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B2B Events in the Digital Era of Virtual and Hybrid Experiences
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B2B Events in the Digital Era of Virtual and Hybrid Experiences

Let's explore elevating impact by moving the needle from face time hours to year-round value creation.
Author
Primer team
Updated on
January 23, 2024
Published on
December 14, 2023

Table of Contents

Ah, those jam-packed tradeshows of old-intensity levels maxed out with handshakes flooding booths and business card bowls overflowing 15 minutes in! We treated events as jousting chances to close but with more indoor lighting. All in-person, all the time mentality.

Then 2020 landed like lightning, fundamentally altering event strategies seemingly overnight. With in-person gatherings on hold due to health concerns, everybody scrambled to port B2B events, conferences, and summits online. This Zoom room ain't so bad!

And lo and behold – the lean (but lonely) comforts of virtual and hybrid B2B events held hidden gems benefitting all sides long term. Organizers unlock scalability and global delegates. Attendees manage travel savings and session targeting. Brands actually track meaningful engagement metrics beyond booth swag.

Ways Primer can help

But strategically achieving digital event success takes some craft. Rather than just default ports of dated models, rethink experiences through the eyes of engagement. Production aesthetics, two-way conversation seminars, intuitive networking formats, post-show nurturing – we've got re-platforming opportunities galore!

Our new circumstances gift chances to evolve B2B events from transactional exhibits to relationship incubators through thoughtful hybrid fusions. Let's explore elevating impact by moving the needle from face time hours to year-round value creation. 

Why In-Person B2B Events Got Shaken Up

The pandemic didn't suddenly create digital events but it did force the industry to press fast forward. COVID kicked the legs out from under the old-school conference model, accelerating changes that had started brewing for years.

Even before global health worries, major red flags popped up, showing shrinking ROI from giant trade show shindigs. Attendance and sponsorships started dipping badly for offline B2B events. Visitors felt nickel-and-dimed by the usual transactional exhibit halls. Sales cycles now stretched across specialized committees researching every option – not exactly the atmosphere to push product demos alone.

The pre-pandemic writing was on the wall:

  • Enterprise sponsorship money dropped 67% between 2011 to 2018.
  • 83% of exhibitors felt dissatisfied with mediocre event performance.
  • Nearly 60% of millennials already favored tailored online events.

The pandemic was like a shock to the system, bursting a bubble. In-person B2B events needed a flavor infusion stat! Digital experiences offer more personalization, better networking, and serious cost savings. A blender moment was inevitable, with audience priorities changing big time.

From the way we see it, embracing this new reality where businesses need to collect and act upon B2B behavioral data is vital for effective scale-up. The new blended equilibrium means carefully incorporating streaming access with focused offline gatherings rather than forcing an antiquated all-or-nothing model. More flexibility benefits everyone!

Intimate and Interactive Perks of Virtual and Hybrid

We probably can all agree the risk of awkward silence and elevator convos was much lower joining conferences in sweatpants on mute from couches. But beyond socially distanced socializing perks, digital and hybrid formats open up advantages aligning with how audiences actually want to engage now.

Attracted by flexibility? Virtual access expands attendee pools for B2B events without travel barriers. Particularly potent for global participants from European or Asian emerging markets. Resell access to recorded captures to multiply value. Need to push past pandemic restrictions? Streaming integrates immunocompromised cohorts or caution-conferencing roles.

Are you seeing better returns? Lower operational expenses, broader participation, and surgical segmentation spotlight ROI previously blanketed in big-budget bonanzas. Find niche champions rather than lukewarm general sessions. It makes grazing a la carte content personal.

Hoping for contact continuity? Hybrid and virtual B2B events widen ongoing nurturing post-event rather than disappearing back to disconnected cubicles. Modern buyers research around the clock and yearlong, so stay top of mind between shows through personalized digital touchpoints. With attendee contacts in hand, you can personalize paid social and 1:1 emails.

Eager to sharpen metrics? Unlike exhausting cheerleading for booth visits, digital allows tracking individual viewing, chat engagement, content downloads, and micro-surveys in your back pocket analytics toolbox. Get surgical nudging behavior changes through data trailing the total attendee journey from signup to advocacy.

While the buzz of in-person bonding remains magical at milestone moments, digitizing and blending B2B events unlocks serious new superpowers with the right strategy. 

Top Event Platform Contenders

With demand for virtual and hybrid event solutions accelerating faster than Raj's vindaloo curry, seemingly endless vendors now offer to help you “go digital!” Like a bazaar of glittering stalls, options dazzle from customizable portals promising organic traffic to end-to-end roadies delivering polished productions.

But rather than overwhelming spicy tool confusion, focus first on format intent: branded event standalone or plug-and-play hub to host multiple B2B events?

For one-off virtual conferences or private streaming invites, simple polished platforms like Hopin, vFairs, or 6Connex get the job done quickly without dev resource headaches. Embed registration. Customize branding. Schedule sessions. Networking add-ons. Basic analytics. User-friendly mobile experience. Turnkey!

Meanwhile, recurring public content platforms like vBraindo, GrowthVerse, or PheedLoop operate as dedicated 365 digital venues hosting revolving door branded “stations” daily. The open web ecosystem drives discoverability, while custom spaces showcase thought leadership. Embed video. Monetize B2B events through ads and lead generation offers. The toolbox preexists, so just move in!

Underlying both formats, production necessities remain constant — seamless video, intuitive networking, and the opportunity to interact. Mobile responsiveness enables engagement. If forced to just one KPI, emphasize completing the attendee journey, not just logging on.

