by Michael Shapiro | May 31, 2011

The Virtual Edge Institute, the organization dedicated to advancing virtual and hybrid events and sharing associated best practices, continues to study itself as a means of gaining and sharing insight. Just as the organization's Virtual Edge Summit 2011 in Las Vegas was also a testing ground and showcase for the suppliers that streamed it, the hybrid event's attendees now are providing the means by which VEI can study the return on investment of such events.
Did you follow that? Because there's something reflexive (and self-serving, of course) about the whole concept: A gathering that exists to promote virtual and hybrid events is studying itself, a hybrid event, to provide more data to those who may plan hybrid events in the future. I'm not actually questioning VEI's practices in bringing this up -- the organization, and its summit, are great sources of information. I'm just saying that the population we're studying here may not be at all representative of your event audience's population. That said, the study and its findings reveal some interesting insights.
The Virtual Edge Institute partnered with ROI of Engagement, an organization that promotes the use of the gold-standard Phillips ROI Methodology, to study the return on investment of these events. The report just released, Measuring and Maximizing the Impact of a Hybrid Event, is based on responses from 260 attendees of the Virtual Edge Summit 2011, and it examined the Level One (Reaction and Satisfaction) and Level Two (Learning and Understanding) points of the Phillips hierarchy. It's well worth downloading, particularly if you're planning a hybrid event and giving some thought to how you might measure the event's ROI.
Among the report's findings: On the question of a virtual option potentially cannibalizing in-person attendance, 93 percent of the virtual attendees of this event would not have attended the in-person event had the virtual option not been available.
Also on the subject of in-person attendance, 18 percent of the remote attendees of the 2010 event came to see the 2011 summit in person. Of those converts, 82 percent said that attending virtually in 2010 was "very helpful" in deciding to attend the 2011 event in the flesh.
Interestingly, the study also found little variation of event perception when filtered by age bracket. Similar ratings were given to the summit by Boomers (born 1946–1964), Gen X'ers (1965–1981) and Millennials (1982 and afterwards).
The most common motives for attending the event virtually were for the cost savings (56 percent) and time savings (52 percent), another point in favor of the notion that adding a virtual element is a way to extend the reach to those who can't be there in person. The report is free and requires registration to download.