From a recent IR Magazine event poll, 10% of the participants’ companies still prohibit all in-person travel and 19% limit the size of the events that their employees can attend. This highlights the importance of mastering remote events now, but what will happen in the near future when most people feel comfortable traveling again?
MIR predicts that most in person conferences in the future will be hybrid (a combination of in person and virtual), because of habits formed over the pandemic, along with improved user experience of virtual events. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of the different event types (in person, virtual, or hybrid) and focus on best practices for hybrid events, which are the most difficult to pull off successfully.
How to decide between a virtual, in-person, or hybrid conference?
When thinking about which type of IR conference to hold, it’s important to remember that groups of stakeholders have experienced travel restrictions differently. For example, according to IR Magazine, only 39% of Asian investors think that less travel has been positive, whereas 60% of North American investors have welcomed the development. South American companies have faced greater travel restrictions than Mexican ones, and many cannot go to Europe nor the USA. (Mexico recently made the UK’s red list, effectively cutting off business travel there). Smaller companies have faced more challenges than bigger companies in getting exposure to investors. So when thinking about which type of conference suits your company best, you should first survey your audience to see what their travel preferences are.
In-person events have the networking benefits of random hallway conversations, sharing meals, and real-life experiences that are unmatched by virtual events. However, we expect participants in the future to be much more selective about the events they attend in person.
Mary Turbull from Raymond James, gave an interesting example during the IR Magazine event about a successful in-person conference that they hosted during the pandemic in Aspen, Colorado and Park City, Utah. They found that it was better to move away from the more traditional and denser populated places like NYC, for outdoor destinations. Participants were excited for a chance to be in nature after being cooped up for so long in quarantine. They were seated at their own tables 6 feet apart, meals were served outside, and activities like hiking and fly fishing were all outdoors.
Virtual only events should be considered for groups that are very geographically dispersed, most participants have expressed that they prefer not to attend in person, or when there is not enough funding for an in-person or hybrid event. Especially right now virtual only events can be a good idea as many corporations are not allowing their employees to do work-related travel.
Hybrid events have the potential to be the best of both worlds and reach the largest audience. Participants that value the networking opportunities and are comfortable traveling can go in person, but also benefit from the participation of the remote audience. The remote audience will get to hear the same discussions, have their questions and comments heard, get some light networking, and not have to leave their homes or offices.
However, hybrid conferences need IT hardware and a support team to make the remote experience as flawless as possible. There is also much room for IT error that can leave the remote attendees unengaged. It can also be hard to manage a hybrid event, without one side (especially those remote) feeling that they are getting a second level service (see below on how to mitigate this).
It’s important to start considering this new type of conference now, instead thinking that things will return to how they used to be. In fact, 84% of IR professionals think that the pandemic will lead to permanent changes in IR working practices, according to IR Magazine.
The National Press Club has a pro con chart that does a nice job comparing the three options:
Best practices for hybrid events
The main goal of hybrid events is to minimize the gap between the experience of the in-person and remote audiences. To do this you’ll need to take into account viewing experience, content, engagement, networking, and analytics.
The viewing experience should be similar to the Super Bowl, says the North Star Meeting Group, where going to the game in person would be a much richer experience (it also would take more time and money), but watching on TV has high quality audio and sound, and you see the same plays. To do this you’ll need to be overly prepared, especially with IT, and think about every aspect of the event from a remote perspective.
- The presenters should be there in person. Especially for panels where there is a lot of back and forth. The onstage chemistry will be more authentic and avoid the lag time.
- The schedule of talks should not last an entire 8am-6pm day, 10am -4pm would be more realistic. In-person attendees can do activities/meals before and after the panels.
- Presentations and video should be displayed directly to the virtual audience, rather than having a camera pointed at the screen.
- Microphones not properly placed resulting in low volume will cause remote viewers to immediately tune out.
Content for hybrid events must be brief and be clear in the value it adds. Remote viewers’ attention spans are much shorter than the in-person audience because they are not stuck inside a conference room. Your in person audience will appreciate it. Also, remember to add breaks in between content.
Engage the virtual audience and keep them on their toes. Several techniques can be used to keep them from walking away to do their laundry or start making dinner:
- Conduct frequent polls and live Q&As. You can also give in-person attendees tablets or a phone app to register their answers and questions. This is also a great way to get data points to measure engagement and make improvements in the future.
- Ask attendees to keep their cameras on and to be dressed appropriately as if they were there in person.
- Display all of the attendees on a screen on stage for the speakers and in-person audience to be more conscious of them. Give virtual audience members the opportunity to ask their question on screen.
- The panel moderator should take the same number of questions from the in-person audience as the virtual audience.
- Leave the panel chats open after the event to allow the discussions to continue for virtual as well as in-person attendees.
- Have a directory with virtual business cards for those that wish to share their contact information.
- Collect key data points about the event to learn about engagement, networking, and lead generation. The polling data from the panels can be used to create unique figures that your organization can later publish.
Other details to keep in mind
- Make it easy for virtual event attendees to upgrade to in-person if they so choose.
- Record sessions for all attendees to rewatch afterwards.
As always Miranda IR is happy to help organize your next investor event, taking into account all these factors.
- Swapcard – All-In-One Virtual & Hybrid Events Platform
- Platform for virtual and hybrid events for video, connecting participants, scheduling, etc. sell tickets, booths, polls, virtual roundtables.
- Together by Hyatt
- Hybrid event solutions.
- vFairs | Virtual Event Solutions
- For bigger conferences.
- PGi GlobalMeet Webcast
- IR Magazine’s recommended virtual events solution
Contacts at Miranda Partners