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Event Industry Trends, Event Planning & Management
15 May 2024 

Satellite Events: How Localized Gatherings Can Help Scale Your Event Strategy

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett
Chaviva Gordon-Bennett
Satellite Events: How Localized Gatherings Can Help Scale Your Event Strategy

You’ve mastered the art of event evolution — from in-person to virtual to hybrid (where in-person meets virtual). But have you added satellite events to your strategy?

According to the inaugural Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Event Technology Platforms, there’s a noticeable shift in the event industry from large, travel-heavy conferences to smaller, localized events. These events focus on delivering a more personalized and engaging experience through VIP-centric activities like roundtables, which require intricate logistical arrangements.

The demand for such specialized gatherings has prompted vendors to enhance their platforms, offering advanced features that manage role-based permissions and ensure brand compliance. These features include customizable workflows and ticket types that restrict access to certain activities, catering to the specific needs of regional events. This shift helps reduce the logistical burdens associated with large-scale events and provides attendees with more meaningful, interactive opportunities.

Ultimately, the more options you provide your attendees with, the better their overall experience. So how do you bridge the gap between virtual and in-person to ensure those who want to attend in-person can while allowing those who don’t want to hop on a plane to feel just as engaged and involved? The answer is satellite events.

What is a satellite event (aka micro-event)?

Satellite events, also known as micro-events, are smaller, localized events that occur in conjunction with more significant virtual and in-person events.

For example, let’s say you’re hosting your annual user conference. Potential participants are located around the United States — possibly even the world. Your headquarters is in Denver, but you have a large concentration of customers in Chicago, San Francisco, NYC, Portland, Atlanta, Miami, and Washington D.C.

To meet attendees where they are and create choice and equity of experience, you could create three experiences:

  1. Unlimited in-person event in Denver (or a limited-attendance VIP experience)
  2. Limited-attendance in-person events in key locations
  3. Unlimited virtual attendance with on-demand post-event content

Then, you can broadcast keynotes from your NYC HQ. You can also livestream smaller sessions from your satellite locations or speakers attending virtually.

Sound like a huge undertaking that requires lots of cash, resources, and tech? With the right event management partner, you can seamlessly and effortlessly deliver a memorable, one-of-a-kind experience.

What are the benefits of micro-events and satellite events?

As you continue to evolve your event strategy to make sense of what attendees want and what your organization needs, micro-events can help in more ways than one. Here are seven key benefits of adding satellite events to your strategy:

1. Lower Your Event’s Environmental Impact

Embracing satellite events enables organizers to create a more sustainable event strategy. A significant result of the pandemic alongside climate change is that more people are prioritizing environmental sustainability — and engaging with companies with green policies — than ever before.

Instead of folks flying in from around the globe to one location, satellite events encourage participants to attend without leaving their neck of the woods, which can positively impact the environment. According to one study, conferences with 5,000 attendees can reduce their carbon footprint by 98% by embracing a hybrid format.

In an age where people are increasingly environmentally conscious, satellite events can help ensure your events are well received by a broader, environmentally conscious audience.

2. Meet Attendees Where They Are

With micro-events, the entire experience becomes more convenient. In addition to saving on airfare, lodging, and other travel costs, attendees don’t have to devote huge chunks of time to travel. Additionally, professionals who are also caregivers — whether to a child, adult parent, or someone else — have more flexibility in how they want to attend.

By meeting people where they are, you can show your attendees that they are your top priority, making the experience more meaningful.

“If any of the listeners want to prove me wrong, please message me and we’ll talk about it, but I don’t think that meaningful connections happen at a 1,000+ [person] event. You see people walking through the corridors being a little bit reserved and a little bit afraid and pretending to be very busy on their phones because that’s just the way it is — and I’m guilty of this too.”  
Aleksandra Panyukhina
Director of Experience Marketing

3. Offer More Personalized Experiences

One of the best parts of satellite events is that they let you create personalized experiences. If you’re hosting micro-events in a few different cities, make sure that the catering reflects that city’s well-known eats, music, culture, and more. For example, for an event in Austin, you might want to cater in BBQ and Tex-Mex nosh, and in Chicago, you’d want to bring in a deep-dish pizza or hot dog vendor (pickles optional!).

