The events industry changed almost overnight in 2020. Marketing teams around the world were forced to cancel or switch their events online. At the same time, pipeline generation relies on networking and relationships in the IT channel. So, just like with remote work, the crisis may be a catalyst for positive change in how we approach events, and a hybrid style will be a long-term solution that unites event purists and innovators alike.

One silver lining of the COVID-19 crisis is the innovation and creativity that have come out of it. Virtual events are a prime example of this. At Westcon-Comstor, we adapted quickly to pivot to digital events so that we could continue to support channel partners, deliver memorable experiences and bring customers together for mutual outcomes.

As lockdowns start to ease around the world, marketing teams must consider whether they’ll revert to in-person events or continue to deliver online experiences. In many cases, it’s likely that both, with a hybrid approach becoming a critical part of go-to-market strategies.

The technology is already here and readily available, with benefits for both organisers and audience. You can host a physical venue – with the proper precautions – using livestreams and other content for those who can’t make it or aren’t comfortable attending. Here are five compelling reasons why the future for events in 2021 will be hybrid:

1. Increase attendance and productivity

Don’t worry that giving the option to attend an event online will cannibalise your physical event. Although they may reduce in-person attendance, hybrid events allow more people to take part from home. You won’t lose audience numbers by providing a more convenient way to participate, and this ‘virtual accessibility’ also expands reach to people in different regions and time zones. While you host a physical gathering in, say, the UK, you can stream and drive interaction with attendees from Canada, Australia, Asia – you name it.

2. Reduce costs through technology

Physical events require a lot of resources, money and time, and delivering them at least partly online won’t contribute to these costs further. By adding a virtual extension, you can lower the cost per attendee and save audience travel costs, which may be the reason that prevented their physical attendance.

3. Enable data-driven lead tracking

Virtual events track each registration, log-in, chat, view, download and share. These numbers are very useful in determining the quantity of people who attended the event and the quality of their engagement and experience. Being able to monitor the level of engagement of event attendees makes post-event follow up easier, since you can segment people based on their engagement scores and share relevant content with them, which is far more potent in capturing leads compared with a standard follow-up strategy.

4. Drive ROI long after the live part

One of the most important benefits of virtual events over their physical counterparts is that once the live event is over, the virtual event can still live on. By making webinars and content available on demand, you can extend the life of your physical event, boosting event ROI by allowing you to get the most out of your content, increasing lead generation and extending opportunities for monetisation.

5. Make it more sustainable

A scaled-down physical attendance can also translate into a more eco-friendly event, with lower carbon emissions and waste. You can promote this to your audience and customers, which can help drive interest, registration and engagement.

Whatever else 2021 holds, it will be a real test as organisers and attendees across the world get to experience hybrid events for themselves. If you’d like to learn more about the biggest changes impacting the channel in 2021, download our industry trends eBook now.