The Pain Points, Possibilities and Potential of Hybrid Events

Andrea White

Director of Events – Nextiva

What are the key benefits of hybrid events?
Hybrid events have been around in some fashion for several years, however, never as prominent as they are today. As we all know, Covid-19 took a drastic toll on the events industry and the only way many event professionals could stay in business was to pivot to virtual events. Virtual events have their own set of benefits but in my opinion, they are missing one major element… face-to-face interaction (handshakes; hugs; sitting down with a colleague, partner, and friend for a drink (or two or three).

The benefit of going hybrid is that it allows those people that thrive in face-to-face environments and gives them the opportunity to attend live, but also opens up the doors to that event to those people that perhaps couldn’t attend in person. People that have family obligations, don’t travel well, or it’s too expensive (think, now the entire team can benefit from the content instead of just one or two representatives of the company). It also hopefully, has an “on-demand” element which would give even the people who could attend the event, an option to review a session later, or watch one of the breakouts they couldn’t attend because they were in another at the same time. I believe any good event team will be thinking of ways they can provide virtual content either live streamed or on-demand as part of any conference moving forward.

What are the key pain points or challenges?
There are several pain points or challenges with putting on a virtual/hybrid event. The biggest challenge that all event professionals faced early on is understanding the technology. Many of us are experts in design, shipping/logistics/transportation, understanding union labor laws, and developing an appealing agenda with can’t miss speakers… but figuring out the best technology to live-stream or record and then format everything to where it is a seamless event for the attendees… is daunting at best. There are (what seems like) hundreds of event platforms out there, all touting that they are the best for the job, but when you’ve never put on a virtual or hybrid event before, it’s scary! Not to mention, expensive and requires a whole new set of team members to help pull off.

Another major challenge (and probably my biggest issue) is that as an attendee of a virtual event – you’re distracted. You are literally sitting in front of your computer and despite all your best efforts on wanting to really focus on the content and learn something – your emails are chiming, your phone is ringing, and work hasn’t stopped around you. So, you multi-task and pretty soon, you are no longer focused on the event at all. So how do event planners plan to keep people focused on the sessions and not the million things going on around them at the time?

As a side note to the issue above, from a sponsorship perspective, it’s challenging to get attendees to meet with sponsors at an event as most people are just hopping in to attend a session or two and aren’t literally walking around the event where they might wander into the expo floor or catch someone in the hallway or at the bar. For a sponsor, getting an ROI on a virtual event has been challenging.

Most of these issues are on the virtual side – having a hybrid event will likely solve the above by still having the in-person element and while opening up the virtual doors to those that wouldn’t have attended in the first place.

Hybrid Events Fad or Future?
Hybrid events are likely here to stay for the foreseeable future, but there needs to be an in-person element – people are starving for face-to-face interactions with real live people again. I do believe they have a place by allowing more people to access the event, however, attending virtually is definitely not the same as attending in-person.

Amrutha Sridhar

Senior Field/Event Marketing Manager – Goldcast

What are the key benefits of hybrid events?
Those people who prefer the benefit of the in-person connections in meetings or the environment of sitting in a session, get just that. A lot of people come to conferences JUST to meet people in person and gain that connection that might lead to a solid business connection. Yes, we are all able to meet with more people virtually now but that in-person connection always has its benefits.

For those who have a busy schedule or cannot make it to the venue due to certain reasons/restrictions, they wont get to miss out on the benefits that a particular event may provide. Maybe the event is international for them or they simply cannot take the time to go to the event in person, or maybe they just don’t want to. A lot of people have learned to embrace attending events from home so that option is something that might guarantee more attendance and revenue anyway.A hybrid event is simply the best of both worlds being offered as options for events.

What are the key pain points or challenges?
The major challenge I foresee would be the ramp up of a “good hybrid event.” It is going to take a few events and time to see it done well – just like the ramp up to all virtual events. Everyone (attendees, vendors, hosts) will have to be patient on all ends because things are bound to go wrong before they go right.

Event teams will need to learn their technology and the technology will have to run perfectly (which we have learned is almost never the case) if a hybrid event is to run smoothly. Throw in potential international timings/tech/availability and you have a perfect storm and teams that need to maintain proper communication and synchronicity to ensure that all the elements of a hybrid event are supposed to prove to be effective with events.

Hybrid Events Fad or Future?
It’s definitely the future. In the past year we have seen events have a wild ride making a comeback that is to be reckoned with. The number of industries that were once a consideration further down the list, are now at the top. Now that we have gone through so much to make virtual events amazing, engaging and the main way we hold events, it would be in the whole industries best interest to make sure virtual events don’t go back to the occasional basic webinar. Virtual events are here to stay, and as in-person starts coming back into the mix, it would be best for every conference to be offered as a hybrid to see the most success.

