Categories
virtual trade show

9 Elements of a Successful Virtual Trade Show Agenda [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

How does your trade association plan to make up for lost revenues from the cancellation or postponement of your in-person events?

Online industry trade show events have been vital in keeping communities connected since the onset of COVID-19, providing innovative ways for attendees and exhibitors to engage through virtual event platforms. Capabilities like live demos, exhibition halls with virtual booths, and robust chat functions can effectively replicate many beloved aspects of in-person events.

Despite the potential of virtual trade shows, however, nearly nine in ten industry trade professionals (86%) are still challenged with transitioning an in-person event to a virtual setting—which is understandable, given that many teams just started exploring virtual events within this last year.  

To accelerate your event planning, we recommend you set goals for your upcoming virtual trade show and then craft an agenda to fulfill those needs. Let’s explore how to build an engaging online trade show schedule that creates meaningful opportunities for your attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and other partners. 

9 Online Industry Trade Show Agenda Activities

After reviewing recent and upcoming conferences from the American Society of Association Executives, Michigan Society of Association Executives, Colorado Society of Association Executives, and countless others, these are the must-include agenda items for your next virtual industry association trade show:

  • Board meeting: Your association board should meet during your conference. Most associations host this meeting on the first morning of their conference or shortly after the main conference wraps. 
  • Vendor demos/Exhibition Hall/Solutions Lounge: Your attendees need dedicated spaces to engage with your event exhibitors and partners. Enable exhibitors to showcase their solutions to your attendees in a virtual exhibition hall or vendor demo space. Offer an opportunity for Q&A, live demos, and hands-on learning to ensure exhibitors and sponsors see plenty of virtual foot traffic. 
  • Awards recognition: Host an awards ceremony that celebrates your trade show or industry association community (if relevant). These award ceremonies are an opportunity to spotlight members of your community and recognize them for their strides in your field or their dedication to your group. 
  • Express talks/Speed networking sessions/Short breakouts: Not all conference sessions should keep all conference-goers captive for an hour. Instead, offer breakout sessions of varying lengths for your attendees to dive into niche topics of interest that complement your overarching event theme. These smaller-group breakouts are perfect opportunities for attendees to mix and mingle in a more intimate setting than the conference keynotes. Offer two or three concurrent breakout sessions at a time to increase the diversity of your speaker roster and thoroughly explore the topics your audience cares about.   
  • Roundtable sessions: Gather a diverse roster of speakers to lead smaller group discussions on topics of interest to your attendees. Each speaker should have a unique element they can lend to the conversation—including the title or level of the speaker, their industry, or their specific experience with the topic—to support a well-rounded conversation. 
  • Lunchtime sessions or opportunities: Every minute of your conference should include some way to delight your attendees—and that includes lunch. Coordinate group conversations, 1:1 meetups, or informal lunch-and-learn sessions that attendees can join during lunch. Consider hosting a purely entertainment-focused activity, like a cooking demo, comedian set, or short film screening if your budget allows.  
  • 1:1s by appointment: Carve time from your agenda to coordinate one-on-one meetings with attendees, exhibitors, and other event partners. Attendees should be able to make appointments throughout your conference, not just in small exhibit hall break windows. Some attendees won’t mind missing a session to meet with a vendor (especially if your sessions are available for on-demand consumption). Build the meeting scheduling into your event platform, but be sure to integrate it with attendee calendars.
  • Training and certification opportunities. What official training or support programs will you offer to attendees? Many trade show events or industry membership association meetings are championed for their on-site certification and professional development opportunities. These sessions work just as well virtually, too! Consider saving one day of your conference exclusively for these opportunities (either the first or last day). 
  • After-hours entertainment. After a long day of joining sessions, networking, and striking up social media conversations, your trade show attendees need a way to unwind. So offer activities after the main conference sessions are over. These social activities can be as simple as an attendee happy hour or something elaborate like a wine and paint night or an exclusive musical performance.

Guide Trade Show Attendees from Experience to Experience

When developing your agenda, ensure that all activities have a clear purpose and that you don’t overwhelm your attendees with choices. For example, the Higher Logic team learned from its virtual Super Forum that their attendees felt they had too many options to choose from. Although that’s a “good problem” to have, it’s still a problem.

Event organizers must prepare their attendees for all the virtual event opportunities, including navigating attendees from experience to experience. Simply posting your event schedule and leaving it to your attendees to remember where they need to be and when for which sessions will likely lead to steep attendee drop off as your event continues.

Create a cohesive event experience for attendees by making the event agenda readily available on your conference site and through your conference mobile application. Enable attendees to add sessions to their calendars automatically so they don’t miss out.

During sessions, ask speakers to direct attendees to the next session or alert them of their options for what to do next. These verbal cues can be complemented with on-screen visuals, like a banner that urges attendees to return to the event platform lobby or a pop-up that links to the next session.

Prepare “Coming Next” or “We’ll Be Right Back With [next activity]” graphics to alert in-person and virtual attendees of what’s next, and think through your attendee transitions to ensure that there is no potential for confusion. 

Pick A Trade Show Event Technology Platform That Elevates the Attendee Experience

You have thoroughly documented your trade show goals and crafted a diverse series of events that supports those needs. Great! Your team is almost ready to host a successful virtual event. That is, of course, if your chosen event platform supports the quality of experience that your attendees expect.

The success of your trade show will depend on if attendees can freely network with exhibitors and sponsors, gain answers to their questions, and assess what solutions are best for their needs. But many event platforms are built with sub-par capabilities that lock attendees in a single room with no ability to connect with other conference attendees. 

Deliver the experience that your attendees deserve by using Social hour to support your next industry trade association event. The team at Frameable built the platform to support a wide range of event sessions and engagement opportunities, including pre-recorded or live-streamed keynotes, concurrent breakout sessions, and networking rooms that foster genuine engagement. Learn more about the Social hour platform and get started to create a more engaging virtual event experience today.  

