The conference experience is no longer a level playing field and, as such, what attendees and association members want and expect is variable.
We are seeing some great examples of event teams seriously considering what’s important to the delegate and how they want or need to engage. However, the biggest challenge is often defining the nature of the delegate and what matters to them – and that is easier said than done.
There are always those who love to attend an event in-person, connect physically and visually with others and enjoy the experience of ‘being there’ and the buzz that goes with an in-person experience. However, there are now many who will choose not to come to a live event, whether that is because of lifestyle, the nature of their job, cost, accessibility to the location, time available or special or niche interests. Then there are those who just love to ‘dip into content’ at a place and time of their own choosing. There are also those with no choice at all, because attending a live event isn’t an option - whether because their organisations won’t or can’t afford to pay for them to travel,because they have young children and travel isn’t feasible, or because they have health concerns.
So, the fact is if you aren’t considering hybrid, you’re failing to understand and respond to how the potential delegate journey has diversified and evolved.
Adapt your strategies
It’s perfectlysensible and advisable to have a series of strategies that consider how to focus events, what the aims are and ways to deliver. Once this idea gains momentum within the team,extended events and content strategies will start to flourish.
Perhaps think about the potential delegate journeys as an investment? After all, if you’ve gone tothe effort of organising a live event, surely it makes sense to go to a little more effort to reach that broader audience through hybrid? After all, a little more effort can translate into better connections, enhanced engagement, and insome cases a better income for your event, association or business. It will almost certainly translate into more loyalty.
If, for example,you’re running a world congress that is going out to 70 countries on differenttime zones and speaking different languages, shouldn’t you be thinking about the delegate experience and journey in each of those geographies? You might have attendees from Spain as well as from several countries in South America,so you decide to offer Spanish translation. But the language and the experience will be different in Spain compared with Mexico and Colombia. Perhaps have some Mexican and Colombian speakers as a satellite for those audiences and sincethey are on a different time zone, do delayed transmission that includes some content from the main event wrapped around presentations from the Mexican and Colombian speakers?
Taking the trouble to tailoryour hybrid event to support different delegate journeys can massively improve engagement, build your membership, your network and your legacy.
Question what’s right
There are times whenthe focus of an event must include how to make it profitable. In this scenario organisers could be thinking,“What’s the profile of these delegates from different parts of the world?”, “Why would they come to a live event?” “What might stop them from coming?”, and “What can we do to still reach out and engage them more effectively, to make it meaningful and impactful for them, and potentially bring in current and future membership fees?”
Adapting your delegate journey for hybrid is really about building on the investment you’ve made inyour live event. That isn’t always easy and it’s why you need to be creative inyour event design or work with a partner like Open Audience who can help youget value out of your events.
About the author:
Leslie Robertson is the Founder of Open Audience, an audience engagement consultancy that specialises in making life sciences meetings more engaging with more positive, successful outcomes – whether in-person or in the virtual space. The Open Audience team helps to strategise and prepare pre- and post-meeting as well as providing real-time support and guidance during the meeting. Open Audience also offers customisable, multilingual engagement platforms that include interactive polling, surveys, and ideas exchange.