“Going “Phygital”: Blending the Physical and Digital in Events and Associations

By: Carly Silberstein, DES, CED

We are living in a “phygital” reality, where our physical and digital worlds have come together as one – a concept that may resonate now more than ever due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This concept is what inspired the content piece entitled: “Going “Phygital”: Blending the Physical & Digital in Events”. During this session, I was joined by a panel of community builders and we discussed how organizations can best navigate the physical and digital worlds during COVID-19, and how this concept will undoubtedly continue after the pandemic is behind us. Below, I share a few key themes and tips that emerged from this session about going “phygital” by blending the best of both the physical and digital worlds in events and associations.

Be Creative

The opportunities for merging the best of the physical and digital worlds are endless. You can bring physical elements into a virtual event with at-home conference kits delivered to delegates’ homes, or bridge the gap of social distancing with enhanced virtual offerings such as virtual swag bags, a happy hour with a live mixologist or entertainment act, branded digital backgrounds, and social media campaigns.

Engage, Engage, Engage

While attendees and members are at home, they have so many distractions (family members, pets, multiple devices, their fridge, etc.) that wouldn’t be present if they were physically at your event. Look for ways to engage your audience at every stage of your event: prior to, with social media and email marketing; during your event, with live polling, Q&A, and video networking opportunities; and following your event up with content like newsletters, blog posts, session recordings and repurposing the content into a sizzle reel to promote future events or other bite-site content pieces. You can also extend your association physically into members’ homes by sending them a membership kit in the mail, which will provide another level of engagement and welcome them into the community in a thoughtful way.

Be Consistent

Your online and offline brand and offerings should be consistent. What does your audience value about your organization in person? Does it provide great networking, stellar education, useful resources, or business connections? You should also look to deliver these attendee/member benefits online!

The Medium is Important

There are SO many virtual event platforms to choose from with different levels of engagement, functionality, and pricing. Just like you would choose a physical venue that best suits the needs of your attendees / members, it’s important to consider the same factors when selecting a virtual platform. They are not all made equal and have different strengths and limitations. Think about the goal(s) of your event and find the platform that will best help you achieve (or exceed!) the desired result(s).

Mindful Pricing

While it’s important not to overprice your virtual events or membership offerings, you don’t want to under-price either. If you’re offering something of value, you should feel comfortable attaching a fee to it (when it aligns with your goals). Determine the value proposition of your event, consider your expenses, and price accordingly.

Keep these key concepts of blending the physical and digital top of mind when planning your events (both in-person and virtual) and for the future of your association. Ultimately, this new “phygital” world presents the opportunity to explore new and creative ways to engage members, attendees, sponsors, exhibitors and other stakeholders – all while providing additional revenue streams. Once we’re able to meet together again, it will be important to continue incorporating digital elements into your physical spaces.

Associations have been known to be apprehensive and slow to change; however, I believe that COVID-19 gave organizations the push they needed to explore the digital space in new, creative ways. In our experience, virtual events have outperformed baseline projections, pleasantly surprising organizational leaders and board of directors. I’m excited for all of the experiences and opportunities that will be made possible as a result of blending the physical with the digital.

Carly Silberstein, DES, CED
CEO, Redstone Agency Inc.

Carly is the driving force behind Redstone Agency, a full-service event and association management company with roots in Toronto but clients all over the world. Carly is a devoted entrepreneur with a passion for making personal connections and developing strategic partnerships for Redstone and its clients. Carly’s an early adopter of all things technology. In 2016, Carly completed the Digital Event Strategist (DES) Certification from PCMA’s The Digital Experience Institute®, a designation that makes Carly an authority on live streaming, digital, and hybrid events. Most recently, Carly was recognized by PCMA as a finalist in the Digital Experience Strategist of the Year category for their 2019 Visionary Awards. Carly is also passionate about and dedicated to bridging the gap between the “Connected Generations” (millennial and Gen-Z) and the association/not-for-profit world. As such, she is an active member and volunteer in industry associations and initiatives.