Let’s be real, following the 2+ years of a near-total pivot to virtual events, the ideal in-person experience has changed. If you think events have moved quickly in the past, nothing compares to the post-Covid event industry changes as we all dive into live events in a big way this year. If your events look the same as they did four years ago, you’re probably missing an opportunity to create meaningful engagement and maximize the value of your events.
One huge change, in-person attendees expect more. In particular, they want a digital component to their in-person event. Yes, even your in-person event needs to have a virtual footprint. Why? Do read on!
The online event model for in-person experiences
The data is in. From both attendees and event profs, here’s the lowdown: your event—at least part of it—should be accessible online.
Accessing at least some content online allows in-person attendees to watch sessions and stay connected before and during the event. (And to re-connect after.) But it’s not just about the attendees. Event marketers can gather information from attendees’ digital footprints or event mobile app usage, and can also use digital content for future on-demand content.
An in-person, digital experience puts the attendee and their choices at the forefront of every in-person event. It allows the attendees to decide how to experience the event, and when, and where. It makes every in-person event feel bespoke, and within the attendee’s control.
Leveraging digital platforms for networking should be a no-brainer. We’re all constantly on our phones, and even the most exciting in-person event can’t compete 100%. Instead, we should be embracing the competition and using event mobile apps as a tool for networking and engagement. Don’t fight mobile, join it.
A robust event mobile app offers opportunities for attendees to connect and network before and during the event, then facilitates those meet-ups (and encourages spontaneous ones!) during the event.
From 1:1 chat rooms, sponsor booths, and exclusive content, using an event mobile app to create a unique digital experience ties your in-person attendees more to their in-person event, rather than keeping them separate. Why? Because people connect with people.
Your digital tools should include web portals for video content distribution. Some examples of this are Salesforce’s Dreamforce and the SXSW, which both recently showcased Netflix-style web portals for distributing event video content, before, during, and after the in-person event. Why give your content away without requiring attendees to show their faces? Turns out, live streaming and on-demand content provide flexibility, and allow attendees to access sessions they couldn’t attend or revisit content after the event.
This means they have the choice to spend their in-person time … in-personing! Okay, I made up that word, but you know what it means, don’t you? That crucial face-to-face time that has become the true worth of in-person events.
But the live speech is a huge draw! You might say. For sure! So you can cheat a little. You might consider having presenters record abbreviated versions, or recaps of their sessions for social media. Or simply for catching the attention of attendees who might not have wanted to attend a full session at the time. This is also ideal teaser material, post-event, to hook potential attendees for your next event. If your content is awesome enough, a teaser will bring in the people who want to watch it in full—either in-person or online.
Event mobile app
You’ve gotta have one. I mean, you already know that. And event mobile app is one of the top questions event planners are asking our team. Both customers and prospects. You need one.
Maybe you need a simpler app, like Swoogo’s Attendee Mobile, and you can plan on your attendees accessing most of the digital content on their laptops, while only needing more informational info available consistently on their phones.
Or maybe you’re looking for a robust, multi-functional, event mobile app like SpotMe, with analytics built in, streaming capabilities, and gamification in their palms. But you’ve got to have something on your attendees’ mobile devices.
At the very least, your event mobile app should give your attendees access to event information, schedules, session details. We recommend interactive features to enhance their event experience, like gamification, chat, and leaderboards.
Make your marketers happy
When it comes to data collection, digital is king. And queen. It is the whole Royal Family.
Of course there are tools for collecting attendee data for in-person event engagement, but it’s more difficult, often requires some effort on the attendees’ part, and can be expensive.
Digital data, on the other hand, is that perfect combination: fast, easy, and cheap. Wooo!
Bottom of the funnel engagement data
Event data can be leveraged to engage and target specific buyers and accounts, accelerate pipeline, and provide insights for sales teams. This lets them target specific buyers and accounts based on event engagement.
