Cathy Song Novelli
Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Hubilo
Receiving audience’s responses and feedback is a key tool for marketers to build engagement levels. Knowing the enemy, or rather, the client, is half the battle won. Typically, feedback from in-person events comes in the form of feedback forms which attendees may not complete. Virtual events have an edge over this because while it still has an electronic feedback form (again, attendees may not complete it), it also has data detailing information not found from a regular feedback form. Data such as attendance rates at certain times of the day, plus chat and poll participation. There is now a range of metrics to work with.
A company providing software aimed at driving audience engagement is Hubilo, a virtual and hybrid event platform. CIO World Asia spoke with Cathy Song Novelli, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Hubilo on event marketing trends and methods of interactions with Millennials and Gen-Zs.
Changes In Businesses’ Expectations Of Events
In 2020, we witnessed how businesses were scrambling to adapt to all things digital. Particularly in the events industry, event organisers had little to no clue as to how to move their in-person events into the virtual space, and initially, what they came up with were a lot of generic, monotonous events that left attendees disengaged and dissatisfied, which is every event organizer’s nightmare.
Fast forward to 2021, and event planners have not only gotten more adept at virtual event planning, but they’ve also discovered new benefits for doing so. For instance, with virtual events, event planners now have data about what drives better engagement beyond just attendee surveys. They were able to increase attendee sizes without a commensurate increase in budget. And they were able to find new audiences across borders and activate new communities that may not have been interested in a live event because of cost or the commitment it takes to go to a live event.
With increasing confidence in hosting virtual events, we see more businesses and event organisers becoming more sophisticated in what a virtual event can be. Virtual events are no longer just glorified webinars but big-budget, highly engaging broadcasts. With the kind of technology we now enjoy, businesses are also coming up with events that offer more WOW and immersive experiences, be it through green screen technology, 3D partners, AR/VR, or basic plugins from applications that they already use.
The effort to deliver a more immersive experience pays off. Virtual events allow organisers to be more responsive to the market by making it easier to create more relevant and timely events for their audience more frequently and have a reach that can be exponentially greater than in-person when geographical boundaries are nonexistent. Businesses have since embraced the virtual and hosted virtual events of all sizes.
In addition, attendees no longer need to settle for a standard webinar or stilted interactions with the same faces on a screen. They are expecting to be delivered with memorable experiences like never before, which means that organisers need a platform to deliver the full vision and technology that powers immersive experiences and is built for engagement and fostering connections.
Millennials And Gen Z’s Experience Of Virtual Events
In a virtual networking space, event organisers can do more by taking it a step further to tailor meaningful interactions.
Gen Z, in particular, is an experience-focused generation. They are interaction-hungry and also demand fun, seamless and immersive event experiences. As such, event organisers can use gamification and engagement features to their advantage through the support of an all-in-one event platform that allows virtual audiences to switch between different speaker sessions and breakout rooms, engage with other attendees on virtual chat, or even win the audience’s approval by sharing their humour through meme-culture. A whole suite of offerings tailored to maximise engagement will ensure that Gen Z attendees have fun while creating opportunities to network, learn, create friendships and job offers.
Virtual networking that creates a fun space while saving time might be much preferred for Millennials and Gen-Zs who are comfortable and open with relationship-building online. Virtual event platforms like Hubilo also incorporate a special feature that allows for smart matchmaking.
No precious time is wasted since everyone exits the virtual event feeling fulfilled as they tick off items such as finding a match in their interests, job, business challenges, vendors, or even services they require.
Virtual networking that creates a fun space while saving time might be much preferred for Millennials and Gen-Zs who are comfortable and open with relationship-building online.Cathy Song Novelli, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Hubilo
Virtual Event Tech Space As A Marketplace For Constant Conversation
The virtual event tech space digitally transforms the last analog channel in marketing and essentially changes the way marketers leverage events to drive their bottom line. Events as a category will continue to grow, change, and take on new forms, and will become the next go-to marketing tool for engagement, experiences, and greater connections for communities in the same way that the internet transformed content.
