The Balancing Act of Digital and In-Person B2B Events – An eBook Recap

 

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a shift for all people and all businesses around the globe. 

Events teams, in particular, were hit significantly due to the pandemic. In fact, 77% of UK events and business exhibitions paused trading completely at some point since the first lockdown in 2020. 

This has taken a massive toll on many industries, including the B2B technology sector, who often rely on events in their content strategy to help them provide information to their audience in the most engaging manner.

In order to limit financial losses, numerous B2B events were pushed back or moved online. 6Connex, a virtual venue platform, stated that virtual events increased by 1000% during the pandemic. They alone hit over 52,000 events during the lockdown period. 

Since the lockdown occurred, many businesses have found a new way of working and hosting events. Some have gone back to in-person events, whereas others have stuck to online events. A handful of businesses have done both by adopting hybrid events into their marketing strategy. 

In Chapter 2 of the Technology CMO Outlook Report, Colin Jacobs, Managing Director of immediate future and Kathryn Strachan, Managing Director of Copy House, interview several technology experts like IFS, ServiceNow, ContentCal, and Adobe to get their insights into balancing in-person and virtual B2B events.

You can take a look at experts opinions on events and how they plan to approach them in the future by downloading the eBook now, or you can continue reading for a deeper insight into this chapter.

In-Person vs Virtual Events

In contrast to virtual events, in-person events are where all attendees are present in the same location. These events are incredibly popular, and 84% of millennials prefer in-person events as it gives them the opportunity to network with others as well as gain knowledge and insight from the event itself. 

In-person events are also great because they are more personal. In the B2B sector, it can be easy to lose sight of your target audience and forget that you’re selling to a person, not a business. So in-person events help you put a name to a face and create a stronger relationship with your target audience. 

On the other hand, virtual events can be done on numerous platforms. For example, Copy House hosts a monthly TechTalks webinar series. Due to the online nature of the event, all tickets are offered via Eventbrite and hosted over Zoom. Especially during the pandemic, many others have done the same or used external virtual event venues to help host their event. 

Both virtual and in-person events have their pros and cons. Here is a quick comparison of both. 

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Flexibility: 

Unlike in-person events, where everyone must be in a fixed location, virtual events can be attended by people from all over the world. This is great moving forward as remote working has become increasingly popular, and allows the organisers the flexibility to open the event to a larger audience with ease.

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Cost and Capacity: 

Live events can often be pricey as attendees pay for more than just the knowledge extracted from the event. The price can also fluctuate depending on the demand. 

 

In-person events can be more particular about the number of people attending, especially post Covid, where social distancing can still be implemented at certain event locations. 

 

A virtual event can still have some limits in terms of capacity, however they are more flexible with the number of attendees. Virtual events also tend to be cost-effective as there is less overall expenditure. For example, there is no need for venue hire, food catering, sound operations, etc. 

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Eco-friendly and Reliable:

Virtual events are also eco-friendly in comparison to live events. By hosting a virtual event, you are playing a pivotal role in reducing your carbon footprint and making the world cleaner.

 

Virtual events can also continue taking place despite any external interference such as bad weather or a global pandemic. 

 

However, virtual events can also be subjected to disturbances if the attendee or hosts have poor Wi-Fi signal and keep cutting in and out of events. That’s why 67% of event organisers say that a big challenge they face is getting technology to run smoothly for a successful virtual event. 

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Engagement: 

Did you know that if an attendee is not physically at an event, they only pay attention 23% of the time? 

 

Meaning, if a virtual event fails to grasp your audience’s attention, lacks interaction and engagement, the attendees can get bored or distracted. This can lead them to sign out early. 

 

We’ve all heard the coined term of ‘Zoom-fatigue’ and this still rings very true today. As more people work remotely, more time is spent in online meetings, so unless your event stands out people will switch-off before you warm up. 

 

“We heard from our members that they were getting two, three, or even four times more attendees at their annual events in contrast to their past in-person events. 

 

However, the challenge was that people weren’t staying for the whole event. Now, I think there’s been a switch to smaller, more interactive relationship-building events. It’s the creativity of events that are making the difference.” 

