Over the past two years, the events landscape has undergone a significant transformation. The rise of virtual and hybrid events during the pandemic has set new standards and, as organisations return to in-person events, strategies need to evolve in order to maximise commercial success.

Returning to in-person events

There are positive signs from all corners of the globe that in-person events are making a convincing comeback. A recent survey by Tourism Economics found that 84% of American business travellers expect to take a trip to attend a conference, convention, or trade show in the next six months and the 2022 Q1 planning Cvent report showed that nearly 90% of planners surveyed in Europe are currently sourcing in-person events.

But for many people, in-person gatherings present a number of obstacles, including health concerns, logistical challenges, travel costs and home-life commitments. A hybrid approach can mitigate many of these factors, providing an experience that is inclusive and accessible to all.

Despite the disruption it caused, the pandemic proved an invaluable learning opportunity, prompting businesses to think more creatively about the event experiences they provide, particularly from a virtual perspective. Many events this year will feature a dynamic hybrid element.

Rather than replicating in-person events virtually, a good hybrid approach should focus on improving the experience for all attendees. Capitalising on technology in the event arena, organisers can ensure virtual event elements provide opportunities for effective networking and are as exciting and engaging as they would be in-person.

Embracing technology

Many organisations have recognised the merits of a tech-driven approach. Technology can enhance content and increase audience engagement, as well as extending the period of engagement with an event's content. It can also provide invaluable audience data, forming insights which enable a constant cycle of improvement and commercial growth.

Live Group has adopted facial recognition software, which is proving to be a valuable tool. On site, facial recognition can streamline registration processes and track session attendance. In addition, by monitoring the reactions of virtual and in-person attendees through sentiment tracking, agendas can be modified in real-time based on audience perception.

Monetising content

With attendee desires and expectations permanently altered, there is an opportunity for businesses to use technology to monetise event content. An estimated 75% of attendees plan to continue attending virtual events and research shows 68% re-watch events. Organisations are potentially in a strong position to generate revenue from their virtual offerings, for example by charging to access a digital library of past event recordings.

Commercial partnerships

Virtual and hybrid events have always enabled organisers to capture a wealth of data. Now, as in-person events resume, businesses should continue to gather the same level of audience data to help drive commercial partnerships with sponsors.

Some 72% of advertisers are interested in sponsoring hybrid events, provided they can effectively reach both the in-person and virtual audiences. Audience data will be vitally important for monitoring and reporting on return on investment for sponsors and will be imperative to attracting and retaining future event advertising revenue.

At Live Group we find bluetooth mobile tracking is a good way to generate data on the movements of delegates, guiding sponsors towards a venue's most effective advertising spaces and measuring the effectiveness of sponsored content. Leveraging technology to gather data on all attendees, regardless of location, enables the tracking of leads through the sales funnel and can give a sponsor an accurate map of the buyer journey.

Responding to change

Events are one of the most effective tools in the marketing arsenal of any business. Done well, events can help firms build relationships, engage with target audiences, enhance their reputations, and gather feedback.  To maximise commercial success, organisations should respond to the switch back to in-person events by combining the lessons learned over the past two years with technology and audience data to shape their event strategies of the future.