With the most up-to-date creative virtual event tech solutions, virtual events will see the trends that are shaping the event landscape and changing audience expectations. This means having avenues for greater exploration and interaction to nurture the borderless, immersive communities through emerging Web 3.0 technologies, metaverse, and nonfungible token (NFT) projects.
The virtual tech space encourages an asynchronous collaboration where it is up to people where and when they want to work and participate in events. This is where the tech-savvy event organisers will have to reimagine the event experience across various formats, determine what works best for each region and segment, and keep testing so that we find the perfect recipe in the future of work to allow meaningful teamwork and collaboration.
Furthermore, social activism fuelled by Gen-Z has also leveraged the virtual event tech space to reach a wider community, providing accessible space to build communities with shared interests and values. Since the wave of conversation on these topics is already there, the platform or the virtual event delves deeper to address these top issues and keep these conversations going.
Virtual Events And The Role Of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Councils (DEI)
A company could have the most diverse workforce in the world, but if those individuals aren’t connecting and collaborating, then the company culture is not being enriched by that diversity. This can affect the bottom line in terms of lack of innovation through the absence of that rich tapestry of people coming together. And it can also impact the talent pipeline as a diverse pool of talented candidates can afford to be picky about where they work.
Virtual event technology is the gateway for marketers who want to inject more diversity and inclusivity into their events. Virtual and hybrid event technology isn’t just about driving inclusion and diversity in corporate culture – it’s changing the very nature of events too. As more employers adopt this technology, more people within workforces who would have traditionally been unintentionally excluded from events such as sole guardians, handicapped workers, introverts, and those who suffer from anxiety will get the opportunity to participate in a way that works for them. In turn, this will make events richer, more inclusive, and more diverse. This will lead to greater creative output as well as stronger connections and collaboration.
As more employers adopt this technology, more people within workforces who would have traditionally been unintentionally excluded from events such as sole guardians, handicapped workers, introverts, and those who suffer from anxiety will get the opportunity to participate in a way that works for them.Cathy Song Novelli, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Hubilo
CIOs’ Role In The Expansion Of A Hybrid Workplace Model
An all-remote model and hybrid-remote model exist in various spectrums of flexibility. This leads to the rise of multi-modal workplaces where there may be instances when a company chooses to be completely remote and when it determines that it needs to be in-person. There are several good practices that a company can adopt, like finding the right fit and connection points for the organisation and ensuring greater customisation of work arrangements unique to their objectives, circumstances, and employees’ preferences.
Asynchronous work schedules also allow employees to not only work when they are at their best but also to make work more inclusive for employees who need flexibility because of childcare, eldercare, pet care, and other priorities.
Companies will also realise the cost savings from doing so. Workspace provider IWG’s recent whitepaper revealed that a hybrid workplace is projected to save organisations an average of US$11,000 every year for every person who works remotely for half of the week.
In today’s dispersed environment and flexible working models, creating an inclusive work culture will be increasingly difficult as it takes the whole organisation, including both employers and employees, to ensure a productive, engaged, and innovative team that thrives in a hybrid work environment. Leaders and CIOs will have to dedicate enough resources and attention to employee engagement, investing in a good technology stack that brings people together. This will be the key to retaining employees while ensuring the ability of managers to establish and strengthen personal connections with their teams.
Hybrid events have the edge of novelty — participants are familiar with virtual and face-to-face events on their own but not as a whole. Leveraging on the opportunities hybrid events provide is a way of driving audience engagement. Constructing meaning interactions can also be aided by tailoring content to cater to interests of audiences. Millennials and Gen-Zs are concerned with social activism, they are keen on being unique individuals making a social impact statement from their lifestyle choices of food, clothes and transport. Event segments like exclusive NFTs for sale only during the event could be a way to attract this generation. Online events are limited only by the capability of technology, which is progressing everyday. The boundaries of online events are thus expanding everyday and it is up to marketers’ imagination to explore it.