Event engagement intent signals can be used to book more meetings, capture data on buying intent, and set up meaningful interactions with high-intent buyer groups.
Top of the funnel engagement data
In-person events serve as powerful tools for top of funnel engagement as well, generating awareness, and attracting new prospects. Hybrid events offer different experiences for in-person and online attendees, accommodating their preferences and allowing them to engage at their comfort level. Often, a low-key digital interaction is what gives a prospect the info they need to become curious, and to seek out that all-important person-to-person interaction.
Optionality for the win!
So, here we are, Swoogo and SpotMe, two event management platforms who both offer event mobile apps and management features. We’re partners, but also competitors. How does that work?
It’s actually pretty simple. When it comes to event planning, you need options. At Swoogo we partner with companies who we also compete with because we want to give our customers the best tools, even if that means a different platform. We never want our customers to feel trapped.
Because it all comes back to people.
Speaking of people, who is this new sort of attendee that expects so much from us?
Meet the digital + in-person attendee
This isn’t a digital attendee. This isn’t just an in-person attendee. This is an in-person attendee who expects a digital component to their event.
If you get nothing else from this blog, read this sentence:
This type of attendee is the new normal.
Most of your in-person attendees will spend time connecting to your event online. While waiting for one session to start, they might catch up on a session they missed the day before. When taking a break in their hotel room, they might watch the keynote live stream that was booked solid in-person.
In fact, if they’re really looking to make the most of their face-to-face time, they might have already consumed all of the content they wanted to before they ever arrived at the event.
This attendee understands the importance of the in-person experience (in-personing! 😆), and they’re expecting you, the event planner, to understand the importance of the digital experience, and to deliver it.
Here are some of the expectations—not options, expectations—that today’s tech-savvy event attendees expect from an in-person event.
- Hybrid options (such as online content released to in-person attendees in advance of an IRL keynote) to give them the opportunity to engage at the comfort level that suits them.
- Maybe they want to sample the online version this year, before attending in-person next year.
- They tend to want to attend in-person, because they value the IRL connections and face time … but they also want to share their in-person experience online.
- They expect to be able to see (most) sessions they couldn’t attend after the in-person event is over.
- Captioning and translation services, and other accommodations for accessibility. (This is actually a great thing, as it helps you expand your audience.)
But above and beyond any single thing, today’s in-person attendee expects to be able to navigate a paid, in-person event on their mobile device, whether that’s a responsive PWA or an event mobile app.
Which is where our partnership with SpotMe comes in. (And why we joined up with them for our webinar!) One of the very best ways to give your attendees the digital experience they want, and expect, is through a robust event mobile app. Which might be our own Attendee Mobile, but we don’t mind if you choose someone else.
In Swoogo’s view, optionality is, ultimately, the proof that we put customers first. There are a lot—a lot—of platforms out there that limit their customers’ choices to the top three that make them the most money. We don’t go for that. Even when we recommend a partner platform, like SpotMe, sometimes it’s not the right choice for one particular customer, whose events have an unusual need. (For example, we also partner with EventBase, which offers an extremely robust event app, created for very large events.)
But the beauty of the entire partnership program is that we’ve reviewed and vetted our partners, and we can feel confident that when we recommend one of them, we’re recommending a company that supports our values, and that we can trust will treat our customers, well, like we treat them.
The new reality of attendee expectations
Events are changing. Everyone in the industry not only knows that, but is scrambling to keep up with—and if possible, even get ahead of—the emerging trends. The shift in attendee expectations for in-person and online experiences are keeping us all on our toes. Attendees now expect the option to attend events in-person, online, or through hybrid models, based on their comfort and preferences. And having a digital component allows you to accommodate different preferences and levels of accessibility. A huge tool in making this happen is having an event mobile app.
You should check out our webinar, available on-demand here, where Swoogo and SpotMe execs talk all about this new normal, but you also hear from Alexis at Epicor about her experience using SpotMe and Swoogo together to make her life easier, and her attendees’ experiences better.