Hybrid Event Marketing: How Top Event Marketers Are Thinking about Hybrid Events

In this expert-exclusive eBook, we share exactly how leading event marketers are thinking about running hybrid events and share their top tips on making yours an epic success.

Let’s get real—there have been major changes to event marketing since the pandemic. The face of the industry literally changed overnight, and virtual events fast became the new norm. Now that we’ve entered into a whole new event landscape, marketers are left with a pretty big conundrum: return to our in-person comfort zone, or continue to pave the way with virtual technology? For many modern field marketers, the answer is both. Hybrid events present marketers with a real ‘have your cake and eat it’ moment. And with 64% of companies already using a hybrid event model, it seems their audiences agree. But why does your business need to get in on the hybrid event marketing action? Just how real are the cost benefits? And what are the dos and don’ts for creating top hybrid events that really breaks the mould? We checked in with a group of leading hybrid event marketing experts to get the lowdown on how to run a hybrid event

Table of contents

In this expert-exclusive ebook we’ll initiate you into the world of hybrid events with successful strategies, including:

  • What makes hybrid marketing events an engaging and customer-centric option.
  • Where to scrimp and save vs. where to splash the cash.
  • Exactly which pitfalls to avoid along the way.

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3 reasons why hybrid is all about the customer

Your company needs hybrid. Why? Because your customers need hybrid. Customers are the beating heart of every brand, and engagement with them is everything. Events have always been central to that mission, but with hybrid, it’s easier than ever to increase the number of customers connecting with your brand. And with fully engaged customers generating 23% more revenue than average, what’s good for your customers is pretty awesome for your ROI too.

#1. Instantly take your events global

With Covid lockdowns forcing event marketers and attendees to enter the virtual age, embracing the change came with one major advantage: the ability to go global. So when pandemic restrictions mellowed, and in-person events returned, many marketers weren’t ready to give up this new-found access to their global community. And with hybrid event marketing, they didn’t have to. For Sage Intacct's VP of Corporate Marketing & Events, Stefanie Maragna, hybrid provides an awesome supplementary opportunity to engage with customers outside of standard in-person events.

“When I think about hybrid events, they’re about expanding the reach of our in-person events, not cannibalizing them.”

And for companies that already operate globally, Sarah Stealey Reed, Senior Director of Global Strategic Events at Zendesk, believes inclusivity across nations has to be top of mind.

“As a global organization, we're very cognizant of inclusivity and regional nuances that impact our ability to gather in person.”

quote from Sarah Reed of Zendesk

For experts like Stefanie and Sarah, hybrid is a great way to scale customer-centricity across borders. In fact, 47% of event organizers say hybrid events help them connect with internationally dispersed audiences.

#2. Broaden your attendee range and personas

Clearly, hybrid events can open marketers up to a whole new world of attendees — and not just in terms of location. Layla Revis, Vice President of Brand Experience at Pure Storage, says that when it comes to hybrid events, there is an entire spectrum of participants to consider — each with different interests, responsibilities and seniority levels.

“Our audience depends on the event and can consist of IT decision makers, VPs of IT Infrastructure, CIOs, Storage Admins, and DevOps professionals. We also have events for media, analysts, employees, and partners.”

With the help of hybrid event marketing, Layla can leverage digital event formats to cater to a wider audience within a single event — producing separate customer journeys for each attendee type, with different tracks, sessions and speakers. Through unlimited virtual capacity, you can connect with more attendees and customer personas in one event than ever before — and not only across geographical borders but also across role, function and organization type.

#3. Do what’s right for the customer

Beyond expanding your reach and range of opportunities, these expert marketers agree that prioritizing customer choice and safety is another big part of what makes hybrid events special. Because the world has changed. Some people can’t wait to get out there and mingle. Others are more cautious: 57% of people are nervous about getting back to in-person events and experiences.

For Stefanie Maragna, a company that really cares for their customers will allow for both, through hybrid.

“We incorporate elements of both physical and virtual events into our strategy, to appeal to attendees who are comfortable joining in-person, without excluding those who are not.”

And Sarah Stealey Reed agrees, adding that it’s not simply attendee preference that event marketers have to consider, it’s the employer’s position too.

“It's very important that we recognize that individuals may express a desire to attend in-person events, but that their company may not recommend it.”

But beyond safety concerns, doing what’s right for the customer can simply boil down to a matter of timing, says Morgan Laskey, Head of Brand Events at Klaviyo.

“We realize our community is busy running online businesses, so conveniency is key to them engaging in our events.”

quote from Morgan Laskey of Klaviyo

If you’re ready to grow your reach and increase your revenue, while giving your customers every option to engage with your brand in a safe and comfortable way — hybrid is the answer. And our marketing masterminds have some awesome insider tips for how to achieve that, at a fraction of your pre-Covid in-person event price.

How hybrid events can boost your bottom line

Taking events virtual has been a real money-saver (and maker) for a lot of businesses. With no venues, catering, branding, travel or staffing costs to consider, event ROI has skyrocketed. But with many industries still in recovery mode, managing P&Ls and generating revenue is still crucial to survival. Here’s what the experts had to say about how to walk the line between creating out-of-this-world hybrid events, without breaking the budget.