Categories
virtual trade show

16 KPIs To Measure Your Online Trade Show or Association Conference Success [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

As industry membership associations and trade show organizers find ways to address lost revenues from the postponement of in-person events, many are turning to virtual experiences. Some are doing so with success, but others aren’t quite sure of their results.

87% of industry trade organizations that have hosted virtual events said they were successful. However, the definition of success is unclear, as 39% did not set an official goal. Without setting clear goals for virtual or hybrid conferences and gatherings, associations cannot understand whether their approach is providing value for their members and partners. 

To help understand whether your next virtual conference is a success, let’s review the top key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure the attendee and exhibitor experience during an industry trade show or membership association conference.

Example Goals for An Industry Association Online Trade Show

An industry association trade show involves two very unique audiences, each with different goals: your attendees and your exhibitors. Here are suggested KPIs for each audience, plus a few general event KPIs that can measure your event’s overall impact.

Attendee Satisfaction Goals for Trade Shows

Your association members or trade show attendees should be the primary focus of your event experience. How can you provide value to your attendees, connect them with the best resources to help them succeed, and foster long-term growth for them within your community?

Naturally, your team should focus on building an exceptional event agenda that directly addresses the needs of your membership. But to measure if your event was a success, we recommend focusing on these markers of the attendee experience:

  • Attendee satisfaction. Conduct a post-event survey to understand your attendee satisfaction and, most importantly, whether they feel the event met their needs as an association member. Use these survey findings to develop an engagement plan to delight your association members after your event is over.
  • Connections made. If your virtual event platform allows it, assess how many messages attendees exchanged with each other during the event.
  • Conference material downloads. How many attendees downloaded assets from your conference platform? Examine download data before, during, and after your event to understand how long attendees engage with the event content. 
  • Educational credits awarded. Assess the success of your event training and certification programs by measuring the total number of educational credits awarded. You can further explore this metric by reviewing the number of attendees who received educational credits and the average educational credits awarded.
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS). How many attendees would recommend the event to a colleague? Add a question to your post-event attendee survey to understand your event NPS. 
  • Next-year registrants. Host a flash sale for next year’s event tickets at this year’s price during your event. Monitor how successful this sale is to gauge whether your event experience generates immediate excitement for next year.  
  • Total attendees. How many people attended your event, in-person and online, and how does this compare to your year-over-year figures?

Exhibitor Satisfaction KPIs for Industry Events

Event exhibitors and sponsors are a vital part of industry trade show experiences. If you fail to meet their needs, they may quit supporting your event—which could be a major miss for your attendees.

Stay ahead of any potential exhibitor or sponsor dissatisfaction by tracking these KPIs:

  • Number of sponsors/exhibitors. Is your team growing its network of exhibitors and sponsors? Or has this number declined year-over-year?
  • Number of visitors to each booth. Regardless of whether the number of event sponsors grows, you need to ensure your attendees engage with these sponsors and exhibitors. What is the average number of booth visits? What does this data show about the type of exhibitors you should approach for your next event? 
  • Number of downloads of vendor collateral. Exhibitors and sponsors need to understand the quality of interactions they had with visitors. So check how many times attendees downloaded collateral from vendors, such as information sheets, product guides, or ebooks. 
  • Number of attendee meetings scheduled. How many attendees scheduled meetings with exhibitors?
  • Number of qualified leads. What is the average number of qualified leads that your vendors gained by attending your event? 

General KPIs To Determine Virtual Event Success

Beyond your attendees and exhibitors, your team should measure additional KPIs that showcase your more significant event impact. For example, was the event well-received by the media? Did you spark conversations on social media? Are you continuing to find new, diverse speakers?

At a minimum, we recommend tracking these trade show KPIs to assess your event success:

  • Diversity of speakers or exhibitors. Ideally, your industry trade show community should reach new people and companies each year. As you build your event schedule and series of activities for your conference, assess how many speaker or exhibitor submissions you receive from individuals or companies that have previously expressed an interest in partnering with you on your event.
  • Social shares/chatter. Monitor social media for posts about your event, and track the number of times that attendees used your event hashtag on social media. Ensure you have team members ready to support your event on social media, including answering attendee questions, encouraging user-generated content, and engaging with attendees.
  • Press attendees. Did any members of the media attend your event?
  • Post-event blog posts and press coverage. What content did people create about your event? 

Choose a Virtual Event Platform with Built-In Reporting Capabilities

Each of the above sets of KPIs is simply a starting point to help your team refine its virtual or hybrid event strategy. We recommend you connect with individual event attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors to discuss their feelings about your event and ways to improve their next experience. 

In addition to these one-on-one conversations, you will find that your event platform will either greatly help—or significantly hinder—your ability to uncover the KPIs you need.

We built Social hour to make it easier to track event metrics like total attendees, maximum concurrent attendees per session, how many attendees interacted with each other, and more. Learn why our customers say we’re an ideal platform for virtual industry membership association or trade show events.

Categories
virtual trade show

3 Tips For Hosting a Successful Industry Trade Association Virtual Event [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

Since the onset of COVID-19, the cancellation of many longstanding trade shows and industry events like Mobile World Congress, E3, and SXSW have dominated headlines—leaving many to question what the future of these traditionally in-person events will look like.

Industry trade associations, in particular, have faced unique financial pressure when adapting their events strategy, given that 27% of these organizations’ revenues come from meetings/trade shows, surpassed only by membership dues at 45%. 

To help trade associations and similar event organizers adapt their events strategy, let’s explore the latest data on how trade association members feel about attending in-person events. We’ll also discuss three common challenges that industry organizations face when creating new virtual or hybrid event experiences. 

How Trade Associations Have Adapted Their Event Strategies

Although it’s uncertain when in-person events will regain their momentum, 70% of respondents in a study from Innovatis Group, a leading association management, and engagement company, listed two top factors for when they will be comfortable with in-person events:

  1. A significant drop in COVID cases 
  2. Widespread vaccinations 

Restrictions like social distancing and smaller group sizes will play a smaller role, according to that survey.