Vet any platform against ease in synthesizing event goals for your audiences. Multi-vendor orchestration takes work, so examine capabilities and trade-offs. Don't overlook change management when guiding teams in adopting new virtual collaboration rhythms and etiquette.

Streaming Success: Production Playbook Essentials

So you’ve selected a polished platform primed for streaming your sessions far and wide. However, don’t neglect production planning to bring digital B2B events to life! The gears behind the scenes dictate attendee satisfaction more than any software alone. Let's highlight five must-haves:

1. Video Studio Fundamentals

Balance lighting, audio, camera framing, and movement for dynamic viewability. Review backgrounds, attire colors, and positioning to stand out clearly. Pick streaming over pre-records when possible.

2. Session Run-of-Show Precise Execution

Tech rehearsals prevent awkward false starts or delays losing audience patience fast. Print detailed schedules ensuring speakers transition smoothly. Expect Murphy’s Law surprises!

3. Creative Audience Engagement

Crank up the energy with integrated polling, chat, Q&A, emoji reactions, and gamification woven throughout programming. Counter material overload with quickly digestible segments every 20 minutes.

4. Meaningful Networking Formats

Facilitate connections through matchmaking, small group breakouts, and purpose-driven meetups around interests. Guide interactions fostering community to proactively engage at your B2B events. Appoint hosts to nurture conversations.

5. Actionable Event Analytics

Go beyond generalized views and clicks with customized dashboards revealing session ratings, content consumption trends, lead quality metrics, net promoter scores, and precise dropout fall-off points. Iterate annually.

While virtual B2B events trade the sensory sizzle of in-person communion, that distance demands detail-excelling and online engagement. Emotion gets channeled through technology so craft experiences that resonate uniquely across screens.

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Spreading the Word: Event Promotion Playbook

Alright, friends, your digital event prep list is totally complete! But don't kick back expecting organic word of mouth to pack the (virtual) house alone. Spread the gospel across channels where your people dwell. Some must-try strategies:

Always-On Social Hype

In-event posting shows off your killer content and community vibes. Speaker spotlights, behind-the-screen photos, testimonials, hot takeaways – give followers serious event FOMO with the play-by-play. Convert those scrollers into signups!

Lead Magnet Emails

Warm up subscribers ahead of time with programming previews, logistics breakdowns, and VIP access offers. Send reminder notes when registration opens. And keep nurturing post-event with content teases.

Targeted Ad Sequences

Retarget website visitors with limited-time discount codes around signup deadlines. Custom audiences who previously showed interest in your digital B2B events make prime candidates for the conversion budget here.

Influencer Partnerships

Activate expert and micro-influencer ambassadors to preview sessions and drive reviews. Their first-hand social shares pack a punch for earning media visibility by tapping their networks, too. Also, check our go-to suggestions for building a viable LinkedIn influencer strategy from scratch.

The consistency of hitting all angles – before, during, and after – wins big for audience growth and retention in the long term. This takes some coordination but pays dividends in getting strategic.

Seeing What Sticks: Hybrid Event Experiments

Beyond sticking to traditional conferences on Zoom, creative mixing and matching of virtual and in-person formats has birthed some cool innovations that align with digital-savvy audiences. Let’s peek at a few B2B hybrid hits spicing things up:

Persistent Hangout Spaces

Some brands use virtual venue platforms like vFairs to host ongoing drop-in events rather than short-term pop-ups. They schedule trade booths, networking lounges, and 3D world tours available year-round on-demand so followers dip in whenever. It lets communities chill 24/7/365!

Micro-Topic Events

Rather than huge industry-wide expos, ForwardPMX hosted a 5-day virtual sprint focused just on data ethics and privacy. The laser session and keynoter lineup drew niche specialists by the masses, earning kick-butt engagement. Less generic, more flavor!

Local Spotlight Tours

Software biz ON24 shifted their national roadshow to a quarterly hybrid series, putting regional innovation hubs like Boston and Austin in the spotlight. Showcasing area customers and partners kept networking dialed in city-by-city while remote attendees expanded access.

Hybrid is Where It’s At

External forces are steering big ol' B2B event ships into fresh digital waters whether some organizers like it or not. But rather than just replicating old transactional models online, we’ve got options to recreate smarter experiences.

Hybrid blends offer new opportunities by mixing virtual access with special in-person moments focused on meaningful networking, not scale. Budgets and customer needs were already moving in this direction pre-pandemic. 2020 just smashed the fast-forward button.

But quick tactical bandaids don’t cut it anymore. Making hybrid engagements click means rethinking teams, metrics, budgets, and partners through an integrated lens over the long haul. A shift to digital is a marathon, not a sprint!

Sure, the short-term growing pains of upskilling staff on virtual production or building fresh post-event routines drag at times. But sticking it out cements future community gains and loyalty big time as audiences increasingly expect tech flexibility blended in.

At the heart of great events always beats raw human connections made. Tech only enables new channels, facilitating those magical moments. Hybrid finally lets us serve personalized journeys before, during, and after temporary venues shut down.

Enhance Your Hybrid B2B Events Promotion with Primer

With Primer, you can lay a solid foundation beneath your event promotion strategy. It adds extra precision to your targeting with data enrichment functionality. Whether you build custom audiences from scratch or plan to enrich customer data for CRM retargeting, Primer allows you to do so in minutes.

Unlock the true potential of multi-channel marketing by connecting with your customers via paid social media, Google Ads, and personalized emails. Request a free live Primer demo and see how you can hit target accounts multi-channel.


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