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18th January 2023

Data capture and accessibility

The big considerations for virtual, hybrid and in-person events in 2023

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Cursor Curated Issue 10
Daniel Westlake

Before 2020, we’d be forgiven for thinking Zoom was an excitable verb, and nothing else. Fast forward two years and it’s become the video conferencing platform of choice for more than 40 per cent of event marketers.

But now we’re not confined to our homes, is the virtual event experience as appealing? Or indeed, have we become so used to organising things online that we simply see no point in face-to-face gatherings anymore?

In truth, there are benefits to both, as well as a combination of each with hybrid events. The key to making them successful, pandemic or not, comes down to two things: data capture and accessibility.

Online events versus offline events

Virtual event planning is no mean feat. There are a huge number of factors to consider, from time zones to microphones. Equally, in-person events have far more logistical considerations, plus the ongoing threat of infection control.

So how can we manage both, and effectively capture customer data?

Why choose online events?

Online events offer a diverse range of formats, including one-on-ones, networking, and roundtable discussions. During the pandemic, they proved to be a lifeline for many sectors, including education, as we saw with LincHigher.

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The benefits of virtual event planning

In a cost-of-living crisis, we can’t overlook the considerably lower expenses of online meetings. There’s also no limit to the audience they can reach, ideal for international viewers or those who are still shielding.

Today, third-party platforms like Hopin and the above-mentioned Zoom are making online sessions easy. They can even integrate with your CRM. Coupled with event capturing metrics like audience engagement and attendance, they’re ideal for measuring the impacts of your marketing. Keeping tabs on an online user’s movements is far easier than in person!

Maximising data capture with online events

So, how can we use this big data for event marketing? A great place to start is by integrating ticketing with your CRM. For example, Eventbrite has a native integration with Hubspot. You should cross-reference sign-ups with attendee numbers to get true conversion rates. Generally, there should be around 50 per cent of sign-ups in attendance.

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Want to get more value from your event? Consider recording a live session to make it available on demand. That way, you can capture even more users in their own time, or embed it into other areas, such as a learning hub.

Take your engagement one step further with a discussion forum where people can ask key questions.

Online event data to capture

Online event data is essential for decision-making – helping us shape future sessions based on audience interests. Track metrics including:

  • Conversion rates for sign-ups vs. attendees
  • Number of videos watched or sessions attended
  • Length of sessions or videos watched.

Why choose offline events?

It’s no secret that in-person meetings are loved by many – particularly those who missed them so much during the lockdowns.

The benefits of in-person events

There is no end of tangible perks to face-to-face, from food and drink to print materials and collectable merchandise. But beyond the material benefits, we may also see better engagement from attendees, especially those who prefer to network in person.

Expect attendee conversion rates to be higher, too – rather than the standard 50 per cent for online events, there may be up to 70 per cent of sign-ups attending in person.

How to capture and use offline event data

Similar to online, you can integrate your ticketing or attendance system with your CRM. This is just one of many ways to digitise your face-to-face meeting – as well as offering a mobile app for larger gatherings.

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These help to personalise the experience, letting guests make their own agenda, gamify their attendance, and look at exhibitor profiles. They can also improve engagement with maps, Q and As, and notifications.

Watching your carbon footprint? Use online check-in tools instead of printed badges or plastic wrappers. Barcodes and QR codes can integrate with your ticketing system for better measurement. You can take this one step further by using session scanning tools to track attendance for rooms or areas. You’ll get all the benefits of online analytics in person.

Why choose hybrid events?

Why not have the best of both worlds? A hybrid event – combining in-person with online streaming or on-demand content – may reach an even wider audience. Of course, we should be wary of the perils of focusing too much on one or the other.

It’s hard to match the quality online and offline, with online viewers often suffering in favour of in-person attendees. A safe alternative would be to record your in-person session and make it available on demand.

Keeping it accessible

Whether it’s in-person or online, your event needs to cater to everybody’s needs. University College London offers a great guide for making your events accessible. To promote accessibility, remember to:

  • Share event information such as slides and formats beforehand
  • Have an accessible code of conduct on and offline, showing where people can raise concerns
  • Publish a terminology guide beforehand
  • Choose an online platform that works with screen readers, and offer live or close captioning
  • Run physical events in venues with hearing loops and quiet areas or breakout spaces
  • Consider the format and make presentations bearable with breaks
  • Ask for feedback and analyse the data to make future decisions.
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Online events aren’t going to go away anytime soon – and are just as enduring as in-person gatherings. While everybody has different tastes, everybody has different needs too. In 2023 and beyond, make sure you cater for both.

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