual!
Whether you watch a football game from home, from the pub, or in the stadium, it’s an actual live game. Same with events. Onsite or online, there’s no such thing as a ‘virtual’ or a ‘real’ event: in both cases, it is a live event. And in all cases, attendees should have a great experience!
Hope vs Reality
‘Virtual event’ platforms exist and have actually been a trend since the pandemic dramatically disrupted the event industry, over a year ago. Avatars guiding participants around a virtual version of a 5-star hotel…has a definite wow factor. But do they provide the experience your audience expects? Probably not. They are novel, yes; reassuring for event owners used to selecting venues for their events, yes; but do they inspire the confidence required to engage with the content you would like your audience to consume?
Online engagement is hard and history has provided evidence that audiences, whatever their age and origin, were more inclined to connect to an easy-to-navigate, LinkedIn-looking environment where they can consume the content they want, when they want, and just enjoy the experience. Not convinced? Go to Netflix and tell me from where I can enter the virtual cinema room!
Avoid costly mistakes
Events are a key element of how businesses build relationships with target audiences; they are a crucial part of a marketing strategy and a great way to keep audiences connected and informed. They are also very expensive: in industries with a multi-touch sales cycle and/or lots of regulation to deal with (e.g. Pharma, Life Sciences, Professional Services, Finance, etc), the average event budget of a company can be the equivalent of 0.5 to 2% of their annual turnover.
Perhaps the greatest learning event owners have got from the pandemic: digitising event strategies is not only the best way to make sure that they become ‘future-proof’, but that everything becomes much more measurable with digital. Everything including the budget and the return on investment.
Making your event strategy ‘digital-ready’ will help you to:
- Increase the volume of content consumed by your target audience.
- Increase the size and the accuracy of your outreach.
- Offer more engaging experiences, with more interactivity and easy access to relevant content.
- Better analyse behaviours, to come up with clear action items.
- Better track your performance indicators and accurately estimate your ROI.
- Improve constantly!
The right events platform will keep you focused on that strategy and create value for your business, through running successful events.
Psst… the secret of hybrid events
As event professionals begin to plan for the return of in-person gatherings in late 2021 and beyond, the vast majority now believe in-person and virtual audiences, presenters, and experiences will intertwine forever.
The Forrester Wave™: B2B Marketing Events Management Solutions, Q1 2021
Often in the events sector, online and in-person have been discussed as an either/or. The new trend is hybrid events, where presenters and audiences choose to participate in-person and online.
Breaking news: they have been around for a while! The pandemic may be speeding up the transition, but hybrid events have long been the best way for some companies to maximise their outreach and therefore more easily achieve the objectives of their events strategy. At SpotMe, for instance, we’ve been helping Novartis deliver hybrid events such as the European Patient Innovation Summit since 2019.
But for many companies, hybrid events are new and some details are important to consider. For instance, not all experiences within a hybrid event can be…’hybridised’. Let’s take breakout sessions; if there was a mix of people in the room and online, participation could feel unbalanced. A successful solution some of our clients have opted for is to split the breakouts into those who are physically at the event and those who are attending online. That means everyone is sharing the same breakout experience within their group. In plenary sessions, questions can be asked by both the people in the room and those online; their experience will be relatively similar, from an interactivity standpoint. A good rule of thumb to ensure a consistent experience for both remote and on-site participants: keep the live part of the content delivery to less than a third of the total content delivered throughout the event. This means that two thirds of your content and activities can be consumed on demand, offering everyone the same level of engagement.
The magic is knowing which experiences to keep separate and which to seamlessly blend. That requires 1) a good understanding of why people are there and 2) robust planning, not just before the event, but also during, and after. And of course, 3) an event platform that can handle all three forms of communication, at the same time, so you avoid using multiple tools and the inherent inconvenience in terms of budget, implementation, operations, administration, and data collection.
A single platform
Your business is probably already using various platforms to deliver your events. Maybe you use Zoom or Teams for small events, and a variety of external platforms to deliver your webinars and large ‘Tier 1’ events. Often these technologies have been brought in to do a specific job and don’t integrate easily with other technologies you are using for the event. You muddle through, but over time there is the risk that significant value is being lost. A single platform, which integrates with your other systems, frees you up to focus on the event strategy and allows your team to focus on their jobs.
Seven signs your events platform is doing its job well:
- Easy to use
“None of our audience felt they missed out.”
Your event platform doesn’t require an IT specialist to set it up and use. You can change how it looks to match your brand and target content at specific groups to build engagement (and avoid content spam). Participants to your events easily find their way around, whatever their level of comfort with technology.
“We are in a regulated industry, our customers will not tolerate a security breach, it would be catastrophic.”
Designed to keep your data secure, your platform’s number one priority is for you to meet your data and compliance requirements using recognised industry standards and certifications; for example, SOC2.
Your platform should be able to blend in-person, online, and mixed audiences. Your platform needs to provide a seamless, engaging experience for all participants and speakers. It must allow you to scale events up, or down depending on your circumstances. You are confident it’s future-proof.
“I just need to know it’ll work.”
Peace of mind, that your platform will consistently deliver so you can focus on setting up your strategy, creating the content, and achieving your goals. In the case you have a bug (no one’s perfect!), you know that you’ll get the support you need to get it fixed as soon as possible.
“It’s easy to network at my events.”
Events enable people to meet, learn, and transact. Your platform should make it easy for them. Helping them to find other people to connect with using tools like participant matching and 1-2-1 chats or group calls with built-in video conferencing.
“I didn’t need a data analytics expert to measure ROI on my event.”
Events generate powerful data if you’re able to use it. A platform which has easy to use dashboard and reporting tools for all elements of your event means you can track everything from event registration, top features, sessions, sponsor content, and the most active participants. Data which will inform your events strategy.
- A single platform
“Not a spreadsheet in sight!”
Obvious maybe, but we see so many event tools which only do part of the job. Your events platform should do all of the above taking you from planning, through delivery, to reporting after the event.
Opportunity to grow your audience
Back to football: do you know how football has become the most popular sport in the world? The day TV cameras entered the stadiums. Audiences just constantly grew, in the stadium and on TV, always consuming more football, always bringing more revenues to football teams. You can apply the same theory to your event strategy. Don’t reject online events because that’s not where you currently excel, what you personally like, or what you’ve done in the past. Understand the value of each experience and the benefits of each format to maximise the outcome of your event strategy.
If your marketing team is spending more time on the events platform than nailing their events strategy, it’s time for a rethink.