Understandably, in light of these sentiments, the same report found 85% of organizations will increase their investment in virtual events over the next year to address the hesitation to join in-person events. Additionally, 72% of associations plan to create new forms of non-dues revenue, including educational opportunities available in a virtual or hybrid setting. 

Three Hybrid or Online Industry Event Challenges and How to Address Them

As more industry trade organizations explore virtual event opportunities to regain lost revenues from their canceled or delayed in-person events—and provide new value for their members—many teams will face a common set of initial planning hurdles.

When planning your next virtual or hybrid industry event, ensure your team fully explores these areas:

Challenge 1: Creating value for members in a virtual setting

First and foremost, your team needs to understand how it will create value for your event attendees. What do they hope to gain from the experience, and how can you deliver sessions, content, and networking opportunities to meet these needs? 

We recommend you survey your members ahead of your virtual or hybrid event to learn what they hope to gain from the experience. Seek to understand how comfortable your members are at the prospect of in-person gatherings, what challenges they face, and what resources they need to succeed. 

As you learn what your attendees expect from your event, your team can better tailor its goals to assess whether your event was successful.

Challenge 2: Transitioning an in-person event to a virtual event

Even if you have a clear understanding of what your association members hope to gain from your event, all teams are challenged with transitioning an in-person event to a virtual setting. 

Overcome this hurdle by designing your event to be entirely virtual, and then add a complementary in-person experience (if your pre-event survey suggests your community would like an in-person component) around it. 

Planning online-first will help your team map the various connections (or disconnections) within your event experience. Ensure there is a seamless journey for your attendees, from when they first hear about your event, register, join your event, and later access its replays—all while keeping networking and cross-platform engagement opportunities front and center for everyone. 

Challenge 3: Creating value for event exhibitors and sponsors in a virtual or hybrid setting

Keeping your event exhibitors and sponsors happy is vital to ensure long-term event success. If exhibitors or sponsors fail to see the value in partnering for your event, they will likely stop supporting your activities, limiting the potential value for your attendees. 

Spotlight your exhibitors and sponsors throughout your event experience to maximize their ability to engage with your attendees. Use social media to highlight sponsored sessions, coordinate raffles and giveaways to generate excitement, and incentivize your attendees to visit the virtual exhibition hall or exhibitor showcase during your event.

As with your attendees, it’s critical to survey your event sponsors and exhibitors to understand what they hope to gain from the experience and ways you can best partner with them for the event. 

Why Your Virtual Event Platform Matters

By addressing each of those three common challenges, your team can more effectively design an event that can replicate the value of your in-person experiences—potentially surpassing your pre-pandemic success.

But there is one final challenge that can make or break your virtual industry trade show experience: poorly designed event technology.

Many event platforms were built immediately following the pandemic, attempting to cash in on the rush to virtual platforms. Or, they are legacy tools designed purely for conference calls that event planners hastily adapted for large-scale events. The result? Overpriced tools that fail to meet your attendee needs—confusing user interfaces, garbled audio, and an inability for people to actually engage. 

We’ve built Social hour with the features that your event attendees need, all in an incredibly easy-to-customize interface. Learn more about why Social hour is the ideal platform for hybrid or virtual industry trade association events

Categories
virtual events

Why Attendee Surveys Are Vital For Virtual or Hybrid Event Success [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

Virtual and hybrid event experiences have come a long way since the start of the pandemic, and we are about to hit a new stride in the evolution of online events.

Event planners can access more advanced event technology than ever before, enabling more engaging virtual and hybrid events. These new platforms create the necessary space for everyone to mix, mingle, and reap the greatest reward from the event experience. And many platforms also provide data that can help event planners continuously update their strategy event after event. 

But your in-platform event data can only tell you so much about what did or did not work with your last virtual or hybrid experience. To effectively improve your event strategy with each iteration, you need to actively gather feedback on the full range of attendee experiences before, during, and after your event.

Luckily, the secret to gaining this insight is pretty straightforward: ask your attendees directly. Let me help you get started.

How to Gauge The Virtual Event Attendee Experience

Post-event metrics like attendees per session, the average number of sessions per attendee, and the average number of conference connections are crucial to review. However, these metrics only provide a glimpse at how to improve your next event.

Put your attendees front-and-center during your event planning by actively surveying and connecting with attendees one-on-one throughout your event lifecycle:

  • Before your event, gauge how long your virtual or hybrid event experience should last, preferred topics, and ideal ways to engage throughout the experience
  • During your event, use quick one- or two-question surveys that capture your attendee feelings at key points during the conference or immediately after sessions
  • After your event, measure the satisfaction of each event component and session, and see how many attendees would return to an event from your team

Sample Event Attendee Survey Questions

You can learn more about how to use virtual event attendee surveys to improve your online or hybrid event experience—including sample event survey questions for before, during, and after your event—in my recent article on MarketingProfs

Tell me, what are your favorite virtual event attendee survey questions? Tweet me @AARiggs.

Categories
virtual events

All Successful Virtual And Hybrid Events Have These Five Things in Common

Over the past 20 months, as the COVID-19 pandemic upended many of our in-person events and celebration plans, we all found new ways to keep celebrating all of life’s special moments virtually. 

We cheered on graduates as they walked the virtual stage, raised our glasses to our favorite newlyweds as they said their “I Do’s,” and even took our careers to the next level at virtual conferences, hybrid industry events, and online trade shows.

At Social hour, as we partnered with people across the globe on a range of events, at a time when human connection was more necessary than ever. We gained a deep understanding of what attendees expect at a hybrid or virtual event. It may surprise you, but we’ve found it all boils down to just five elements that are essential for your event success, regardless of what type of gathering you’re hosting. 

Five Must-Have Elements for Any Type of Virtual or Hybrid Event

Event planners can transition almost any traditional event component online. In some cases, the online environment may even enhance the experience for everyone involved. 

