The past few years have seen a dramatic shift in corporate events, with an accelerated move toward digital formats. Now, there is a desire to return to in-person events — but that doesn’t mean we should leave behind the vast potential of virtual experiences.

Going forwards, event managers must consider the advantages and drawbacks of hosting virtual, hybrid, and in-person events to determine the best strategy for their organisation. But how can event organisers strike the right balance between each of these potential formats?

In the modern corporate landscape, the gther believes the best event experiences need to be able to deliver against five key criteria, also known as the CLEAR model for delivering outstanding events. This blog offers a brief introduction to each of these criteria.

Embrace CREATIVE ideas and skills

Many of the virtual events that took place during the pandemic could have done a better job at showcasing the host brand. Unfortunately, the white labelling of most platforms tend to look generic and unoriginal, leading to eminently forgettable conferences—not great when the average no-show percentage of virtual events is already 35%.

Reaching the remaining 65% requires creativity. Both physical and virtual events offer brands the chance to showcase their creative teams in unique ways. Through physical events, teams can create vibrant and engaging experiences for attendees. But virtual platforms have no boundaries, meaning anything is possible. Hybrid and online events can and should be immersive experiences that embody the brand’s identity and ethos.

Support an end-to-end event LIFECYCLE

80% of marketers believe live events are critical to their company’s success. But consider that while physical events often have a big impact initially, memories quickly fade. Virtual events, meanwhile, usually do not possess the same initial impact as a physical event but benefit from easily distributable resources and recordings for attendees to remember.

Hybrid events can benefit from the advantages of both virtual and physical events while minimising their downsides. No matter the format of the event, attendees will always want to:

  • Continue their conversations with speakers and peers
  • Access event materials and related content
  • Learn more about the solutions or services displayed
  • Get maximum value from their time and financial investment.

Event professionals should consider these factors at every stage of the event lifecycle. Offering activities before, during, and after the event can help planners create events with a longer lifecycle, leading to increased value and higher attendance rates.

Ensure full participant ENGAGEMENT

One of the biggest lessons of the shift to virtual events has been the necessity to engage participants. Simply droning on at attendees is ineffective, no matter how compelling your branding, visuals, swag, and speakers are. That’s why it’s better to adopt immersive strategies like active learning, discussion and interactive learning, which can boost retention rates up to at least 50%.

To further ensure successful virtual and hybrid events, providing the appropriate facilities and environments for attendees is key. Doing so will make people more inclined to interact with speakers, event organisers, and other attendees. Even prior to the event, virtual networking and orientation sessions can be arranged to build excitement. And after the event has taken place, forums and hubs for event materials and recordings can be established to boost engagement further.

Deliver strong ADHERENCE to compliance and ESG objectives

Event owners and managers naturally prioritise delivering enjoyable human experiences, and may not consider ancillary matters like data privacy and sustainability a priority. In today’s world, however, staying aware of geographic and compliance regulations, appreciating the importance of sustainability and ESG, and using tools and platforms that adhere to these goals are all vital.

Regarding compliance, organisers of any event must collect, store, and oversee a variety of personally identifiable information (PII), such as attendee contact details. Any such data is subject to an increasing number of privacy statutes like GDPR and CCPA, and failing to manage data accountably means facing potential penalties from the regulators.

One of the most significant benefits of the move to virtual events during the pandemic was the reduction in emissions. Indeed, one study found that an online version of a conference produced 66 times less greenhouse gas emissions than an in-person meeting would have.

Clearly, businesses need to make in-person gatherings more eco-friendly as they return to prominence. That can be achieved by offering limited physical tickets, offsetting emissions to reach a carbon-neutral status, or simply embracing hybrid event experiences.

Meet ROI and ROX goals

Traditionally, event ROI is calculated by subtracting costs from returns. While this is a straightforward sum, it fails to capture the broader picture, that it is possible to measure a return in various ways, such as the quality of attendees, degree of engagement, and leads gained.

By linking event metrics to business objectives such as increasing brand awareness, generating leads, or boosting customer loyalty, we can calculate an alternative metric: return on eXperience (ROX). Of course, doing this effectively means determining what should be monitored ahead of time and putting systems in place to collect high-quality, dependable, and understandable data from the event as it takes place.

Despite the effort, this more nuanced approach helps capture the full extent of what businesses can gain from events.

Driving Stronger Event Experiences

Running successful events has always been a mix of art and science — and event professionals excel as part-alchemist, part-magician, and part-project manager. But to thrive in the new event economy, brands and event organisers must be clear on their audiences, goals and model for success.

By following the five-part CLEAR approach, event professionals can ensure their event strategy and preparations stem from strong foundations, and consistently deliver outstanding events across all mediums. With a shift from return on investment to return on experience, event managers and organisations can ensure a sustainable, long-lasting event experience that delivers something memorable for all stakeholders.

To find out more about the CLEAR methodology, discover Volume 1 of our three-part CLEAR eBook series.