Event Marketing

Double Duty: Why Hybrid Events Hook Millennials

By: Sr. Digital Go To Market Manager Freeman

There’s something about Millennials and the distinctive way they approach the world that gets us talking and theorizing. We can’t seem to put our finger on them, most likely because they are still writing a long future. But there’s no debating this fact: marketers can’t ignore the power of Millennials and how they’re reshaping business. Why? According to Pew Research, Millennials officially compose the largest U.S. age demographic at 75.4 million (sorry, Boomers, you’re second), with a projected spending power of $200 billion annually and $10 trillion in their lifetimes.

These stats certainly grab our attention, especially as Millennials grow into the decision makers and gatekeepers over the next two decades. To stay relevant to this unique group, particularly one so incredibly tech-savvy and explorative, yet fickle about brand loyalty, brands must employ varied marketing approaches.

Enter the hybrid event, an evolving brand experience solution that may be the perfect fit for this demanding demographic. Hybrid events cater to this demographic’s needs by offering both on-site and virtual components for attendees and participants. By identifying and understanding key Millennial characteristics, we can see how hybrid events satisfy their sweet tooth for content consumption and social involvement.

Millennials Thrive in Both Physical and Digital Worlds

Millennials have the distinction of being the only demographic that has never experienced life without the internet. A morning spent chasing a hashtag across Twitter is as natural as an afternoon chasing waves at the beach. With the continued rise in digital tech (or more like digital ecosystems), as technology from augmented reality to Snapchat become the norm, both the virtual and physical worlds blend in real time to captivate Millennials—and this is a shift that can seem alien to other age demographics.

Hybrid events seamlessly integrate live and virtual experiences, often through means such as live streaming, second screen technology (which turn presentations into an interactive two-way conversation via attendees’ own devices with on-screen content, live polling, and audience feedback), or post-event webinars. Thus, hybrid events and Millennials are a match made in marketing heaven, because both symbiotically coexist in the online and physical worlds.

Delivering these types of experiences can seem daunting, but it’s easier than you think. Major brands already employ hybrid features in their events, such as Apple’s WWDC or Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Event, which include live streaming and content capture. What’s more, audiences in the digital revolution often seek quick solutions and welcome instant startups. Consequently, online event providers are now available to seamlessly and economically host and manage hybrid events, even for small to midsize organizations.

Millennials Want Unique Experiences

Beyond being notoriously skeptical of brands and traditional marketing ploys, Millennials prefer experiences over material goods. To them, the “next best thing” is not the latest smartphone but a night out with friends at a concert they can share on social media. Originality trumps stuff any day of the week.

Hybrid events offer the novelty and adventure that Millennials crave. Connecting in real time with a speaker at an event via second screen technology or consuming content after the event through a fun online course has the potential to deliver an experience that’s informative and personal. Speaking of post-event participation, the ability of hybrid events to capture the occasion for posterity and integrate it with social media also makes the experience even more desirable to a group that lives for exclusive, sharable moments.

Millennials Have Short Attention Spans

With so much flashy content and competition in a crowded marketplace (squirrel!), we’re all experiencing attention span shrinkage. But Millennials’ short attention span is as legendary as their ability to multitask. Of course, they love good content, especially when it’s “bite-sized,” but they have no problem leaving, and then hopefully coming back to, the content before it’s fully consumed.

That’s where hybrid events become so useful. They not only allow audiences to jump back and forth, and in and out, from mobile devices—like second screen technology or social media sharing—they also have the ability to record and broadcast events of different lengths and from varied platforms. In other words, event marketers don’t have to fully hook the attention of Millennials but must be ready and waiting when Millennials decide to view the intended content.

Many events provide an educational aspect; hybrid events offer marketers the ability to deliver on-demand education via video or audio recordings, which is perfect for individualized Millennial sensibilities.

Millennials Are Frugal

A key advantage of hybrid events (and virtual events, which are fully online) is that they are cost-effective and inclusive of audiences that may be unable to attend due to budget realities. A show organizer can plan an event with a thousand on-site attendees, while countless more may view it virtually or post-event through on-demand video—a convenient option that Millennials love.

Because of their knowledge of and experience during the great recession, Millennials are known to be the most frugal of all age demographics. They don’t mind buying secondhand items or skimping on tickets to experience an event on Facebook Live or later through a more economical paywall.

Millennials Are Everyone

No matter how we get there or what shortcuts we take, all demographics in the digital age want amazing experiences that offer value and choice. A well-produced event, hybrid or traditional, will draw the right audience. In fact, often virtual experiences will transform into face-to-face ones and vice-versa because that’s the essence of hybrid events: flexibility.

The truth is, all forms of brand experiences, digital or otherwise, provide opportunities for marketers and brands to engage their audience across all age groups. Companies are embracing this truth. In fact, our research shows that more than one in three CMOs expect to set aside 21% to 50% of their budgets for events in the next five years. The benefit of the hybrid event, though, is that it hooks a unique group like Millennials while also offering viable solutions to engage all audiences in a variety of ways. Connecting brands and demographics will always get us talking. And sharing!