Going Hybrid: Event Strategy in 2021 is Becoming a Little Clearer

Events are at the core of the direct selling industry and vital to building culture and retention.

The past year has undoubtedly thrown major curveballs to events, and certainly to event planners. Many companies were forced to shift from in-person to virtual events. Still, hybrid events are predicted to significantly rise in popularity and necessity as event coordinators try to navigate an uncertain 2021.

Marketing firm Bizzabo surveyed more than 400 event and marketing professionals to better understand the future of in-person, virtual and hybrid events. The survey discovered unique benefits and challenges such as pricing strategies, budgets, engagement and logistics. While 72 percent of event organizers plan on investing in hybrid, just 24 percent said they have ever invested in hybrid experiences. Three-fourths of respondents said they pivoted events to virtual in 2020, and 47 percent said they canceled events. A little more than one-third said they plan on resuming at least some type of in-person events by spring 2021. Just 2.8 percent said their event strategy had not been impacted.

Virtual Benefits and Challenges

The Bizzabo survey shows that most virtual event organizers have not partnered with an outside production services company (62.6 percent), and 65.5 percent expected their budgets to decrease in 2021 due to COVID-19. Those are two of the main factors in the shift to virtual events, and respondents said the top three benefits of virtual events are:

• Reaching a wider audience (80.2 percent).

• Easier to land great speakers (39.5 percent).

• The ability to generate more leads, sales and convert more customers (20.5 percent).

Planning and conducting virtual events certainly comes with challenges. Survey respondents selected Networking and Engagement as the top two challenges. Slightly more than
50 percent selected Differentiation (difficulty creating unique and memorable experience for standees) as a challenge. Other notable challenges included Logistics (virtual events require different skills and resources), Sponsors (more difficult to provide valuable opportunities for sponsors) and Impact (more difficult to connect with customers).

What is a Hybrid Event?

In short, hybrid events combine elements of in-person and digital components. With the right planning and goals, it can bring the best of both. A hybrid approach gives attendees the option to attend the event at a distance or safely in person at a location that may not be able to host as many people as it would under normal circumstances. It is an excellent problem-solver for those who can’t or do not feel comfortable attending in person.

“With the rise of virtual and the upcoming adoption of hybrid events, there will be a need from marketers and planners for consistent technology,” according to CVENT. “As events have moved into a digital channel, event execution requires a new blend of planning and marketing mindsets and skillsets, not only to maximize their reach but to capture the data and insights that will increase
their value.”

Even with the rise of hybrid events, the Bizzabo survey shows that more than three-fourths of event planners have never hosted a hybrid event, and
71 percent admitted they have a clear understanding of what a hybrid event is. Still, 97 percent expect to see more hybrid events in 2021.

“In our view, nothing beats face-to-face interaction, but we have all learned to adapt and embrace the positives. The hybrid format not only offers people the choice of a remote or in-person experience, but also promises to be a more sustainable, inclusive, and profitable option as we move forward,” says a report by The Castle Group, a public relations and event-planning firm.


Event Technology Needs in 2021

Bizzabo’s “The Evolution of Events” report that features a survey of more than 400 event and marketing professionals revealed these top-five technology needs for planning and hosting events in 2021:

1. Tools to engage my virtual attendees – 71.5 %

2. A hybrid solution that can manage both my virtual and in-person events – 59.4 %

3. Tools to connect my sponsors and attendees both virtually and in-person – 50.6 %

4. The integration of virtual solutions into my event management software – 41.4 %

5. The integration of virtual solutions to my marketing or sales tools – 39.8 %