Last week I attended and spoke at the Virtual Edge Summit. This event focused on virtual events, education, conferences and meetings. Over the course of the event I heard some key themes regarding virtual and hybrid events that really resonated. I wanted to share a quick recap on those themes:
- To quote Cisco’s own Kara Wilson, VP, Unified Communications and Collaboration Solutions “Hybrid is the new black.” In 2009 there was a lot of focus on virtual-only events, in 2010 some of that attention shifted to hybrid events, and in 2011 there will be even greater increase in hybrids as more event planners accept/understand that adding a virtual component and moving to a hybrid model does NOT cannibalize physical event attendance but rather drives future physical event attendance.
- Creating a great hybrid experience requires looking beyond cloning the physical event in a virtual format. Hybrid event planners need to look at what translates well (ala keynote broadcast) from the physical event to the virtual audience, what unique experiences (ala executive chat sessions) can be programmed for the virtual audience, as well as what audiences may engage virtually that don’t engage physically (ala business decisions makers/small business owners/etc.) and whether these audience types required a tailored virtual experience.
- Hybrid events can enable a two way conversation between the physical and virtual audiences. However in order to achieve this event planners need to spend time educating speakers, sponsors and event staff on how to foster the dialogue. Event planners also need to look beyond Twitter back channel and understand how to leverage asynchronous tools such as blogs and discussion forums to further discussion in a digestible and manageable way.
- It takes a village to pull off a successful virtual only and/or hybrid event. Hint, hint…if you are thinking about turning your existing event into a hybrid or adding a virtual only event to your marketing repertoire you should also be thinking about building out a dedicated team focused on the virtual event format. You heard me right, to pull off a successful hybrid experience don’t count on adding virtual to existing physical event team roles. Virtual is a unique event format and therefore a job role which requires event expertise combined with an understanding of compelling online engagements peppered with a bit of community building/mining experiences.
For those who have been producing virtual events for some time now you are probably reading the themes above and going hallelujah, been there…done that. For those just dipping their toes into the virtual event pool I can’t stress enough how important these themes are to ensuring your long term success.
There were some excellent write-ups on Virtual Edge Summit, check out these blog posts for more learnings
Notes From the (Virtual) Edge
Virtual Events – The Best and Worst Trends of 2010
Top 5 Virtual Event Questions from Virtual Edge
Distance Curation of Virtual Edge Summit