As we enter this transformative era of hybrid events, we know there will be a shift in the event planning and management process. The most successful hybrid events will combine virtual and in-person experiences into one engaging and enriching community event.
Planners know that a successful event starts with strategic planning, and strategic planning must begin with research. With hybrid events, this step becomes even more important. While the planning is similar, the dynamics have definitely changed. If proper upfront research is not conducted, it becomes harder to develop an action plan for strategy, execution, measurement, and ROI. And we now have at least two separate audiences with potentially different needs. More than ever, we need to analyze data to better understand attendee demographics, needs and barriers, and specific personas.
At Grow Your Events, we focus on a 7-step process to assess and evaluate your events. The first step, and probably most critical, is a research process that provides guidance into the why, what, who, when, and how of suitably managing events to provide a positive ROI.
Let’s look at some ways we can enhance the measurement process through research:
Align Events with Business Goals
In order to build a plan, we must determine the specific payoff that helps companies achieve goals, such as increase revenue, reduce expenses, or educate customers and employees. The simplest approach is to ask four questions:
- Why launch this event?
- What is its worth?
- What pain point, barrier, or problem will we try to solve?
- Will this event provide value and offset costs (ROI)?
But wait. There is more.
Define Program Goals
If we outline the why, what, and value, we can then define program goals. But this is no easy task. Think about all of your event stakeholders and map out their various needs, barriers, and requirements. Know their objectives, determine project interests, and be aware of their influence.
|Internal||CEO, CFO, CMO, VPs, Product Marketing, Procurement, Sales, Marketing, Investor Relations, Finance and Accounting, Logistics, etc.|
|External||Attendees, Speakers, Customers (CEO, CFO, CMO, VPs, Procurement) Vendors and Suppliers, Sponsors, Exhibitors|
The event process must define program goals with specific measurements (SMART objectives). Stakeholders must agree on measurement tools and processes in advance. You cannot report meaningful data if you do not agree upon what to measure.
Defining Target Audience Personas
With objectives finalized, research turns to defining specific target audiences. This phase will take time. The more effort you make to really understand who should attend and why they should attend, the more attractive you can make your event for the right people.
Audience personas are detailed descriptions of segments within your target audiences. Based on specific data research, they define the who behind attendance decisions. Understanding these diverse audiences means getting to know their values, problems, and goals. Even within a single target audience, personas may differ among the C-suite, vice presidents, directors, and managers. There could also be differences between in-person and online attendees. Understanding the various needs and motivations of each group will lead to more effective and strategic event planning.
According to a recent Edelman consumer brand study by brandshare™, over 51% of respondents felt that brands were not doing a good job meeting the needs of customers. What the Edelman data highlighted is that brands are not doing sufficient homework to understand customer performance, learning, and preference requirements.
With qualitative and quantitative data, we can better understand customer (and in the case of event planning, attendee) requirements and develop better programs. Capturing this data is worth the investment.
Dig Deep to Define Personas
Knowing personas will help design an event, enhance marketing strategies, and create more effective content that connects people. Research should provide details necessary for in-person, virtual, and hybrid event planning and can include, but is not limited to:
|Role and Responsibilities||Goals|
|Challenges and Pain Points||Information Sources|
|Influencers||Buying Decisions and Decision Makers|
|How Event Can Help||Messaging Strategy|
There are plenty of articles online about how to create personas, which apply well to hybrid event planning, so we won’t go into deep specifics. You can see some of our sample personas below for a quick idea of where to start. Check out this Alexa blog by Amazon for best practices and persona examples.
Don’t Lose Track of the Why
Let’s be clear. This research is not easy. It takes time, effort, and a budget. If we can focus on capturing this data upfront, decisions and event design will be easier.
Event planners need to push the envelope and change the way events are designed and managed. Do your research, provide data to support decisions, and focus on the why. If you know what success should be (payoff), then design programs that get you there. As you conduct your research and design your event, consider the impact and input from internal stakeholders, sponsors, vendors, exhibitors, suppliers, attendees, speakers, and influencers.
Let’s Take a Look at Some High-Level Event Attendee Personas Used in Hybrid Event Planning
CEO Susan is busy and does not have time to sit through 45-minute lecture-style webinars. She has multiple demands at any given hour. Her focus is on running a large company, growing revenues, increasing margins, and retaining employees. She participates in events to network, increase business development, and seek new partners to drive business. She has previously attended events in person but cannot this year due to personal reasons surrounding COVID-19 and her family. If your event is attracting CEOs like Susan, make sure you provide short, but effective high-level information and allow for networking and introduction sessions. Create programs where online attendees can network with those who are in person.
Education Anna might be younger and new to her industry. She’s trying to learn everything she can to move up in her company and remain competitive. She’s eager to sign up for all the webinars she can find and may want to do a little networking, too. For people like Education Anna, consider both in-person and on-demand education programs.
Fun Steve wants to network. He’s probably the best salesman in a room (even the virtual one) because he loves talking, makes friends with everyone, and has the knowledge needed to push any product he represents. He attends events because he wants to meet more people, build his network, and develop leads. At a hybrid event, Fun Steve will want time to network in person and meet people online. Make sure there are opportunities for online attendees to engage with in-person attendees.
Procurement Jessie wants to buy. He has a specific need, and your event is where he believes he’ll find the solution. Part of his role is to research venders, partners, and suppliers as part of a recent RFP. His company is in the final phase of a purchasing process and Procurement Joe is researching to get more information to finalize his decision. Can Procurement Joe make appointments online or in person? Is there a customer service rep to walk him through the onboarding process?
We Know Events
As a virtual and in-person event and meeting strategist, I work with event professionals to transition quickly and skillfully to virtual and hybrid events from in-person only. I can be your partner to manage research, develop personas, and leverage enormous opportunities. As the event space continues changing and hybrid events become the norm, we can work together to develop the right strategy, achieve executive buy-in, and deliver events that achieve goals. Let’s chat about how Grow Your Events can help.