Ann-Marie Pawlicki

Event Manager – CMX

What are the key benefits of hybrid events?
By far, the biggest benefit of hybrid events is being able to reach a wider portion of your community at any given time. This matters tremendously when utilizing events to drive value (e.g., leads, revenue) for your business. Having a full-featured, online complement to your in-person events drives attendance and brand awareness – often outside of your immediate geographic market – and, ultimately, leads to greater results. Now that companies have had the chance to see the benefit of the reach of online events, they will not want to lose this vital component, especially for their larger flagship events.

Another great benefit of virtual and hybrid events is the accessibility factor. Going virtual opens doors for those who can’t physically travel or don’t have the resources to do so.

What are the key pain points or challenges?
Double the workload, double the fun! One of the biggest challenges for those who will put on hybrid events is the increase in workload, as they find themselves effectively now planning two simultaneous events. While cutting-edge software tools can help significantly with some aspects of virtual events, they still require a lot of time and hard work. When executed well, the virtual event component should hold at least as much weight as the in-person event. This often means having an additional event team to manage the online portion — moderators, visual production, breakout rooms facilitators, the list goes on. Oh, and by the way, that also likely means another event budget.

Sounding like a lot? Well, this is looking like the future. The pandemic has opened people’s eyes to the realization that they can do more from home, and even once we’re back, some may opt out of attending most in-person large scale events, and choose instead to attend virtual or smaller, more intimate meetups. Just as a well-executed virtual event has the potential for broad positive impact, a poorly-executed event may reflect equally negatively, and hurt prospects for future attendance at a time when people are faced with more choice than ever.

Therefore, my recommendation to you is to go all in with your hybrid events. Learn from your mistakes and understand that iteration will be key to your success.

Hybrid Events Fad or Future?
There is zero doubt in my mind that hybrid and virtual events are here to stay.

I predict that most large scale, in-person events will have a virtual component going forward. Production value will vary, from simple video streams to full, conference-like virtual event platforms, but event professionals will always be thinking about how they can engage both online and offline communities at the same event. They will also need to think about how to take advantage of each medium’s unique characteristics to create as engaging an event as possible.

It’s true — and fair — to say that nothing can replace the energy and buzz of an in-person event, or be as joyfully fulfilling as socializing face-to-face, but there’s a lot that can be said of growing your community internationally, connecting at-scale with the click of a button, and understanding that even though they are not there in front of you, they can still provide value to them while driving business impact.

The learning has just begun; event professionals will only get better at executing engaging and successful hybrid events. The smartest companies are already working on their hybrid event strategy, crafting an event cadence that fits their community and will support their business needs. Not every event will need to be hybrid, but strategically speaking, companies will need to be much more aware of their use of the digital medium in events going forward.

Cathy Joyce

Director of Communications – MPI UK & Ireland

The Pain Points, Possibilities and Potential of Hybrid Events
The events industry has been turned upside down by the global pandemic, it forced organisations to pivot to virtual offerings. Going digital was essential for people, organisations and brands to make new connections, learn new things, generate revenue and create experiences in a time where face to face meetings were not possible. The pandemic has accelerated a digital transformation and no doubt the benefits will be permanent going forward. It is changing the way we do business, travel, socialise and is reshaping the future of the Global MICE & Events Industry. The Hybrid Event model has now emerged and will be an integral part of the industry going forward.

There are many pros and cons to Hybrid Events, what we believe to be the most obvious pro is that it can help boost your number of attendees as it accommodates both a live and virtual experience. Going Hybrid remarkably reduces participant limitations and reaches a whole new audience, it offers flexibility for those who could not attend physically due to cost, location or timing. While some people prefer an in-person event, others want to be present virtually as it is more convenient.

Without physical boundaries, Hybrid can reach a global audience helping companies to expand their global footprint and unlock new revenue streams. Online events can also align your organisation’s sustainability initiatives reducing your number of attendees traveling, which will not only cut costs but this will have an effect on the overall emissions and environmental impact of your event. Sustainability and CSR initiatives will continue to be an emerging and future trend of the events industry.Virtual events and live streaming allow participants to view content on demand, audiences can also reshare content on their own social media channels which will drive engagement and increase the company’s visibility on a global platform.

While countless businesses have created incredible Hybrid Events, there are few challenges to consider and one of the primary concerns that can arise is connectivity issues which can result in participants not being able to get the complete experience. I’ve experienced this a couple of times, it is naturally quite frustrating and I’ve ultimately missed the opportunity to attend the event. Organisations need to invest in technology and technicians to ensure their Hybrid Event runs smoothly and create a positive online experience.

While Hybrid events extend reach another challenge is online engagement, we have all experienced Zoom fatigue and there is less excitement and spontaneity in the virtual world if not managed well. It is also more difficult to manage online attendees across multiple time zones.The logistics, cost and manpower multiply for Hybrid Events.Organisers have to take care of one event but for two separate audiences. Two agendas need to be created to ensure the experience is just as rewarding and fulfilling for your online participant, as it is for live audiences.

