“… To be successful online, a magazine can’t just take what it has in print and move it to the electronic realm. There isn’t enough depth or interactivity in print content to overcome the drawbacks of the online medium.” From “Content is King” – Bill Gates (3/1/1996)
This 1996 quote by Bill Gates refers to the digitization of print editions and couldn’t be more relevant for the event industry today, if you substitute “event” for “magazine”. There has been a lot of talk about hybrid events for quite some time and there have doubtless been some successful ones staged. However, to be totally honest the development of hybrid event strategies and campaigns has just gotten started. That’s great, because being right at the start means that we are still going to discover a lot of new things.
Why do I say that we are just getting started with hybrid events? There are various indicators for this. To show you what I mean, let’s take a trip into the world of virtual events. Last year we all had the chance or were even obliged to take part in lot of virtual events. Most of these were staged by developing a scenario for a real event and then filming it. Moreover, hybrid events are approached with a focus on the medium and not the content. Many people are satisfied just to fulfil the condition of using the medium, which is a sure sign that the topic is in the early stages of development.
A little excursion into virtual events is a must because they are part and parcel of hybrid event implementation. Hybrid means that a real event is supplemented by virtual elements, or vice versa. However, this is too simplistic and doesn’t do justice to the potential that hybrid events have. Staging a hybrid event must be viewed from two perspectives: the virtual and the real. Each perspective has completely different requirements. A virtual event is experienced with two senses, a real one with all five. The attention span is different, the inclination, motivation and then all the external factors such as location, decor and many more factors. A virtual perspective must be designed and planned the same way as a real one would be.
But let’s think big. What about the live mix, with all the measures that the target group will be able to experience throughout the customer journey? In future, this journey must be designed in a hybrid way. At Live Lab, we rely on the idea of a “seamless experience”, a promise of experience that is maintained across all touchpoints, whether real or virtual. The target group, or let’s call it the community, immediately recognizes who the sender is based on the experience.
If we take the analogy of Bill Gates, then we see that the successfully digitized magazine only became successful when the focus was shifted away from the individual issue towards a holistic approach. The magazine has become an online portal with a high level of interactivity, archives, moving images and much more. There is still a monthly edition (also as a print one), but the editorial team also delivers daily newsletters, films and whatever comes to mind. The magazine’s community is maintained and provided with content. The communities can even divide themselves up according to their interests, leading, for example, to the creation of topic newsletters and all the way to user-generated content.
If you apply this analogy to a company’s customer journey, the potential quickly becomes clear. Events that can be experienced both in real and virtual settings, providing the company with an opportunity to advertise on a specific date and for a specific topic. Thus the community is activated. In between events, the company has the opportunity to keep the community active with smaller measures. These measures range from small events to training, video blogs, the integration of social media and classic newsletters. The sky’s the limit for creativity in this regard. The community does not have to be fed on a daily basis; the strategic framework conditions (goals, target groups, etc.) are key for this.
Digitization lifts events into a new strategic dimension in the communication mix. The development of hybrid individual measures to hybrid customer journeys promises to become a very exciting field. The focus is shifting away from individual events towards long-term activation of the community. The consistent experience across all touchpoints and thus long-term recognition will make all the difference. The customers become a community that can be retained in the long term.