Effectively manage your budget

With over 25 years of experience, event marketing ace Stefanie Maragna knows a thing or two about balancing the books for next-level events.

event marketing quote from Stefanie Maragna of Sage Intacct

When it comes to hybrid, Stefanie says it’s all about effective management:

  • Be flexible with your budget.
  • Align your objectives with your execution.
  • Record content but don’t waste money on production.
  • Generate revenue through providing sponsorship opportunities.
  • Use scheduling tools to facilitate crucial networking opportunities.

Ask if it needs to be hybrid

Having spent over a quarter of a century becoming the best in the biz, Zendesk’s Senior Director of Global Strategic Events, Sarah Stealey Reed, has learned how to stretch a budget from time to time. So, if a great hybrid event means spending big money, Sarah suggests a re-think:

Ask the important questions: Why does this event matter? Why am I doing the event? Does it need to be hybrid?

Don't overcomplicate. Pre-pandemic hybrid meant merely live-streaming the keynote. That clearly doesn't work. Now hybrid means at least two experiences for every event, physical and digital. But, sometimes you don't need both—especially if your budget is tight.

Sarah’s advice is to “Keep your money in digital-first and then supplement with small, in-person gatherings that are less show and more purpose.” “If you do truly need hybrid, be cautious you don't fall back into old ways. Audiences are fine with mini-keynotes, less flash, and tighter overall events. Be open and willing to reinvent and your audience will follow.”

Choose the right software to save more money over time

Pure Storage’s Layla Revis has a seriously impressive series of VP titles under her belt. So if you’re looking for some pearls of wisdom on the technical side of hybrid, chances are she’s been there.

Here are her budget-friendly pro tips:

  • Use software like Allocadia to track your budgets. 
  • Ask your vendors lots of questions prior to purchasing in order to get more accurate quotes. (By doing this you also stop costs from creeping up.)
  • Find cost-effective tools that allow you to work in a self-service capacity.

"Focus on finding tools with built-in support. Often robust tools require a lot of support and have high costs for additional features. Costs to manage platforms like this have been higher than we really needed," says Layla Revis, Vice President of Brand Experience at Pure Storage.

Prioritize prioritization

As Klaviyo’s Head of Global Brand Events, Morgan Laskey quickly adapted to the Covid restrictions by taking her events virtual. Now, with in-person events making a return, Morgan is switching it up again and smashing the hybrid game. Her mantra? Prioritization is everything.

  1. First, determine how many people you expect/want in person, vs. how many could join virtually.
  2. Spending money on the in-person experience is important, but do not overspend if it’s to the detriment of a strong virtual experience.
  3. Set aside a budget for safety measures and COVID precautions.
  4. Nothing is worse than a bad connection—prioritize this component.
  5. Be transparent with your production partner—if they're good, they'll work with you on whatever budget you have and help put your money to best use.

For Morgan, “It's all about balance, but in the current climate you’re likely to have more digital viewers—no one will notice if you cut back on some of the in-person elements, an activation, eight different salads, a fancy dessert. Put that extra money on the digital side to make sure you have a stellar experience there.” Hybrid doesn’t have to mean expensive. But it does mean effective. Today, hundreds of field and enterprise event marketers are growing their global reach and ROI via hybrid events. And you can too. Avoid these 10 common hybrid event pitfalls for a running start.

The top 10 hybrid event pitfalls event marketers make

Here's what expert hybrid event marketers Stefanie Maragna, Stealey Reed, Layla Revis, and Morgan Laskey think are the top 10 hybrid event pitfalls event marketers make.

  1. Marketers often think they can just plug and play the in-person event into a virtual event platform and it will be the same experience for the attendee.
  2. Assume streaming a keynote or two means their event is hybrid.
  3. Fail to prepare for the unknown.
  4. Overcomplicate and fall back on old habits.
  5. Assume that all audiences want to go back to in-person events.
  6. Non-event marketers underestimate the level of planning needed.
  7. Event marketers often fail to realize that hybrid can mean a higher spend and a higher chance of burnout, due to the doubling up of effort required.
  8. It’s assumed that hybrid is always necessary.
  9. Marketers focus their time, energy and budget on creating amazing in-person experiences, sometimes forgetting their virtual attendee experience.
  10. They consider uploading the in-person event content to be hybrid.

Dos and don’ts for a smooth hybrid event

Create two separate experiences—one digital, one in-person.

Release recorded sessions via video and have an online discussion about the content during, or immediately after, with a presenter.

Always make hybrid part of your event strategy—it is the best fallback against a change of plans or venue cancellation for solely in-person events.

Prioritize your virtual component—people are nervous about attending events and, for others, it’s a matter of convenience. Virtual is their lifeline. 

Stretch your timelines—be realistic with your time allocation.

Ensure you plan for contractor costs— you may need additional support executing hybrid events.

Don’t force hybrid if you don’t need to—sometimes smaller, in-person events may be a better alternative, sometimes a virtual event is the answer. 

Don’t lose sight of the leads you could appeal to virtually—put equal focus and attention there too.

Don’t forget, virtual attendees are just as important—the experience should be different, but just as good.

Hybrid Events: Access all areas

Hybrid events are here to stay. But it’s down to you to take full advantage of them. For event marketers brave enough to host one, hybrid events offer an all-access pass to the revenue-boosting benefits of both in-person and virtual events. An engaging experience. Closer connections. And amplified ROI. With the help of a next-level event platform, you can make your journey into hybrid events one worth remembering.

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