It’s a fact: Most companies worth partnering with want to work with event creators who have high-quality virtual event production skills. This is old news by now; newly accessible VR technology was already evolving the event industry before the COVID-19. But in the wake of a global pandemic, as society inches toward recovery, hybrid events have become even more integral to the world of sponsorship. With the threat of COVID-19 still hovering, many people are still understandably hesitant to attend large, crowded events. Enter hybrid events, which enable events to reach audiences of any size, anywhere in the world. It’s not hard to understand why mastering hybrid events has the potential to deliver more value than ever to sponsors.
Think about it. Sponsorship comes down to more than big ideas. Now more than ever, businesses are looking to expand and reinvent themselves, which means they want a return on their investment. They also want to grow their brand by expanding niche audiences. There are a number of ways that hybrid events open up a new world of branding opportunities. If you can figure out the best ways to deliver these opportunities, sponsors will be eating out of the palm of your hand.
You should never wait until the day of your event to start promoting your sponsors- that’s a given. In today’s world, much of that happens online. That’s exciting. Why? Well, evolving virtual technologies have made it possible to serve and connect with target audiences around the world. Let’s talk a little bit about promoting hybrid events in ways that foster mutually beneficial relationships between you and sponsors.
Before Your Hybrid Event: Maximizing Promotion Via Sponsorship
For one thing, unlike physical signs, digital signage can be placed anywhere and viewed with a simple click. Adding sponsor logos to your emails, website, event pages, and social media marketing expands their audience prior to the event. Furthermore, virtual technology gives you and your sponsors the opportunity to collaboratively connect with attendees before your event. Live streaming or recording some fun behind-the-scenes footage can add excitement in the weeks before the event takes place. If you know that COVID-19 safety is a chief concern among your attendees, you may want to host a group chat via Zoom and discuss what you’re doing to address their worries. Include your sponsor if possible to send a unified message and allow your mutual audiences to connect. Opening the lines of communication and knowing what your attendees want helps you and your sponsors deliver the highest value possible, therefore strengthening the relationship for future events.
Most of us have come to take Zoom and other relatively new AI and VR tech for granted. It’s hard not to when the world basically went virtual overnight. But even five years ago, live streaming, checking in, virtual trade, and file-sharing technologies weren’t as accessible or sophisticated as they are now. Engaging a remote audience isn’t easy; it involves taking attendees out of their own spaces mentally and emotionally. It means immersing them in a new world with new, far-reaching possibilities. Advances in VR, AR, and AI simplify registration at virtual and in-person events- and make it easier to navigate them. New and improved software delivers virtual demos in which users can directly interact with products online via simulations. All of these forward strides have the potential to maximize the benefits of sponsorship before, during, and after an event.
And remember, you and your sponsors are both trying to reach your own unique, target audiences. You can do this together by promoting their products and sharing their news on social media, but your strategy should be even more specific than that. Find out what your sponsors main goals for your event are. For example, are they prioritizing product sales, lead generation, or connecting with a new audience? Share your goals clearly as well. Do they have access to a new technology that you think will improve your events or help you better meet your audience’s needs? What kind of content do you both want to create? Being clear on both your goals helps you to collaborate to achieve them.
During Your Event: Boosting Engagement and Reaching Target Audiences
Today’s hybrid events make use of visually immersive video and live streaming content. You’ve probably heard the term “Zoom fatigue” going around, and for good reason. Staring at a screen for too long can be exhausting and distracting. Screens that are too busy or visually intrusive can also cause attendees to disengage. But with a few simple pro tips, you can avoid this type of burnout effect- and use powerful visuals to help your audience engage with your sponsor, and vice versa.
Be sure to vary your shots and angles when live streaming, especially for long periods of time. With your sponsor also in attendance, alternating backgrounds and visuals can add variety and excitement to shared sessions. After a video chat or speech, you may want to switch it up. For example, if you’ve been on the screen for a while, switch to bold, engaging graphics that invite you on a tour of your sponsor’s exhibit or original content. Pepper informational speeches or training sessions with interactive features like product demos. It’s all about holding attendees’ attention and taking them on a journey. To keep things visually stimulating, you can also use multiple background displays that support your event’s tone and purpose.
Overlays and lower third graphics also add visual interest and make events easier to navigate. These appear directly on top of the screen and can be used to identify speakers’ names, session titles, company affiliations, or upcoming events. Moreover, they can be used to prompt attendees to interact with sponsors at key points during your event.
