Have It Both Ways: In Person and Online Events

In the post-COVID world of events, attendees get to have their cake and eat it too. A recent survey from Government Executive's Market Connections showed that in-person attendance is rising while online attendance is staying steady. In this latest study, over half of respondents said they had attended one to three in-person events over the past year. Three in 10 respondents have participated in four to six webinars per year. These numbers mirror what we found in surveying our members late last year.

With public health concerns largely gone, there are new decision points as to what makes an event worth attending.

In Person Is About Connection

Coaxing people out of the comfort of their home offices is the biggest challenge in planning an in-person event. Picking a location that works for people, whether they are working from home or going into the office, is critical to overcoming the "bunny slipper barrier" - the resistance to leaving the comfort of home.

More than location, the ability to connect in real time is the deciding factor in attendance at in-person events. Respondents said the reasons they would attend an in-person event were:

  • Networking opportunities
  • Speaking with industry experts one-on-one
  • Opportunity to get hands on with technologies

Any in-person event needs to maximize the networking time and opportunities to draw people to attend.

Webinars Break Barriers

Respondents reported the biggest barriers to attending an event are cost of travel/registration and the amount of time they will have to be away from work. Online events mitigate these, providing a viable channel for getting content to a wide audience. Webinars were cited as a valuable resource early in the buying journey, when decision-makers are exploring options and determining specifications. In fact, state and local respondents ranked webinars as their most preferred channel for early cycle education.

The production of the webinar has a huge impact on what people take away. Over 70% of respondents said a well-prepared speaker makes the webinar memorable. More than just a speaker, fully utilizing the capabilities of the video medium and not just showing a speaker's headshot or static slides during the webinar will help keep attendees engaged.

Look Beyond the Event

While online and in-person are proving to be viable options for individual events, you can't have them at the same time. Hybrid events, those that offer attendees the option to attend in person or online simultaneously, have proven to significantly reduce in-person attendance. However, this does not mean that everything that happens in person stays in person. Think of ways to record specific sessions and distribute them later. Also, look to repackage the information provided at the event (whether online or in person) into new content pieces - videos, blog posts, podcasts, white papers, and webinars. These assets will last far beyond the event day and give you an opportunity to reach out to your audience on an ongoing basis with content that is new to them.

We'd love to hear from you. How are you differentiating what you provide in-person and online? How are you promoting the value of your in-person and online events? Do you need help turning event content into marketing collateral? Reach out to our team to find out how we can help.

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