archive

The age of the hybrid event is here. As associations contemplate returning to in-person gatherings, the advantages of virtual—including serious time and money savings for your members—can’t be ignored. To engage the largest audience in the most personalized way possible, a hybrid event that combines in-person offerings with virtual ones is the way to go.

The hybrid model comes with some challenges, of course, including logistics, technology, engagement, and more. But the juice is worth the squeeze. Following a few best practices will help you navigate this new frontier to maximize the benefits and engage your base for years to come.

What is a hybrid event?

A hybrid event is any in-person event that has some online component. This could include a livestream of the in-person sessions, on-demand content, a gamification component, a remote keynote speaker, a Q&A with both in-person and online audiences, or any number of other possibilities.

There are no rules here and no audience expectations because everything is new. For example, you might discover that your event becomes 80% virtual and only 20% in-person based on your audience preferences.

What are the advantages of a hybrid event?

If your association is like most, you’re eager to replace lost event revenue from 2020 and fuel future growth by retuning to a full-fledged in-person conference and expo. Plenty of your members are chomping at the bit to get out of their homes/offices and connect in person once gain.

However, budget cuts and lingering fears related to COVID-19 mean people won’t be returning to your event in droves just yet. In-person attendance will likely be low for years to come. A virtual event offers an opportunity to serve your base with high-quality content from afar.

A hybrid event is the best of both worlds. It’s a chance to regain the magic of an in-person experience while engaging people virtually—and generating revenue on both fronts. Chances are you invested in virtual event infrastructure in 2020, so the potential for hybrid is already there.

What are some best practices for hybrid events?

1. Simplify your offerings based on your association’s differentiators.

It’s easy for your event to become a three-ring circus of sessions, certifications, whiz bang technology platforms, cocktail hours, rock bands, and more. Some of this was a risk before the pandemic. Now more than ever, your event (and all your association’s offerings) should focus on what you do best. What sets you apart from competitors? What is the highest-value service you provide for your members? What do you offer that people can’t find anywhere else? Highlight these differentiators in your event marketing as well.

2. Understand your audience.

The answers to a few key questions about your members and prospects will guide the decisions you make about your hybrid event—including the size of your venue, registration price, engagement strategies, and the percentage of your event that goes online.

  • Are your members and prospects ready and willing to travel again? 
  • What is the No. 1 reason people attend your event?
  • Why might people NOT attend?
  • Do people place a higher value on your networking or your content?
  • Are people looking for certifications? Can these be delivered online?
  • How important is a hands-on, face-to-face exhibit hall experience?
  • What is the ROI of in-person offerings compared to virtual ones?
  • What does your association offer that can only take place in person?

3. Choose your tech last.

There are hundreds of tech solutions that you could include in your hybrid event. Most of them aren’t actually necessary, and some of them add unneeded complexity and the potential for technical difficulties. After answering all the questions in No. 2 above, choose the tools that will best serve your base. For more insights on technology, have a look at New Tech Won’t Save Your Crappy Marketing.

4. Focus on value.

A big-name speaker fills seats but may not offer insights your audience needs to hear. A well-known entertainer may get rave reviews from attendees without generating enough ROI for your association. Focus on value first. Ask yourself: Does this help people solve their challenges? Does it enable goals? Does it present new possibilities? Does it foster meaningful connections? Is it purposeful? Does it align with our cause? Also consider whether it generates ROI for your association. 

Seize this Huge Opportunity

A hybrid event is a huge opportunity for your association to serve the needs of your members in a curated, personalized way while generating much-needed revenue. Amid today’s challenges, people are tackling more responsibilities than ever. Be part of the solution. Distill your event down to only the most powerful resources and deliver them in a way that honors people’s preferences. Cut everything else.

Share this post in LinkedIn:

3 Digital Marketing Tactics for Event Marketers

READ MORE>

Change My Mind: Everything Your Association Offers is on LinkedIn for Free

READ MORE>

Be even better—for your members and your industry.

COUNT ME IN >
New Tech Won’t Save Your Crappy Marketing

6 best practices for associations to enhance virtual offerings

As the pandemic continues, many organizations are looking for ways to replace lost event revenue, attract and retain more members, and better serve their base from afar. New technology seems like the perfect solution, and the possibilities are endless. You could do more on social media, revamp your website, create an interactive content library, or launch a series of Zoom events. You could even add artificial intelligence or virtual reality event environments. 