However, many event planners are still stuck on the idea of replicating their in-person event exactly as it was—just now in an online setting. This results in one-time talks streamed from the keynote stage, leaving attendees lost in a sea of webcam streams without a way to connect meaningfully with those around them.

When planning your next event, I challenge you to focus on enabling attendee engagement throughout the entire experience as your most important element. Engagement is the single most crucial factor that determines your event’s success. 

So how can event planners guarantee engagement at their next virtual or hybrid event? We’ve found these four elements are essential to your success, and they all help drive attendee engagement, too:

  • Limit the number of participants in each session or room
  • Ensure an equitable talk-to-listen ratio to help avoid listening fatigue
  • Give attendees opportunities to take breaks
  • Track metrics and analytics that help you assess engagement disconnects at your event

Enabling Virtual or Hybrid Event Engagement

In my recent article on Trade Show News Network, you can learn more about how each of the five elements we introduced above can affect engagement at your next event. I also share my advice on how to ensure a cohesive hybrid event experience (hint: you want to focus on virtual first).

What questions do you have about virtual event engagement? Tweet me @AARiggs.

Categories
remote work

5 Ways to Support Your Employees with A Flexible Hybrid Work Plan

Is your team ready to transition to the hybrid future of work? If you haven’t documented and shared your hybrid work plan yet, it’s not.

The latest employee and employer survey data shows that most teams will introduce a hybrid working model once COVID restrictions are lifted, with a smaller percentage of companies planning for a primarily in-person workforce.

Despite the enthusiasm of many U.S. companies to return to the office this fall, growing concerns around the COVID-19 Delta variant (and any future variants) may postpone many team’s plans, as is the case for Apple.

Although it’s not clear when most teams will be able to resume office-based work safely, now is the ideal time to explore your team’s concerns about the future of work and partner with them to develop your hybrid work plan. We share five ways to get started.

5 Steps to Draft a Hybrid Work Plan for Your Flexible Workforce

Charting your team’s return to the office may feel like an impossible task, given the ever-evolving set of challenges and considerations your teams face. But if you solicit executive and employee insights to guide your planning, your team will be more forgiving of any missteps or hurdles along the way. 

These five steps will get your team started in building its hybrid work culture, including how to address your team’s needs throughout this process.  

1. Survey Your Team

Kickstart your hybrid work planning by surveying your team members to understand their expectations for the future of work. Use a mix of qualitative and quantitative questions in your survey, and supplement these findings with one-on-one conversations to drill further into specifics.

Preface all surveys and conversations with an explanation of how your team will use the information. Reinforce that you welcome all ideas as you will need your team’s honest feedback to best structure your team’s future work policy. 

You need as complete a picture as possible of your employees’ current challenges with remote work. Your surveys and conversations should explore all of the following areas for your team members:

  • Preferences for how many days a week they work in-office, if any
  • What type of work or activities do they feel is best conducted in the office 
  • Personal circumstances that may affect their ability to work during certain business hours
  • Whether they need more or different tools or resources to complete their work
  • If the team’s current success metrics align to support a healthy and productive work culture

2. Adapt Your Physical Space for Virtual and Distanced In-Person Collaboration

A recent PwC report found that only 13% of executives are prepared to permanently let go of their company’s physical workspace. But that doesn’t mean the office should stay exactly as it was.

Use your team survey feedback to assess what activities will be most common in your physical office. For example, do team members want an open layout for easy mixing and mingling? An array of small, private meeting rooms for someone to take a quick call? Socially distanced personal workspaces?

Once you have a sense of how many team members may be in your office at any given time, create new solo work and collaboration spaces that can accommodate the average number of employees. Consider implementing a desk hoteling strategy to optimize your layout further. It’s also essential to optimize your physical office space for hybrid work, not just for those who return to the office. And don’t forget to give shared spaces the technology they need to integrate into your virtual team spaces.

3. Reset Your Workplace KPIs to Reflect New Hybrid Work Norms

The shift to remote-based work forced teams to assess how to support a healthy and productive working culture. For most teams, this meant a thorough look at the team’s workflow and collaboration tools, common communications practices, and other traditionally unquestioned aspects of the team’s work.

Now, teams should review whether their markers of success align with what actually drives business value. According to a Citrix survey, 86% of employees said they would prefer to work for a company that prioritizes outcomes over output, meaning they want to be measured by the impact they can deliver to the entire business, not just their direct work output.

In your employee surveys and conversations, ask your team if they feel the key performance indicators (KPIs) they are measured against accurately reflect the value of their work, and assess if a different KPI is more appropriate. Review your list of new proposed KPIs, and ensure that your team can accurately track each KPI, or if you’ll need to adopt a new practice or tool to do so. 

4. Support Your Hybrid Work Plan with Digital Communications Guidelines

Communications guidelines are a vital aspect of a healthy hybrid working culture that most teams often overlook. Many teams adopted new virtual collaboration tools during the pandemic, but it’s essential to take this one step further and document what team members should use each tool to accomplish.

Some team members may overuse their virtual communications channels, possibly because they are used to getting quick face-to-face feedback in an office environment. Create guidelines that discuss which channels should be used for workplace communications, do’s and don’ts for using these channels, and general guidelines that explain how your team can preserve a healthy working culture online. 

You can start building your workplace communication policy guidelines based on these samples from Cutting Edge and JotForm.

5. Over-Communicate About Your Hybrid Work Policy

It is understandable for leadership teams to wait until their hybrid work planning is underway or the hybrid work policy is close to final before communicating these plans with the team. However, this may not be the right approach for today’s environment.

A McKinsey survey found that nearly half of workers feel that a lack of clear vision about the future of work from their employer is causing them concern or anxiety. To address this, create a regular communications cadence to keep your team updated on your team’s planning, and regularly invite questions or create open space to discuss these plans.