Bev Burgess, Senior Advisor at ITSMA

 

“There’s going to be a lot of webinar fatigue, which is why innovation in how we do things will be so important. So, how can we make a virtual event more enticing? What do we need to include to make it attractive to people? I think answering these questions will be the biggest challenge.”

Sarah Rutherford, Senior Marketing Director at FICO

 

Continuing, as mentioned before, virtual events can also eliminate face-to-face interactions and limit networking opportunities. As a result, virtual events can fail to provide attendees with the full event experience they would have otherwise had if attending an in-person event.

 

Therefore, creative solutions will be needed to keep a virtual audience engaged and allow them to network and experience an event to its full potential. 

Are Hybrid Events the New Future? 

Over the last few years, we have all experienced virtual and in-person events and know that there are several pros and cons to both. 

“[During the pandemic] Everyone jumped to webinars, and for a short period, it was a great way to communicate with people working from home. But with the same speed, excitement arrived, webinar overload and digital fatigue landed. It became somewhat mundane.”

Graeme Stoker, Integrated CX Senior Campaigns Manager at Nutanix.

For this reason, numerous B2B companies have taken a hybrid approach to events. A hybrid event is an event where some people attend in-person, and others sign in virtually.

Although this seems like the perfect blend between the two, 71.1% of event organisers said connecting an in-person audience and a virtual audience is their biggest challenge.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid events. 

Advantages of Hybrid Events

More Choice 

By hosting hybrid events, you allow your audience to select whether they would prefer to attend physically or virtually. This is great for those who live abroad or cannot physically attend. 

It’s also good for businesses that want to limit the number of physical attendees. They can hire a space that covers the amount of people they desire as opposed to finding the biggest space possible to cover as many people as possible.

Ability to Network

Networking is exceptionally important during all B2B events. In fact, 81% of event organisers have stated that networking capabilities are a key contributor to audience satisfaction during hybrid events. 

Increases Diversity and Promotes Inclusion 

As mentioned above, it can be challenging for people to attend in-person events if they live abroad and do not have the physical or financial means of attending. By having events that can be accessed virtually from anywhere in the world, it allows for greater diversity, as people can log in and get connected from all around the globe. 

Disadvantages of Hybrid Events

Finding the Right Venue

Shockingly, 35% of event organisers say that finding the right venue to host a hybrid event is a challenge in itself. 

The location would need to accommodate those who are physically attending and also be equipped to cater to those virtually attending. 

Delivering the Perfect Event 

Every event has its challenges, whether it’s virtual or in-person. This is no different for hybrid events. That’s why 71.1% of organisers stated that connecting the in-person and virtual audiences together is their biggest challenge.

The communication issues do not stop there. Shockingly 46% of event organisers have difficulties engaging a virtual and in-person audience simultaneously. That’s why 39% of people who virtually attend a hybrid event tend to feel less included than those who do attend. 

There can also be server connectivity issues that ruin the virtual experience for some attendees. This can push online attendees to feel like they are not prioritised to those attending in-person. 

Two Events in One

Hosting a hybrid event is similar to hosting two events but in one. Both in-person and virtual attendees will have different needs. This can become challenging and costly for the host of the event. 

Businesses hosting hybrid events must be able to offer a smooth event for both attendees without jeopardising the other’s experience. For example, if there are connection issues with the servers, it would be unfair for the virtual attendees to miss out on any vital information, but it would also be inconsiderate for the speakers to constantly repeat themselves. 

Therefore, the host must be on top of both means of communication and ensure both sets of attendees feel included, engaged and welcomed. 

Get Marketing Insights from Today’s Tech Leaders

Deciding whether you should have an in-person, virtual or hybrid event can be a challenge. With all three you will face some form of hardship. However, once you have decided which format will best suit your B2B technology company and your audience, you can then make a solid plan that will help you to avoid the cons that come with it. 

For more insights into the balancing act of digital and in-person experiences, download the Technology CMO Outlook Report today. You can hear directly from the tech giants themselves including the likes of IFS, ServiceNow, ContentCal, and Adobe and see how they dealt with the challenges they faced during the pandemic and how they plan on moving forward.