Personalized events have been trending for some time now, and are nothing new to creators. However, hybrid events hold a world of potential for collaboration with sponsors. Aside from interactive product demos, hybrid events offer new ways for attendees to experience your brand- and your sponsor’s via breakout sessions. Offering multiple areas of focus for attendees with varying goals is one of the best ways to expand everyone’s reach. And it goes without saying that personalizing events with breakout sessions expands networking opportunities for attendees.
Before your event, choose a topic that addresses a challenge or need that is relevant to your collective audience. Then select several subtopics that address unique areas of interest within the group. Even if the purpose of your event is to teach a specific professional development skill, attendees will have varying interests regarding the material. For example, if you’re teaching attendees how to use a new technology, ask yourself: How will different guests be using the technology in their professional life, and to what end? What varying specialties and goals do they have? What area of the material do they need to become most proficient in? It’s always possible to break a topic down into sessions that address unique needs and preferences.
Your sponsors likely have their own unique resources, areas of knowledge, products, and more. When you work together as a team to achieve both of your goals- and those of your attendees- there’s no limit to the content you could create. Breaking this content down into sessions helps keep your event flowing seamlessly and holds guests’ attention. Keep sessions lively, but concise and to the point. Adjust your settings so that attendees can directly ask questions and communicate with you and your sponsors at appropriate times throughout the event.
And don’t underestimate the power of running brief, 30-second ads between sessions. Sure, ads function to break up the monotony of an online event. They also give your attendees’ brains a respite after absorbing lengthy content. But well-placed ads can also be used to advertise related content, such as a sponsor’s new product or upcoming event. They present a ripe opportunity for sponsors to include calls to action that are related to the featured content of your event. Be sure to track event data so that you know which calls to action facilitated engagement.
After Your Event: Using Data To Improve Future Content
Analyzing engagement helps you tailor future ads, content, and sessions to the topics your attendees care most about. That said, it’s important to know the best times to run your ads. Generally speaking, people are more likely to respond to CTAs after you’ve engaged them with valuable content. Speeches and presentations can be used to tease information. Once you’ve introduced a content and delivered some value, run ads that offer further interaction with similar content. If said content is sponsor-related, these ads can lead to higher conversion rates, product sales, and lead generation for your sponsors. This, of course, is mutually beneficial and strengthens your professional relationship.
Just be sure to make the ads relevant to the content you shared during your event. Otherwise, the ads smack of shameless sales pitches and don’t hit the mark. Running ads that are complementary or expand on shared content helps your event run seamlessly. It also hones in on what your attendees really want and need.
Effective post-event surveys yield information that is invaluable to you and your sponsors- and to the future of your professional relationship. It goes without saying that you should keep surveys brief and to the point. It’s also a good idea to limit multiple choice and focus on open-ended questions that garner detailed responses. However, don’t over do the open-ended questions as they can be taxing. If you’re shooting for all open-ended responses, don’t include more than a few questions. Multiple choice selections do have their place; they glean simple answers to simple questions. And those can be just as important to the experience as lengthier responses.
And don’t forget to ask your sponsor targeted questions. Doing so improves communication and allows you to help each other even more going forward. Ask sponsors to rate how well your event met their goals from 1-10. Include a section where they can expand on that answer. If you want to make this a “yes or no” question, that’s fine. But it can also be helpful to include the option to let you know what you could have done to better meet their specific objectives. And remember: Not all event objectives are met overnight; some take time to unfold. So it might be a good idea to ask if they view the event as having an overall positive impact on their business goals.
It goes without saying that it’s no fun to hear the negatives- but they do help us learn and grow. Finding out what sponsors didn’t like about your event not only provides valuable insights, but strengthens the communication between you and your sponsor. When sponsors feel heard and like part of a team with you, they’re more likely to overlook the negatives.
Hybrid events clearly offer a whole new world of creative sponsorship possibilities. For a long time, virtual events were seen largely as a substitute for in-person events. But technology has evolved so profoundly that the digital space can be even more immersive than in-person events! Think about it: Physical spaces hold a limited amount of rooms for sessions; the virtual space has the ability to contain more rooms and cover more content. Hybrid events also allow you to advertise with sponsor-related ads that expand on your shared content.
Technology is obviously crucial, but it’s not worth much without open communication between you and your sponsors. Get together (virtually or otherwise) to brainstorm how to best meet your goals and wow your audience. Hybrid literally offers the best of both worlds if you know how to use it to your advantage.