Start with your employee surveys. After the initial fielding and analysis, share high-level findings in a team email, and host an optional meeting to further drill into the feedback. Update your team at least once a month on any progress your team has made and upcoming opportunities to learn more. Finally, host an optional meeting each month for employees to ask questions about the future of work and for the leadership team to gauge the early sentiment towards their plans.

If appropriate, your team can create a hybrid work planning committee composed of cross-department team members of various levels. This committee will partner with your executive and HR team to assist in various planning discussions and represent each department or team. 

Remember, it’s better to keep your team in the loop on your plans and invite their feedback earlier on. Otherwise, you may unveil a hybrid work policy that fails to meet your team’s needs and amplifies their feelings of stress or anxiety.

Help Your Hybrid Culture Thrive With Intuitive Collaboration Tools

Once your initial hybrid work policy is created, and you inform the team of your plans, continue reviewing and adjusting your policy as new concerns emerge. 

To further support your hybrid work future, learn how Frameable’s suite of team collaboration and social connection tools can help increase your team’s productivity and provide data that can help you get ahead of potential workplace culture issues. 

Categories
virtual events

How To Engage Hybrid Event Attendees on Social Media [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

Congratulations! You’ve designed a compelling hybrid event schedule that thoroughly addresses the needs of both your in-person and remote attendees. All that’s left is to put on a spectacular event, right? Well, almost—but there’s still some pre-work to do!

As your team finalizes your hybrid event sessions and activities, it’s important to focus on a critical planning element that can easily make or break the attendee experience: social media.

From the moment you first announce your event on social media, your team needs to understand how to best use social media to drive event registrations and prime your attendees to gain the most value from social media throughout the virtual conference.  

Highlight Hybrid Event Attendance Benefits For In-Person and Virtual Attendees

Your team needs to explain how all your attendees—no matter how they choose to join—will access high-value sessions and engagement opportunities that make the most of each attendance option.

Tailor your conference website and all event promotional content to address the unique benefits of each attendance type, as well as how the two groups can connect throughout the conference. We recommend that you create a dedicated FAQ page on your event site that thoroughly addresses both types of attendance. 

At a high level, here are some of the benefits of attending a hybrid event in-person or virtually to highlight in your FAQs:

Hybrid Event Attendance TypeAttendee Experience Benefits
In-PersonIn-person conference experiences are beloved, and greatly missed, by many professionals. Emphasize the potential for human connection by joining in person, but also reinforce the CDC and local or state guidelines that will be enforced, plus any other ways your team will keep attendees safe.

Certain demos or activities are better coordinated with an in-person crowd, due to the energy level and ability for instant collaboration. Highlight these unique opportunities for attendees who join in person. This prevents virtual attendees from being disappointed or demanding a refund due to missing out on a specific in-person only activity.
VirtualFlexibility is a necessity for virtual attendees. Reinforce how your event is designed to fit within your attendees’ busy schedules, including details on whether sessions are recorded and later available for replay. 

A well-built virtual conference platform can greatly improve the virtual attendee experience. Spotlight the features of your event platform, including specific features that will help your remote attendees connect with the live experience. 

Make it easy to save your must-attend sessions to the virtual attendee’s calendar software of choice. It’s incredibly frustrating for virtual attendees who are excited for a session, and arrive with a question at the ready, only to see a notice that the session was held two hours ago thanks to the agenda only reflecting the live event’s timezone.

How To Promote Your Hybrid Event on Social Media

Social media channels are an invaluable avenue to market and promote your event with ideal attendees, especially given the potential reach of most social media channels. You don’t want to limit yourself to your existing mailing list and blog readers to promote your event when people can join from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. 

Share a steady stream of event promotion content to build excitement for the experience and drive registrations up until the day of your event. By engaging with your prospective attendees on social media, you’re also establishing those channels as a place for attendees to go during your conference to connect and engage with your team and fellow attendees (we’ll discuss that more in a bit).

Here are five ways to drive hybrid event registration through social media:

  • Tag confirmed speakers and spotlight their sessions. Announce sessions on social media by tagging the speaker and previewing their session. Include a video or image of the speaker to help “stop the scroll” on social media.
  • Create speaker, exhibitor, and sponsor social media kits. Share a social media promotion kit with all event speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors. Include event images and draft social media messages for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (at a minimum) so your partners can easily promote your event on their social channels. Consider including a unique registration discount code tied to each speaker, wherein they receive some benefit for getting people to register with their code.
  • Provide regular updates about your event’s COVID-19 safety preparedness. Although many people are comfortable attending an in-person conference, your team needs to address potential safety concerns early and often to reassure attendees who may be hesitant about joining an in-person experience. The goal is to provide transparent updates about your onsite plans to show your prospective attendees that you’re doing everything possible to protect their health.
  • Use an event hashtag. Create a custom hashtag to accompany your event. Ideally, this hashtag can be used throughout the year to reinforce a sense of community outside the conference. Research your preferred hashtag across channels to ensure it is not already commonly used for a different purpose. 
  • Share visuals and video sizzle reels. Visual content is more likely to be seen by your community on social media. Invest in custom event images and video sizzle reels that highlight what attendees can expect, both for the in-person and virtual experience. 

6 Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Engagement During A Hybrid Event

Your most engaged attendees will likely use social media to ask questions, share their learnings from the conference, and attempt to network with other attendees during your event. It’s important to prepare your team to effectively find and engage with this content in real time.

After you address these foundational ways to highlight your hybrid event engagement opportunities, follow these best practices to spark conversations and build excitement on social media during your hybrid event.

Create Event Attendee Social Media Groups

In addition to your registration website, your attendees need a central place to go to access all the relevant details about your virtual event and connect with other attendees. We recommend you create a private social media group to grow into an event community. Encourage attendees to join this group when they first purchase their tickets, and regularly promote this group during the event. Assign a staff person to monitor the community throughout the event. 

