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Are Virtual and Hybrid Events Worth the Investment?

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By Rob Prevett, Director of Growth, Totem 

Anyone working within the events industry will know just how difficult, and in many cases costly, the past few years have been. As the pandemic hit and live events suddenly dropped off a cliff, event planners were forced to make some tough decisions, transitioning to a new world of online events almost overnight. 

Some will have invested early in virtual and hybrid events platforms. As they learnt more about the specific needs of virtual events, they may have found the platform didn’t hit the spot. Others invested later, making a more informed decision based on what they’d learnt about the limitations of low-cost video conferencing solutions. And there are others who have not invested in a hybrid events platform at all, continuing to use platforms like Zoom to provide an option, no matter how rudimentary, for people to experience their events online.  

All signs suggest that we’re now on the path towards a post-pandemic world, and as the number of in-person events begins to increase, all organisers are grappling with the question of what the future of events looks like and how they should invest to stay ahead of the game. 

 We’ve all learned a lot in the last few years. It’s clear that some events just don’t work online, others have proved to work well and will never go back to in person, and for many the future is a blend of in person and online. Whatever the format it’s clear that online events aren’t going away, and the business justification for investing in hybrid is stronger than ever.  

Here are five compelling reasons why it makes good business sense to invest in a hybrid events platform that is customisable, scalable and engaging. 

1. Attendees expect hybrid 

There has been a revolution in the minds of event attendees about how events can be attended, experienced and enjoyed. Regardless of the changes going on in the wider world, that mindset change will not be reversed. Indeed, according to 2022 research from Vimeo, 72 percent of delegates are expecting to attend just as many – if not more – online events, once in-person events return.    

But there’s more to come. Just as event organisers have become more savvy about virtual and hybrid, so too have attendees and sponsors for that matter. The expectations of audiences are becoming far more sophisticated. They expect seamless hybrid experiences that allow them to take part in every event through a blend of the online and offline. If you can’t respond to that need – they’ll look elsewhere. 

 2. Audiences will be more engaged 

We all know how difficult it can be to keep an audience engaged when they’re attending via their computer screen – the potential for friction is much higher than with face-to-face events. According to a report by the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO), more than 90% of attendees say the biggest thing they miss about in-person shows are human elements like networking and face-to-face meetups.  

 Events organisers need to grapple with this by using a platform that boosts interactivity with such elements as Q&A sessions and virtual forums, while allowing in-person and virtual audiences to engage with each other in innovative ways. A more engaged audience will have a better overall experience, which means they’ll attend your future events, thus growing revenues overall. 

 3. Revenues will be maximised 

By using a sophisticated events platform, organisers increase the number of ways that an audience can engage. By increasing the means of engagement, you increase the earning potential of every event. For instance, think about providing the opportunity for attendees to purchase content that is uniquely relevant to them, such as exclusive access to on-demand training sessions or other special offers. Couple this with more flexible options for sponsorships and commercial relationships and your hybrid platform will provide a far higher potential for ROI than low-cost solutions. 

 4. Your virtual event will be the equal of your physical event  

It’s event day. Your team will have worked hard to ensure that it goes without hitch. The physical event will be planned carefully, with a great deal of consideration going into the graphics, lighting, presentation, the food and refreshments and the overall experience of delegates. And then what do you do? You put it on Zoom for virtual attendees.  

By doing this, you’re damaging the value of your event brand by delivering an inferior experience for online attendees. It’s important to invest in a well-executed virtual option that matches the quality of your physical event – one that’s customisable, so that you can retain the right branding and look and feel throughout. And the online event should be just as well-supported on the day, to avoid any unexpected let downs that may pop up. 

5. You will gain useful data to inform the success of events to come 

In years gone by the best data you could provide sponsors was information from your badging team as to who was at your event – or not, as the case may be. Virtual and hybrid gives sponsors the same level of data and analytics that they have come to expect from the digital world. By partnering with a leading virtual events platform, you have the capability to collect a detailed array of delegate analytics to provide deeper insights into your audience and their engagement at your event.   

Data is key to our offering at Totem. We track users’ activity on the platform every 5 seconds, giving organisers and sponsors rich data such as session attendance, average presentation watch time, number of meetings booked, conversations had, literature downloaded and much, much more. Detailed analytics not only deliver great value for sponsors  but they also help organisers to better curate their future events by separating what worked from what didn’t. 

Above all it’s important to work with a platform that understands both the opportunities and limitations of hybrid and virtual events and how to get the most out of them. Totem is far more than just an events platform, working with clients as a trusted technology partner – as Isobel Peck, Chief Marketing Officer at Informa explains: “Totem get what people want to do at an event, what kind of content they want to consume and how they want to engage with people.”  

By investing in the right virtual and hybrid events platform, organisers can position themselves in the best possible place to meet the needs of attendees and navigate the future of the events world – whatever it may hold.