5 Tips for Marketing Great Hybrid Events for Attendees All Over the World

Paul Singh

I went to a marquee event in NYC for a global client a few weeks ago and was struck by how much of an experience it was. As the Manager for Key Accounts here at Swoogo, I work closely with a lot of customers whose names you would recognize, who hold events all around the globe. As companies all over the world are returning to in-person events, an event for a very large, international company has to run differently than a smaller, more localized event, simply because your attendees—in-person or via online channels—are literally covering all thirty-seven worldwide time zones, on top of the geographical roadblocks of travel.

This challenge offers these companies a unique opportunity to create an event that follows the sun, by incorporating attendees, speakers, and resources from all over the world. As in-person events come roaring back, a whole new dimension of both challenge and reward comes into play. As an in-person attendee at this particular event, I was immediately struck by several strategies that I was eager to share with my clients, as well as our Swoogo blog readers.

Consider who isn’t there

When executing in-person events, it’s easy to get tunnel-vision and only focus on your in-person attendees. I think companies who do this miss out. The excitement you can build for your brand and your product through an incredible event is hard to keep up when you’re asking digital attendees to log on at three in the morning. 

You can use strategic scheduling to let attendees in every area of the world feel like they’ve been seen, and given some degree of prioritization. Make sure your most exciting speakers are scheduled in such a way that at least one of them is at a convenient time for every time zone. It’s tricky—but worth it. Gestures like this can go a long way, and should be part of any company’s people-first philosophy.

If you have a flexible registration platform, you can even use conditional logic to track which registrants express interest in key speakers, filter them by location, and schedule those big speakers accordingly. The key to this strategy is: Make it easy for registrants to attend. I’m putting this first on the list of strategies, because you have to keep it top of mind throughout all the other suggestions.

Treat your event like a television series

No, I don’t mean release everything at the same time and let your attendees binge your content. I mean the old-school practice that many media companies are going back to. Release your content on a schedule, all the while building up to, and advertising, a season finale. If your in-person event is three days, consider spending something like three weeks dropping content to build up to it. I don’t mean just commercials or ads, or even snippets—though certainly you can run those as well. I mean speakers. Good ones. Start releasing digital content, and then make it available to any of your attendees after the live stream is over. 

This gives you all sorts of opportunities to build excitement for your most popular content in the future, but also an outlet to place advertisements, teasers, and marketing content. Make everyone who has already registered feel like they’re getting bonus content, and at the same time, invoke a sense of FOMO in those who perhaps weren’t ready to commit. By serving up content in small, but quality chunks, you’ll both pre-qualify leads and drive engagement leading up to the event. Utilize the skills we all learned during the pandemic to really make the most of your attendees’ digital experience, and open up channels for networking. In this way you keep costs low, while keeping engagement high. Then you can focus on the most valuable content and lead conversion during those crucial in-person days. 

All of this extra content leads to the next strategy.

Go big or go home

Make your main event an extravaganza! I can’t emphasize this enough. With the return of in-person events, you need to immerse your attendees in a fully branded experience on the ground, and in all of the themes and branding online. Event-led growth is a real thing, and more important than ever, but it’s not as simple as holding an event and expecting growth to follow. A mediocre event will lead to mediocre growth. Your best shot at netting all that growth potential is to have an amazing event. And that starts with an all-encompassing sensory experience.

If you’ve built up to your in-person event, the moment your attendees walk into the venue should feel like an experience that they’ve been anticipating for weeks. Everywhere they look they should see a reflection of your brand, product, or company culture and/or values. Consider not only decor, but music, food, swag, and which personnel you station where. Your event should feel immersive.

Turn your attendees into advertisers

This is closely tied to the previous section. If you’ve created a unique, fully branded, immersive experience, with amazing speakers, your attendees are naturally going to take pics and videos and post them. These attendees are your best form of marketing during the actual event. Those organic posts and tweets and reels will be better than any professional advertising you can pay for.

Make absolutely sure you have a branded photo backdrop so attendees can take pictures with your brand name on them. You don’t have to have a professional photographer like the organizers at the Tory Burch Foundation’s Embrace Ambition Summit did, but that certainly is an option. Whatever you do, make it easy for your attendees to turn into brand ambassadors.

In addition, when those fantastic star speakers take the stage, consider allowing pictures (no flash) even if you forbid video. A candid, on-stage pic with a great quote has peak viral potential. You might want to go even further and allow video. Many companies are finding that it makes more sense to allow their event content to spread far and wide, than to guard it too closely. 

Don’t forget those digital attendees. Find an event management platform that lets you fully customize your digital experience. Then, invest in a good camera crew, and make sure your streaming app is fully integrated. This lets your digital attendees all over the world feel like they’re there. What they see on their screen should be the same fully-branded visual experience your in-person attendees are getting. You want your distance participants to wish they were there … but not resent that they aren’t. Screenshots go as easily onto social media as camera snaps.

Don’t just stop, create an ending

There’s always a bit of a let down when that last speaker exits the stage, when the latest after-party tells you to go back to your hotel room, or when you log out of an event for the final time.

So keep the party going! Remember that strategy at the beginning to build up to your event? No reason you can’t do the same thing with a few additional speakers who continue to delight your attendees digitally, even as your on-the-ground crew begins their clean up. If you save a few speakers to stream to all of your attendees post-event, you can escape the negative feeling of post-event let down, and give attendees who might be on the fence about coming back next time, a push to register right now for that early-bird special. 

After all, a key purpose of every event is to use it to build the next event even bigger and better. Once your after-speakers are done, you can turn your event into an always-on event by offering recordings of the speakers on your event website and social media, perhaps in rotation. Whatever time elapses between your  events, fill the void with reminders of the previous event, and teasers for the next one. Once you have one event under your belt, your event website should never not be reminding people of the last event, or promoting the next one. That marketing push should always be turned up to eleven.

The state of events

Events are undergoing a revolution and a tired, outdated format isn’t going to give you the event-driven growth your company is depending on. With digital and hybrid components, your in-person events can be bigger and more effective than ever. Try a globe-spanning event that snowballs its own excitement with a build up of content. 

One of the key ways in which Swoogo is ideal for global enterprise clients is our user-based pricing, with unlimited events and unlimited registrations. This allows you to host small events as often as you like, to plan, synchronize, and promote all of your presenters—on top of your main event—all without extending your budget. Control your events, don’t let them control you. Consider the small but crucial pieces. Like international payment gateways and taxes. Your event management platform should not only integrate the fun and flashy integrations, but the necessary ones for a global company. Like Avalara, ACI Worldwide, and Google Analytics. At Swoogo, you’ll get free use of all of our 40+ integrations and payment gateways. We want to be more than a platform—we want to be a partner.

If you’re part of a large, global company, let’s talk. Click below to get in touch with me or one of my Key Accounts team members, and let’s have a discussion about how your company can utilize events to drive growth, no matter where in the world you operate. Or maybe you’re at a small company, but this blog entry got you excited about events? We’ll take care of you too.