Enlist Social Media Moderators

Depending on the size of your event and the number of priority social media channels for your community, your team needs at least two team members solely focused on addressing attendee needs on social media. These moderators will engage with attendee content, including amplifying their takeaways, answering questions, and suggesting other sessions they should attend based on what they’ve enjoyed so far. They can also help create excitement by giving away prizes or other resources of value to attendees that are active on social media. Don’t forget to also have the moderators check in with the social media group to share photos and videos and post conversation-starters.

Build a Social Wall

A social wall is a live display of social media posts about your conference, typically centered around the event hashtag or geolocation tags. Your team should include a social wall in your in-person experience and on your hybrid event platform to provide in-person attendees encouragement to join the virtual conversation and help remote attendees feel part of the greater conference experience. You can check out these 10 social media wall tool options for your event. 

Share Polls, Quizzes, and Contests 

Encourage engagement and help attendees get to know each other by sharing polls and quizzes related to your conference. These can include fun facts about conference speakers or preview elements of upcoming networking opportunities. Consider having different types of activities—and prize drawings for completing them—for each social media channel. 

Host a Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Create a scavenger hunt activity that both in-person and remote attendees can join. Encourage them to snap photos or take screenshots during the conference, and share those images on social media to check items off their list. Offer a prize or swag bag for anyone who completes the list.

Use Twitter Lists

Help attendees connect with speakers and other guests at your conference by creating a public Twitter list that attendees can opt into. During registration, ask if the attendee has a Twitter handle that you can include on the list. You’ll want to create an additional list with all of your conference speakers. 

Cohesive Hybrid Event Technology Enables An Engaging Event Experience

Your hybrid event attendees need ample ways to connect with each other throughout your event and across the virtual communication channels they prefer. There are several steps your team can take to facilitate this, including creating a dedicated conference hashtag and actively encouraging conversations about your event on social media. 

But even the best-intended efforts can fall flat if your event platform simply cannot provide the interactive attendee experience that your attendees deserve. With the right hybrid event platform, your team can create beautifully customized event branding that highlights your event hashtag and includes a social wall alongside sessions to encourage engagement. 

Find out why Social hour is your ideal hybrid event platform.

Categories
remote work

What Hybrid Work Will Look Like For 5 Leading Companies

No one knows when our world will fully embrace face-to-face work again, but the latest employee and employer data suggest that hybrid work arrangements will be the primary working model of the future. So naturally, every business should want to understand: what will the future of hybrid work look like?

Over the past 18 months, companies have been placing their bets on what the ideal working arrangement will be. Some plan to offer near-complete freedom for employees, and others will cling to their pre-pandemic policies with only light adjustments to keep their teams working in-office for as much time a week as possible. 

To help your team develop its hybrid work plan, let’s review some recent hybrid work policy announcements.

Five Leading Company Hybrid Work Policies

There will be no one-size-fits-all approach for teams to adapt to the new realities of work. For example, some industries will innately require in-person work, but many other teams can efficiently work from anywhere.

These five company hybrid work policies—some better received than others—can serve as a guide for what your team can consider:

  • Adobe: The future of work at Adobe will be hybrid, according to a company blog post in June. Adobe employees will have a 50/50 split between time spent in the office and remotely. Additionally, Adobe will double down on its digital tools and workflows to improve the employee experience, acknowledging that it’s critical to be digital-first in its strategy. 
  • Apple: Apple’s hybrid work plan asks most employees to work in office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, with remote work potential on Wednesdays and Fridays. Team members can also work remotely for up to two weeks per year. Apple employees raised concerns about this hybrid work policy, which could start as early as October 1. Some academics question if Apple’s return-to-office plan reflects the new realities of work. The company says that it will reassess its hybrid work plan in 2022. 
  • Google: CEO Sundar Pichai detailed Google’s hybrid work plan in a May blog post. He envisioned a future where 60% of Googlers work from the office a few days a week, 20% work in new office locations, and 20% work from home. Most Googlers will spend three days in the office a week, with two days to work from anywhere. Employees’ product area and function will determine the exact days. Team members can also submit interest in moving to another office, although this could impact their pay rate or salary. 
  • Salesforce: Salesforce’s future of work plans have remained essentially unchanged since it revealed its plan in February. Employees are grouped into three categories: Flex workers who come into the office one to three days per week, fully remote workers, and office-based workers who will work from an office four to five days per week. The company says that most employees will be flex or remote only, and all employees will keep working from home until the end of 2021. 
  • Uber: Uber keeps its team and community updated on its hybrid workforce plans through its Return To The Office blog post. As of its June 29 update, Uber employees will spend at least 50% of their time in the office. However, they can spend this time however they prefer, such as one week in the office and one week remote, or three days in the office one week and two days the following week. On remote workdays, team members can work from anywhere. Additionally, Uber is accepting applications for team members to work 100% remotely. 

How To Prepare Your Company For The Future of Work 

As seen with the above hybrid work plans, companies will begin to fill the spectrum of hybrid work—some granting their teams unlimited freedom to fulfill their work requirements, others offering limited remote work, and countless more to fill the gaps in between. 

What will set brands apart in their strategy is how actively they involve their team in the planning discussions. We recommend surveying your team as the first step to build an employee-first hybrid work policy.

To help your team support a healthy hybrid work culture, learn how Frameable’s suite of remote and hybrid team tools can keep your team connected, productive, and happy no matter where they’re based. 

Categories
virtual events

8 Best Practices For a Hybrid Industry Conference and Trade Show [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

Planning a hybrid event can be challenging for many teams, especially when blending the in-person and remote attendee experiences. Do any of these common hybrid events planning questions sound familiar to you?

  • Should a hybrid event prioritize the in-person audience or remote attendees? 
  • How can attendees of either type network and engage with the other? 
  • Will my exhibitors find value in a hybrid event?

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hosting an incredible hybrid event, we believe the best way to create a cohesive and engaging experience is to prioritize the virtual experience and craft a complementary in-person event that blends seamlessly with the virtual event platform. 

