The simplest definition of “hybrid” is “an activation or event that can be accessed by both in-person and online audiences,” said Pete Riddell, executive creative director, customer experience and storytelling at the marketing agency Derse. But, as Riddell explores in a recent white paper for event marketers, “The Big Rethink: How to recalibrate your event and trade show strategies in this new era” — and the results of the latest Convene COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard results also reveal — hybrid has many layers.
“Captivating at-home audiences today while planning for the safe return of in-person experiences are links in a longer chain that culminates in how virtual and in-person experiences can be integrated into a hybrid strategy, which is the next frontier for event marketers,” according to “The Big Rethink.” The white paper cites Event Marketer’s 2021 Experiential Marketing Forecast report in which 70 percent of brands plan to offer hybrid experiences in 2021.
Adopting a hybrid strategy, according to Derse, means thinking of “virtual and in-person experiences not in silos, but in terms of an infinity loop — an ongoing dialogue with customers taking place across different moments and places — to deliver relevant connections that fuel the customer journey forward.” Here are some of the tactics suggested in “The Big Rethink:”
Employ virtual before, during, and after in-person experiences. Examples include a virtual teaser or tour of what participants might experience on-site and making your virtual presence a destination for audiences to return to after they engage with you on-site. “A key to a quality virtual experience is to minimize online audiences feeling like they are missing out by not physically attending an experience,” according to the paper. “To maximize reach, consider imbuing your onsite experience with broadcast capabilities to livestream any signature moments, announcements, presentations, or performances. If appropriate, consider offering a VIP-level virtual experience for prioritized audiences where you reserve exclusive access to subject matter experts, executives, or live demonstrations.”
Create quality mobile-accessible web experiences — “microments” in a virtual and in-person event. “From allowing audiences to use their mobile device as a remote control for safely engaging in the physical world … to serving as a platform for surprise and delight experiences … mobile-accessible web experiences can help brands drive engagement by leveraging the one device audiences trust most — the one in their pocket.”
Consider creating augmented-reality “portals” that can be accessed by simply scanning a QR-code with a smart device’s camera. “You can give your audiences access to immersive environments and worlds via a simple scan from their phone,” Riddell said.
Stay flexible. “Be mindful that the information that’s available to you today, the insights and the expertise that you are drawing upon, are going to be radically different a month from now, two months from now,” Riddell said. “The constant refrain that we’re saying is, ‘The good news is, we’re going to be wiser a week from now than we are right now.’”
Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.