How can you extend the value of events in the hybrid era? In a roundtable event, we posed this question to three of today’s top event leaders:
- Sarah Reed, Senior Director of Global Strategic Events at Zendesk, told us about her experimentation with event types. By installing event guardrails, she honed in on a handful of optimal formats.
- Jessica Vogol, Vice President of Marketing at Movable Ink, revealed how leading organizations break out hybrid budgets into two distinct events—in-person and virtual.
- David Moricca, Founder and CEO at Socialive and our co-host for the event, unpacked what it takes to convert an event’s worth of content into usable long-term marketing assets.
Drawing from their experiences, the experts dove into the industry changes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic during the roundtable. They discussed how they adapted and shared proven strategies for maximizing impact at every last conference, exhibition, and webinar. Here are three major takeaways from this roundtable experience:
No. 1: Proving Hybrid Event ROI
“We saw ROI for our digital events take off in a way that we weren’t anticipating.”
Entering 2020, Zendesk was running “too many events.” The pandemic only increased the pressure, because any marketer with a Zoom account could run an event.
So Sarah Reed created an events council to provide governance and control. The council challenged the company’s marketers to justify their events, asking questions like:
- Why are you running this event?
- What is the purpose of the event?
- Why does the event matter?
- Who is the event for?
With guardrails in place, Zendesk’s total number of events began to fall. Those webinars, workshops, and networking sessions that made it through the approval process were the strongest and most impactful.
“[The events council] helped us get a clear intent on each event,” she said. “We’ve not perfected it yet — but we are certainly in a better place than how we entered the year.”
Despite running 24% fewer events in 2020 than in 2019, Reed’s virtual event results were off the charts:
- Event registration and attendance were both up around 75%.
- Increased attendance drove improved lower-funnel activity.
- Return on Event (ROE) spiked by more than 400%.
No. 2 Budgeting for Hybrid Events
“We have drawn a line in the sand. Our annual conference is going ahead in-person …”
Movable Ink’s annual in-person conference went back to in-person in 2022 but with a virtual component. However, as Jessica Vogol began planning the event, she realized just how much event budgeting had changed.
“To produce an experience that is amazing both in-person and digital, we’re moving toward budgeting for two completely different events,” she said.
Within each budget, prioritization is key. You have to ask important questions like the following:
- What elements are most important for each audience?
- Are live-streaming and other AV production for virtual events mission-critical, or can you deliver content the next day?
- How much are you spending on accessibility features like closed captioning?
Although each part of a hybrid event is its own production, there’s another element to budgeting: interaction.
As we fully embrace the hybrid era, what will make or break events is how the virtual and in-person events interact.
- How do virtual attendees talk to their in-person counterparts?
- What event model do you use? (For inspiration, check out our hybrid event examples.)
- What technology powers cross-format engagement?
- How do you connect people after the event?
“People want community,” said Vogol. “I might not network with someone at home on their laptop. But if we are both part of this, a community — whether that’s Slack, LinkedIn, or another tool — that’s a huge opportunity.”
No. 3 Extending Hybrid Event Value
“One of our biggest frustrations is the idea that you publish content and everybody automatically sees it.”
Even a small event generates a ton of content. Hours of videos, reams of transcripts, page after page of chat logs, and breakout room recordings. To marketers, Socialive’s Moricca asks: “What comes next? How do you extend the value of your event experience?”
Many organizations are splitting longer videos and scripts into shorter, bite-sized chunks. An hour-long keynote presentation becomes five short single-topic talks. A 40-minute roundtable becomes a dozen 90-second teaser clips for social media. A 30-minute event session becomes a podcast.
It’s about distilling ideas and making them more consumable. Diehards will attend the live event or watch the entire recording. Bite-sized iterations make event content attractive to so many more.
Short-form content is so effective that some teams are doubling down on the format. At ZenDesk, for example, Reed is building an event around “modular content.”
“We’re doing an event with all-modular content,” she said. “I’m creating 20 pieces of short-form (10-minute) content. You can watch it on-demand or as a sequential agenda.” You can consume the content in whatever mechanism you choose.”
Not sure how to start repurposing your event content? Read “8 Ways To Repurpose Event Content and Level Up Your Content Strategy.”