We know this may be a counter-intuitive approach—”but the in-person experience should always come first!”—and it is a tall order to fill. But the brands that experiment with and perfect virtual and hybrid experiences will be best set for success in the future of events and community engagement.

To help you plan your next hybrid event, we’ve gathered these best practices to ensure you create an outstanding attendee experience, regardless of how they choose to join. 

8 Ways To Improve The Hybrid Event Attendee Experience

As more teams experiment with their hybrid event strategies, we can use their learnings to improve our approaches based on what worked well (or not so well). 

After researching recent virtual and hybrid events like Surf Expo, Essence Festival of Culture, CXEnergy 2021 Virtual Conference, and countless others, here are eight ways you can build a seamless event experience for all of your hybrid event attendees:

Broadcast all sessions via live stream with a unified commentary feed. 

All of your event sessions will likely involve a mix of in-person and remote-based attendees unless you host exclusive experiences only for your in-person attendees. To present a cohesive session experience, broadcast all sessions via live stream to virtual attendees, and project a commentary feed alongside your stage that includes thoughts from all attendees, regardless of location. 

If streaming all the conference content live is not feasible, consider pre-recording all breakout sessions, and having the speaker host a watch party on-site, followed by live-streamed Q&A sessions.

Stream your in-person attendees alongside sessions. 

It may sound strange at first, but we recommend live-streaming your in-person audience alongside your sessions. Why? Because the full scope of your event and its energy is difficult to absorb through a presenter-only one-way stream. 

You can accomplish this best practice with a digital or hybrid event platform that supports multiple simultaneous streams. If possible, consider streaming your remote attendees on a screen to your in-person audience, too, so everyone can realize just how many people are at your event. 

Don’t forget lunch. 

Provide a few lunch options for your in-person and remote attendees and partner with a nationwide delivery app partner to deliver meals to your virtual attendees’ homes. In addition, create spaces during the lunch break so in-person and remote attendees can easily chat and connect. 

Enlist moderators and help them coordinate.

Assign separate moderators to oversee your virtual and in-person attendees during sessions. Gather questions from both groups through your dedicated event messaging platform or audience polls, and then aggregate these questions into a shared document with all moderators. Ideally, you will have at least one moderator gathering questions for both groups each session and an additional moderator solely focused on reviewing/blending the two sets of questions and presenting them to the session host or participants. 

Encourage attendees to pre-submit questions. 

The goal for any event is to host crowd-pleasing sessions. As soon as your attendees hear about your event schedule, they should be excited about the discussion and will likely start to think about their own questions or goals for each session. So why should they have to wait to start engaging? Enable attendees to submit questions through your trade show app ahead of time. 

In addition to getting the buzz started about your event, this will help moderators set initial questions for sessions, can help refine conference presentations (if attendee questions are provided to the speaker ahead of time), and could provide ongoing content opportunities for your team. If a session has many unanswered questions, consider hosting a webinar or publishing an e-book or a series of blog posts to address your attendee needs.

Swag bags for everyone. 

Prepare swag bags for your in-person attendees to pick up at registration and mail similar bags to all virtual attendees. Remember that your attendees want useful items that help them day-to-day or provide instant relief at the event. Most trade show attendees have amassed a seemingly endless stock of low-quality pens, stress balls, and other items that quickly are thrown into a drawer once the event is over. Instead, give them something on-brand that they will actually use, like a USB drive, portable charger, or mints. 

Replicate your trade show floor online. 

Once you have all your other technology in place to enable attendee’s engagement, you can consider building a 3D rendering of your exhibition hall that allows virtual attendees to see displays and setups. You can also spotlight sponsored booths for your attendees to visit and interact with, and use a remote platform that helps attendees easily talk to and swap contact info with exhibitors. Some events have gamified this experience, offering prizes and giveaways to attendees who visit booths, or hosting a scavenger hunt to encourage more booth engagement. Consider adding an online-only exhibitor row to accommodate past exhibitors under travel restrictions and encourage in-person attendees to participate in the online experience.

Widen your exhibitor net but stay local. 

Almost all event exhibitors (96%) indicated that their marketing budgets are decreasing or staying the same in 2021, despite needing to support both in-person and digital versions of many events. Event planners can work around this by conducting a thorough exhibitor search within a drivable distance from their event venue. Although some legacy exhibitors may drop out due to the inability to travel, eager exhibitors in the local area can fill those slots. 

Select The Best Event Technology For an Exceptional Hybrid Event Experience

The above best practices are just a handful of current considerations for hosting a successful hybrid event. Remember to survey your community to understand what they hope to gain from a hybrid event experience and use those findings to build the optimal event for your unique audience. 

A common thread through all of these best practices is that your chosen hybrid event platform can easily make or break the attendee experience. You need a platform that can seamlessly connect your remote and in-person attendees to make them feel like the stars of the show. Learn how Social hour can make this your hybrid event reality

Categories
virtual events

Bridging the Experience Gap: How to Build Hybrid Events That Excite and Engage [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

There is a significant difference between hosting or attending an in-person event versus its virtual equivalent. This came into sharp focus for event planners and marketers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we had to very quickly adapt experiences to an online-only audience. While many of us are looking forward to the return to live events, our event attendees have made it clear that the way of the future is hybrid events. 

Bridging the gap between live and virtual attendee experience means building a hybrid experience that engages both audiences with equal access to opportunities for connection. In order to build these events, we must think differently about event planning from the ground up. 

It’s been said before and it bears repeating: a quality hybrid experience cannot simply be a live event with an online experience bolted on. To blend the two experiences meaningfully, you must plan each aspect of your event around both experiences, or build a quality online event and flow your live event around it. 

To understand how to create a high-quality hybrid event, we need to deeply explore the differences between live and online events and identify how hybrid event planning can create the perfect bridge to merge them. 

Online Versus In-Person Attention Spans

One big advantage of live events is they are mostly a captive, fully engaged audience. They are on-site, immersed in the physical conference space, surrounded by other attendees. They are buffered from whatever is waiting for them at home or the office. The flip side of this is that if an emergency arises that they must attend to in-person, they must leave the event, and risk not returning at all. 

