By Molly Fast
After the year we’ve all endured, it feels so nice to be focusing on the future, doesn’t it? Here at Event 360, we’ve got two in-person events under our belts with the Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival and the 5x5K FOR GOOD Dallas and are solidifying more dates throughout 2021 to create smart events that bring our clients closer to their goals. And We Can’t Wait!
As we look towards the future, we keep coming back to the same question: What is the next big thing?
The past year has given us an opportunity to pause and reconsider the way we do our work. We’ve seen so many examples of ingenuity in action as our peers have adapted and survived, and in some cases, thrived, during this past year of grounded travel and hardly any in-person events to produce.
As we emerge from our forced pause and look ahead, we know that we’re not the same and neither is our industry. During the past year (or so), we’ve learned how to:
- Make meaningful connections even though we aren’t sharing the same physical space
- Provide impactful ways for people to support the causes that mean so much to them even when they can’t come to an event
- Partner even more closely with our clients to ensure they could weather the storm that was (is!) COVID-19
All of those things combined resulted in virtual and hybrid events sweeping the nation. There’s no going back—no putting that genie back in the bottle. And that my friends is the Next Big Thing. As we return to a bit of normalcy with in-person event fundraising, we can’t leave behind the very thing that made many non-profits successful in 2020 and into 2021—allowing people expanded options, including the choice to participate without having to step foot on an event site!
During our roundtable discussion featuring Event 360’s Jillian Schranz and Erica Helphand from OP 3, P2P Events: 2021 and Beyond, of course this topic came up. In fact, more than 85% of organizations we surveyed said they will continue to offer a virtual participation option in the future. However, with this expanded participation offering comes a challenge: 81% of organizations expressed that they were “somewhat concerned” or “very concerned” about a possible decrease in the lifetime value of participants (due to loss of activity and engagement) who only engage in virtual events.
So, how can you create an outstanding experience while maximizing ROI and the lifetime value of event participants as you look to incorporate hybrid events? Keep all of these factors in mind:
- Budget—Your hybrid model will need to be part of your budget. What resources do you need to make this happen? Will it require additional staffing?
- Format—What aspects of your event will you include in the virtual option? Be selective and specific with the elements you bring to your virtual event, knowing that not everything should be incorporated. You want to wow people—not overwhelm them.
- Technology—This will likely be the biggest cost factor you consider, and it will make or break your virtual event…literally! Hopefully you’ve already had experience with this from what you made happen in 2020. This is another COVID-lining from the past year—the advancements made in technology to bring events to people has exploded, and you will have plenty of options to choose from. Choose wisely!
- Communication—Put ample time into figuring out how to communicate your event options so your participants can make the right choice for them. Integrating social media is a must—but you already knew that! You want participants to be excited about their options and their ability to make an impact in the way that works best for them.
- Integration—How do you make your virtual event participants feel just as part of your community as those who are on site? What can you do to bring all of your participants together? Is there a meaningful moment that can unify your virtual and in-person participants so that both groups feel part of the same event?
- Feedback—Asking for feedback isn’t new but should be something you’re doing regularly with your event participants as you plan and execute your hybrid events. Even better, if you can pull together a group of participants who meet monthly (or as frequently as you need it) to help you, especially in the planning stages, you’ll be more in-tune with the needs, likes, and dislikes of your most loyal brand advocates!
We’ve been so encouraged and excited to see the innovation in our industry, especially when it comes to virtual events and now, hybrid offerings. And we can’t wait to see how this continues to evolve as we look forwards the future.
Molly Fast leads the company’s local operations for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Series and feels privileged to work with our participant-facing (customer service) team. For more than 16 years with Event 360, Molly has been fortunate enough to combine her love of people with the ability to make a difference in the work she does focusing on exceeding expectations and delighting participants along the way, whether it’s talking them through a fundraising plan on the phone, or giving them a hug out on the route.