BtoB Magazine wrote an article on the Importance of In-Person Events compared to Virtual and Hybrid Events. I agree that in-person events have many valuable strengths but I don’t think it needs to be an either/or decision. I like to look at in-person events and digital events as two different marketing channels much like radio and TV. Each channel has its own benefits and when you develop your marketing strategy it’s important to integrate both channels to drive your customers through the engagement process.
Some of the key benefits of in-person events:
- Attendees’ ability focus on content and emotional experiences allow them to integrate it into long term memory Online attendees tend to multi-task & may not retain as much information
- Positive emotions from in-person events make it easier to spread new thinking and build relationships (it’s easier to pass around the Kool Aid).
- In-person relationships tend to be stronger face-to-face.
- It’s easier to accelerate and close sales opportunities at in-person events.
Benefits of virtual/hybrid events:
- Ability to reach a much wider audience
- Many attendees are not able to attend in-person – budget, geography, travel limitations, being out of the office for too long, etc.
- Convenience of consuming content online anytime/anywhere.
- Matching audiences’ learning styles – Audiences have different learning preferences – by providing both in-person and online content users are able to choose which format is best for them.
- Incremental reach at relatively low cost – The content, facilities and AV are already paid for by the in-person event. Adding the online components are relatively inexpensive and can potentially drive engagement many times that of the in-person event
- Engagement through social media and networking tools – some virtual event platforms have networking tools for attendees built-in and you can use the networking effect of social media to extend your reach and the dialog.
- Light up the Community: One of the most important components for creating and maintaining an active community is providing great content (content is still king). Live streaming your in-person events can keep your community engaged and could provide a steady flow of valuable content.
- Extend the life of your content – Conference recordings can live on indefinitely for users to consume on-demand using the format of their choice – video, audio podcasts, PPT decks, etc. If you’re going to record the content for consumption later anyway, then adding a live component of a hybrid event will be an incremental cost.
- Relatively low cost of creating a perpetual event: Once you’ve developed a platform and community for your digital events adding content into that channel can be relatively inexpensive.
Look for ways to drive your in-person attendees to join your broader reach online experiences throughout the year and find ways to convert your online audiences to your deeper-touch in-person events. Integrate your other social, digital and traditional marketing efforts as part of your strategy for customer engagement. If you look at the sales cycle as a circular process, instead of a linear funnel, you can on-board your prospects using a variety of marketing channels and provide them with a rich variety of engagement types throughout the their lifetime as your customer.
Let me hear your thoughts on how you have integrated both online and in-person events into your marketing process?