It starts with a spark…
Hybrid events have caught fire, and rightly so, as the next broadcasting frontier. And, just like the NFL, MLB, NHL, PGA, etc, broadcasting creates greater interest in a live event, and more demand for it. If you don’t believe me, try and buy a face price ticket to the new Super Bowl. Think those $1,000,000/30 second spot ads are for the live attendee?
It also makes so much sense for the association market…to use social media to connect the brand more deeply to the 80+% of their membership who does not come to their live events …to be more relevant, and to create community. It has shown that it also helps convert those remote attendees into future LIVE! attendees. Trial is a powerful element in future attendance decisions, and the hybrid event provides that trial by asking only for a small investment of resources, in many cases just the remote attendee’s time.
There has always been this concern, though I have not heard of any examples of it actually coming to fruition, that the hybrid element will cannibalize (picture humans eating other humans!) the live event and nobody will ever come again if they can attend from their laptop and save money. Yet, people still come. People want the live connection experience, and the informal peer-to-peer learning experience. People want to connect with other like-minded people beyond Twitter, and Facebook, and other sites.
Over the recent Independence Day holiday, I saw a commercial that showed just how powerful the face-to-face experience is. Now, I’ve experienced Tweet-ups at industry events where the live attendees who “tweet” find a venue somewhere in the city of the event and gather to have some dedicated time with each other…to connect with like-minded people, in this case what they share is the use of Twitter.
What I saw in this commercial struck me as a different “reversal” that cemented completely for me the connection between live & broadcasted events. A social media tool who is now creating their own LIVE events. Match.com has created “STIR”, a schedule of experiences in local municipalities that allows the social media denizens of Match.com to come out of their protected social media world and gather at everything from cooking classes to bowling events to experience one another in a face-to-face setting. This STIR is creating gatherings of like-minded customers, in this case they share the desire to have lasting relationships, and create experiences that let them connect, learn, and grow. Welcome to the live events space, social media, we welcome you as members of PCMA, IAEE, MPI, and the alphabet soup of organizations who can help you with your live event planning education!
So, my question now goes out to those who fear “cannibalization” of their live event. Do you feel that Match.com “fears” that these live events will cause their customers to no longer go on to their website, choosing instead to only go to live events because they are more fun, interactive, and engaging experiences?
My answer to that question is a loud HECK NO! Just as a virtual extension of a live event creates greater exposure and experience about that event, by creating trial that leads to future live event attendance, so does STIR create that live event experience and engagement that connects like-minded relationship hunters in a real world environment that will lead to future online trial by those who tire of spending their time wandering aimlessly through night clubs and singles bars hunting relationships.
The sobering part for me now is why a producer of a live event would fear that if people had a choice between coming to their event, or just participating remotely, they would choose not being there? Focusing on creating better experiences, and then allowing live and virtual participation within them is the secret sauce whichever way you are trying to drive engagement.