Online attendees, however, are surrounded by the distractions of home or the office, and are more likely to have a split focus throughout the event. While this can be challenging, being a virtual attendee also means it is easier to dip in and out of the event as needed, in order to address external needs. 

Hybrid Events Can Give Attendees the Best of Both Worlds

When crafting a hybrid event, we want to build out an immersive experience for both types of attendees, while also making it easy to come and go as needed. We want attendees excited and focused on the event programming while making it seamless to step away and return as needed.

There are several ways to help keep your audiences drawn in. Effective use of social media to build an online community can help create ongoing engagement and prevent momentary distractions from turning into complete disengagement. Use of virtual lobbies and common spaces to keep your virtual audiences “on-site” between sessions and engaging with content and other attendees is also key. 

Virtual vs. Live Networking 

A major challenge for virtual events is creating easy and fun opportunities for networking. Live event attendees have the advantage of casual chance meetings in hallways while moving about the event space or during scheduled social hours and networking events. 

For virtual attendees, it is critical to choose an event technology platform that makes networking opportunities easy, and provides a way to integrate virtual and live networking. When surveyed, 39% of respondents who had attended a hybrid event expressed feeling left out. Bridging the networking gap is a critical way to overcome this challenge and keep your virtual attendees engaged and feeling connected. 

How to Craft a Hybrid Networking Experience

Employing several methods to improve networking opportunities will help your hybrid event shine. This is another instance where effective use of social media to build and maintain online communities can be helpful — this helps people connect before, during, and after your event. 

Both live and virtual attendees should have badges that provide quick, key details about themselves. Then build a bridge that links how virtual and live attendees can access information about each other. For example, all attendees should have an online profile that is completed ahead of the event. It should be easy for live attendees to point others to their profile (example: a QR code on their event badge that can be scanned with the event app), while virtual attendees’ avatars can contain similar key info and a prominent link to their profile. 

Creating and curating dedicated hybrid networking spaces is critical. As mentioned previously, live attendees have easy access to other attendees. For online attendees, create virtual lobbies and conversation spaces that create the same chance meetings. Set up tables and spaces that draw people into conversations using ice breaker questions, shared interests, or even casual games. By allowing virtual attendees to see who is in the room at large and seek out conversations, they will feel much more included and engaged with your event. 

Differences Between Live and Virtual Agenda Management

One of the biggest challenges of hosting any event is maintaining the agenda and helping people know where they should be, and when. For live events, there are many opportunities to get this right through the distribution of printed schedules, appropriate signage, and audio announcements that help attendees know where they need to be. 

For online participants, this can be a much poorer experience. Having to manually create events on your calendar risks getting key details and times wrong. Connecting to a session at the wrong time and receiving confusing messaging (for example, “this session has not yet started” when the session has ended) can be frustrating and disheartening. On the positive side, if virtual events have intuitive navigation, attendees can change locations with just a click — faster than live attendees could move to a new location.

One Digital Master Agenda to Rule Them All

One of the best ways to provide a stellar experience is to make it easy to create a custom digital agenda that seamlessly imports into the attendee’s calendar. If you are planning to use a custom app for your event, consider making an agenda builder with push notifications a built-in function. This can be helpful for all participants, especially at large events spread out over a large conference center. 

When an attendee is unable to make it a desired session, have the virtual replay, resources, and other key information easily accessible through the agenda when connecting to the online session space to make the experience better for everyone who needs to be in two places at once.

Virtual Audience Participation Largely a Live Event Afterthought

A huge factor in how integrated your virtual audience feels hinges on how you manage interactions between a speaker or panel, and the in-person versus virtual audiences. Handling this poorly can result in virtual attendees feeling hidden behind the screen and not a real part of the event. Frequently, speakers are unable to easily see and respond to incoming questions from online participants, which leads to a poor experience for everyone. 

For the best interactive experience for both live and virtual breakout session attendees, assign a moderator dedicated to monitoring and representing online comments and questions. Consider a setup where virtual attendees can ask their questions live using a video interface that allows the speaker (or even the live audience) to see them. Give dedicated time to both the in-person and virtual audiences for the Q&A. And don’t forget to provide opportunities for the two to engage with each other, as well as with the speaker or panel, throughout the session. 

The Trade Show Floor Is More Than Just a Collateral Library

Trade shows and conferences with a vendor showroom present a special challenge for hybrid events. This takes getting creative to offer a virtual experience that brings that same sense of fun and engagement that walking the floor brings.

When you are live at an event, you get the thrill of seeing the displays, meeting the people, and collecting fun swag as you walk the trade show floor. And of course, the showroom is a classic place for networking and chance meetings. 

Incorporate Your Event’s Networking Tools to Deliver an Interactive Virtual Trade Show Experience

Too often, virtual trade shows consist of a static menu of logos that lead to a document library, and possibly a calendar link to set up a 1:1 meeting. Replicating the live trade show experience virtually requires more than a simple vendor list and/or a static website interface. 

You need to get innovative to meet attendee and exhibitor trade show goals. Consider a 3D interactive model of the trade show floor. Imagine being able to hover over a virtual booth and getting a popup that shows company or product info, videos, and even a way to send messages or questions to the booth staff. Up the ante with the ability to see what attendees are currently visiting the same booth. Create exhibitor-hosted birds-of-a-feather networking table talks or group attendee virtual office hours to provide casual opportunities for networking and interaction. 

Start Building Better Hybrid Events

It takes creative energy and modern event management technology to build out exceptional hybrid events. It cannot be overstated that our approach to hybrid event planning means completely rethinking what it means to blend and bridge these two disparate experiences into one cohesive and engaging event. With the right planning, technology, and inclusive approach, your hybrid events will achieve further reach and superior engagement of your entire audience.

Are you ready to build innovative and exciting hybrid events? Check out socialhour.com.