ICC Belfast’s head of technical production, Dave Young discusses delivering great leads from in-person and online audiences.
How have you seen customers handle separate audience groups differently in order to build leads?
The advantage of being a venue is that we’ve seen first-hand the evolution from in-person to fully virtual and then a blend of the two from October 2021. Belfast has always offered a relatively small audience catchment for live events but with the onset of hybrid, planners have been able to grow the virtual audience and develop global leads from an expanded online reach. Those in-room delegates have been able to shake hands, share a laugh and build a common bond. For them, it’s relationship building first with lead follow-up post event to discover their thinking and assessment. With an online audience it’s the other way around. You know how they’ve interacted with the content during the event so you can establish how engaged they were. The relationship building needs to therefore be the focus of the follow-up. Don’t let your sales teams treat these two audiences the same.
Do you think hybrid is now here to stay?
Absolutely, it’s not going anywhere. Several clients who were adamant that they wouldn’t go hybrid due to the additional cost are now realising that it would be an opportunity lost and they’re asking us to re-quote. I’d say 95% of our venue customers are now adding virtual elements into their in-person events.
The only way to turn online audiences into prospects and leads is to fully engage them. Why is this so difficult for so many planners?
A lot of it is driven by fear. We’ve seen grand designs for engaging online audiences get scaled back due to a lack of confidence or planning time. That’s why we specify that we don’t want to be a live streaming venue. We don’t want spectator audiences, we want them involved and interacting with online moderators and speakers broadcasting from our green-screen studio space. To ensure leads come from hybrid content you need to invest in engagement tools such as polls, gamification, and seeded chat questions for both in-person and online audiences. Complex agendas can be distracting so keep it simple, signpost delegates to where you want them to go and treat the in-person and online event experience as two different formats.
How does data help build hybrid event leads?
Badge scanning at an exhibition can be a waste of time as people are often too polite to decline having their barcode scanned. With online however, you can see who has logged-in to which session and importantly, you can assess their interest and engagement by analysing their poll answers, submitted questions and other actions on the platform. These data touch-points should also include in-person audiences at hybrid events by asking delegates to submit questions through the platform’s mobile app and using polls during both on-stage and online content presentations.
How should these data points be followed-up post event?
Historically, sales teams would end-up with anecdotal feedback post event, which would often drive their follow-up. Now, you can really see prospects and hot leads in the data. There should a sales directive in place to prioritise certain data points which then translate into leads. It could be the top 30% of people who answered a certain poll question or those who attended the most sessions.
Keep it simple, don’t overload with data points and focus on a balance of great in-person and online experiences that don’t have to mirror each other. However you determine engagement, there’s now the increased opportunity to take the anecdotal, layer on the hybrid data and then prioritise who to follow-up on for a more effective result.