But not so fast. While you have a golden opportunity to better serve your members during a time of disruption, you also have the potential to fail miserably. If your brand is a hodgepodge of messages and images, moving everything to a new platform means you will now have a high-tech hodgepodge of the same messages and images. New tech solutions only work when you have a solid foundation based on your audience’s needs and your organization’s core competencies. 

In short, new tech won’t save your crappy marketing, but these six best practices can help you enhance your virtual offerings strategically to drive revenues, engagement, and retention.


1. Examine your audience

Be specific about who you serve. Know their job titles, years in the business, pain points, demographics, level of familiarity with your subject matter, preferred communication channels, and more. Define your audience’s primary archetype—that’s their universal character type—to help you further understand your base and how best to interact with them.


2. Articulate your value proposition

Once you know who you serve, take some time to define how you serve them. Be specific with tangible benefits. This is not your mission or vision statement. It tells your audience what’s in it for them. Here are a few real-world examples:

  • American Staffing Association: Create better lives, better businesses, and a better economy.
  • Intuit: Simplify the business of life. Ladders: Move up in your career.
  • Bitly: Shorten. Share. Measure

3. Develop standard messaging

Messaging includes two parts: how you talk (voice) and what you say (message). 

  • Voice—If your brand were a person, how would that person speak? Conversational vs. academic, casual vs. formal, technical vs. accessible, funny vs. straightforward, edgy vs. conservative, etc.
  • Message—What information will you convey? Ex: Who you are, product/event descriptions, key member benefits, why join, etc.

First, define your voice. Next, develop a messaging tree with standardized language in that voice. A message tree can help unify your internal team so you can better convey your organization’s value to your audience.


4. Craft unified visuals

A solid brand has a unified look and feel. Be fresh and modern. Focus on people. Show you’re committed to diversity and inclusion. Avoid mixing cartoons with photographic images. Choose a limited number of fonts and colors. Take a minimalist approach. Your brand visuals should contribute to your credibility as an organization and reassure people that they’ve come to the right place.


5. Define your strategy

Sketch out a plan for attracting leads and nurturing them over the long term. Include key dates, your budget, formats, content, and offers. Know your goals and KPIs. Determine how you will score leads and follow up based on each score. Don’t launch a single promotion without knowing how it fits into the bigger picture.


6. Choose your tech

A wise woman once said, “Don’t doubt you can, just wonder why you want to.” There are lots of tech solutions out there with tons of features, but if your audience doesn’t need or want them you’re just wasting your time and money. A few considerations:

  • ROI—Does the solution generate measurable value (ex: increased traffic, clicks, likes, shares, lead forms completed, etc.)? Would a simpler solution generate just as much value?
  • Ease of implementation and use—Is it relatively quick to implement? Is it easy for your internal team to use? Is it quick and easy for members to take full advantage of?
  • Potential for bugs and problems—Aim for simple over complex. If your virtual reality event platform goes down the day of your event, do you have a backup plan? (This happened to one of our clients!)

You’ll notice that choosing your tech should be the LAST step. Don’t just jump on the latest high-tech trend. Solidify your value prop and branding first. Create a detailed strategy. Then make an informed decision on which solution will best help you achieve your goals.

Share this post in LinkedIn:

8 ways to improve your website in the post COVID-19 world

READ MORE>

Dear Associations, We Need to Talk

READ MORE>

It’s Time to Rethink What Networking Actually Means

READ MORE>

Be even better—for your members and your industry.

COUNT ME IN >

6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 6: Grit

Part 6: Grit

This is the final installment in our series 6 Ways to Help Your Association Thrive. Once you have a cause, a plan, assets, prospects, and engagement, you’re ready for Part 6: Grit.

Why your Association Needs More Grit (And How to Get it)

It turns out, the one thing that separates truly successful people from the rest of the pack isn’t money or intelligence or access to resources. It’s grit, says the Harvard Business Review. A culture of grit at your association could be the difference-maker that helps you reach your goals for membership, engagement and non-dues revenue.

What is grit?

Grit is passion to throw yourself behind a cause you believe in and the perseverance to see it through no matter the obstacles. Employees with grit roll up their sleeves, put in extra hours, and refuse to give up even when things get hard. They tirelessly pursue new ideas and explore possibilities that will improve your association and make your members’ lives better.