Additionally, with smaller, focused events, collecting and analyzing data becomes more manageable. This allows for more precise measurement of attendee behavior, preferences, and feedback, leading to better-informed decisions for future events.

Bonus: Don’t forget about your virtual audience! If virtual attendees have paid to attend, send them timed gift cards to order lunch when the time is right so they feel like they’re part of the action.

4. Reach a More Diverse Audience

Satellite events help ensure your events are more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. After all, not everyone has the budget to pay for a ticket, flight, and a pricey hotel room. By hosting satellite events, you bring your events as close to attendees as possible, which extends your reach and allows you to engage a broader, more diverse audience. It can also be easier for attendees to convince their manager that it’s worthwhile from a financial and time perspective.

5. Increase Revenue Through Reach

When you offer a variety of options for attendance, you extend your reach, boosting revenue. Let’s say you have customers in Portland who want to attend the main event in NYC, but they can’t get to HQ because of previously scheduled client meetings. At $300 a head, you’re about to lose $3,000 because those 10 attendees can’t come. Or, best-case scenario, they’ll attend the virtual event — for free.

If you plan a micro-event in Portland, locals will buy tickets and attend in-person because they don’t have to fly across the country and miss out on that crucial client meeting. Problem solved!

6. Ensure Health and Safety

As a result of the pandemic, many attendees will never feel comfortable attending large in-person gatherings again. The benefit of satellite events is that each one will be accountable to local policies for health and safety, which may help convince on-the-fence attendees to sign up. They’re also more intimate and smaller, which has the benefit of delivering a more meaningful experience for attendees.

7. Increase Brand Affinity

One additional benefit of micro-events is that you can leverage your brand’s biggest fans as ambassadors by inviting them to lead the charge locally. For example, you might tap one or two customers or fans to be hosts for a satellite event or to headline the local event. Not only will these ambassadors invite their colleagues, friends, and others to the event — boosting attendance and revenue — but they’ll also feel a greater connection to your brand, which can have lasting effects.

8. Enhanced Networking Opportunities

Satellite events allow for more intimate networking experiences. Smaller, localized gatherings can foster deeper connections among attendees who may not have interacted in a larger setting. This personalized interaction can lead to stronger professional relationships and collaborations.

How do I create a hybrid event with satellite events?

So, how exactly do you start planning an event that includes several micro-events scattered across the country? As you begin thinking about incorporating satellite events into your strategy, it’s worth researching other events that have demonstrated what a successful hybrid event looks like.

For example, #PrideSummit is a great event to emulate (and they’re working with Bizzabo’s event management software to make it happen). In 2022, the event featured an in-person VIP experience with 10 concurrent satellite events in places like Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, Seattle, and Portland. On top of this, there is a free virtual option. The result is a highly accessible, inclusive event for all.

pride summit 2022 ticket page

Another great use case for micro-events is internal corporate events. For example, although sales kickoffs (SKOs) were traditionally large, in-person events with lots of hype and swag, today’s SKOs can leverage satellite events to cut down on travel time and costs. If you have sales reps across the country, create a series of local events with the keynote broadcasting from headquarters. This approach also lets your reps have more intimate interactions with colleagues in the area.

Extend Your Event’s Reach With Satellite Events

Implementing a satellite event strategy offers numerous benefits, from enhanced networking opportunities to increased brand reach and cost-effective engagement. By focusing on localized content and leveraging the flexibility of smaller events, you can create impactful experiences without overwhelming your resources. Remember, planning multiple micro-events doesn’t have to mean more work. For more tips on maximizing your event strategy while keeping efforts manageable, download our guide to doing more with less!

Editor’s note: This article was published in May 2022 and has been updated for quality and relevance.

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