Why does your association need grit?

Your budget, time, and resources are limited, but grit is not. A gritty association can accomplish more than a lackluster or disinterested one regardless of available resources. Grit helps you get more out of what you’re already doing—your cause, marketing efforts, prospecting, and engagement. It makes your association more effective at fulfilling your mission, more appealing to members, and more sustainable in the long run.


Need more grit?

You can create a culture of grit to become a more successful organization by fueling passion and perseverance within your team. If your association already shows a good amount of grit, you can build on that to generate even greater outcomes.

To fuel passion, take a step back and reconnect with the “why” behind your organization. What is your purpose for existing? Why was your association created? Make sure your team understands the greater purpose behind what you’re doing. Next, check in with individuals to determine if they have what they need to be successful. Empowered employees who feel valued are more likely to show grit, voice their ideas, and go the extra mile.

When it comes to improving perseverance, simply stay the course. Don’t give up when a few marketing campaigns perform poorly. Learn from the past and make adjustments to improve in the future. It could take months or even years to get real results. While that might sound daunting, consider the lifetime value of an engaged member. How much will they pay in dues over 10 or 20 years? How many events will they attend? How many other members might they recruit? Be in for the long haul and reap the rewards.


CASE STUDY: Association of Corporate Council

Our client the Association of Corporate Counsel wanted to increase membership around the globe. However, their prospect list was out of date and not converting well. To increase the prospect pool, we used ACC’s existing brand resources—reports, surveys, and infographics—along with lead generation forms on social media. At first, the results were not especially impressive. However, we made some changes based on performance analytics, and we stuck to the plan. It paid off. Over 18 months, we generated 2,000 prospects and 1,100 new members.


Got grit?

When your association shows internal grit, your members will take notice. Because of your passion and perseverance, they’ll be inspired to go beyond as well—to attend your events, renew their dues, purchase additional products, and do whatever they can to support your cause.

Take the assessment to find out how much grit you have. Your results will determine how much passion and perseverance you might need to ignite within your association to achieve long-term success and sustainability.

Share this post in LinkedIn:

6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 5: Events and Programs

READ MORE>

6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 4: Prospecting

READ MORE>

6 Ways to Help your Association Thrive

Part 3: Marketing Assets

READ MORE>

Be even better—for your members and your industry.

COUNT ME IN >
Engage more attendees and prospects with Facebook Canvas

Facebook Canvas is an immersive storytelling platform you can use to communicate with your base, drive event attendance, and build brand loyalty. It’s more than an ad; it’s an interactive marketing experience. Canvas is simple to set up, but before you start placing buttons and adding images you need a plan. It’s a good idea to outline your key points and basic story line first.

The look and feel of your Canvas should be in line with the rest of your branding. This is especially important if you’re also running Facebook ads. All your online branding should match so users recognize you no matter where they encounter your brand.


Customize your story

The possibilities for customizing your Canvas are endless. You can select a range of styles and colors using easy drag-and-drop tools. Available components include button, photo, text block, video, and header. These can all be used more than once throughout your Canvas. A good strategy is to include a mix of content, high-quality images, and video to engage your users. As with any effective marketing piece, don’t forget clear calls to action. Keep things short and to the point so you don’t lose your audience. A general rule is to include only one or two key points in each Canvas. You can always create more than one for your event.


Create a custom audience

Once your Canvas is complete, you should create a custom audience in Facebook for people who have opened and/or clicked on any links in your Canvas. This allows for precisely targeting these individuals based on their interests and behaviors later on. Canvas is exclusively a mobile platform. That means when you set up your Canvas you will need to select “mobile only” in the ad set process.


Ideas for associations

This exciting new medium has endless potential for marketers. It is especially well suited for associations. Consider using Canvas to promote the following:

  • Curated member stories, to inspire attendees
  • ROI Toolkit, to prove the value of your event
  • Membership, with a sign-up form at the end
  • Overall conference, with a call to register at the end

Canvas allows you to go beyond traditional advertising formats to truly engage your base with compelling stories and relevant offers. It also helps you track user behavior so you can more precisely focus your marketing efforts going forward.

Share this post in LinkedIn:

Be even better—for your members and your industry.

COUNT ME IN >