Hybrid Events Fad or Future?
In my opinion, the experience of attending a live event and building a personal connection meeting face to face will never be replaced by a virtual experience. Buyers and distributors that need to touch, taste and experience high end products will be limited to what Hybrid Events can offer. However, Hybrid is a component of live events which is inclusive to everyone and there are many opportunities and benefits to organizing a Hybrid event which enables a global audience to connect anywhere in the world.

The Virtual Events Institute published the market size was valued at $94bn in 2020 and the forecast market size in 2027 is $404bn that’s an annual growth of 23.2% from 2020 to 2027

A 97% of event marketers believe we will see more of Hybrid Events in 2021 and plan to invest in virtual events going forward – Forbes.

Chris Wickson

General Manager EMEA – Integrate

I’m going to answer these questions from the perspective of the corporate B2B Marketer who we know that, almost overnight last year, lost one of their top channels for generating new, qualified leads and accelerating existing pipeline opportunities. B2B Marketing teams were forced to pivot their focus and spend into other digital channels and of course, virtual events, with mixed results. As the prospect of gathering again in-person becomes a reality, hybrid events create a mixture of new challenges and opportunities that marketing teams will need to navigate.

What are the key benefits of hybrid events?
I am firm believer that nothing can replace the power of face-to-face interactions with our peers, prospects and customers. However, at the same time, as we have been forced into this digital-only world these past 12 months, we have seen that virtual events can unlock wider and potentially new audiences that would have otherwise been inaccessible. As both the science and art of successful B2B Marketing increasingly becomes about meeting our buyers on their terms: in the channels they choose at their time of choosing, hybrid events will provide us with more opportunities to do just that, be it live or on-demand.

What are the key pain points or challenges?
Make no mistake, planning and successfully executing a hybrid event as a B2B Marketing team is a daunting task. Whether that is hosting your own hybrid event or sponsoring a hybrid trade show with both a physical and virtual booth, most B2B Marketing teams are entering unchartered territory. Add to that the relative infancy and immaturity of the hybrid event technology platforms hosting these experiences, I think the remainder of 2021 could mirror much of what we saw last year with digital-only events; teams having to fail fast, quickly learn what does and doesn’t work, what tech to use and when, and ultimately a new understanding of how to engage with audiences in different formats.

Hybrid Events Fad or Future?
Events have always been one of the top channels for B2B Marketing teams, both in terms of spend and ability to help generate demand and will continue to be so. Moving forward, I personally see a long-term place at the table for hybrid experiences but very much alongside digital and in-person only events. For B2B Marketing teams, hybrid events will become another method available in their toolbox to engage with and help buyers move through their journey. In my view, in-person only gatherings will return quickly (when safe to do so), digital-only, on-demand experiences will continue, and hybrid events will need to be deployed at the right time based on the Marketers’ objectives. Great content can be recorded and made available on-demand at anytime, anywhere with no need for an in-person experience. Similarly, trying to force a hybrid event on an intimate gathering of prospects or customers in-person may detract from the experience. Hybrid events, in my view, will be best placed for larger community gatherings, such as exhibitions and conferences, where audiences can have a choice: engage with and consume content remotely, or go all-in for the full in-person experience. Rather than planning and executing events in a one-off silo as so often has been the case in the past, Marketing teams will now need to select the most appropriate event format based on their buyer-driven strategy and ultimately aim to deliver a connected experience for audiences across channels.

Corrina Owens

Marketing Director – Profisee

Accessibility Translates to Revenue – Hybrid Events are Here to Stay
Since individuals were forced to pivot to virtual events solely in 2020, the creativity that has been required of marketers to continue to produce events that drove meaningful connections has been ever-present.

This naturally led to an influx of virtual events, in fact, according to a Post-Covid-19 Event Outlook report from Bizzabo, over 93% of organizers plan to invest in virtual events beyond 2020, showing that virtual, and potentially even hybrid events, are here to stay. While the reasons for this are endless, from my point of view, I believe this is largely due to the fact that virtual, and even hybrid events, have made it incredibly accessible for people of all walks of life to attend and experience. I’ve attended more thought-leadership events in my space than I have in the span of my decade career in marketing. Why? The accessibility has allowed me to. No longer do I have to sacrifice or choose between attending an in-person conference versus being available for critical office meetings. The flexibility of these events allows me to attend sessions at a time I am free, not dependent on my location requiring me to experience the event in-person.

While the benefits in the flexibility of attending these events may appear obvious, the move to virtual events has substantially helped companies to move their traditional in-person business models to a flux of virtual offering as well. Take purple cork, a virtual wine tasting event platform designed to connect winemakers from exclusive wineries with individuals from across the globe. Founder and CEO, Kelly Robb, partnered with vineyards across Sonoma County, Napa, and beyond (France, Italy, Australia to name a few), to help provide a model that translated the wine tasting experience they were typically accustomed to hosting in-person virtually, providing economic relief during one of the more challenging times these vineyards had ever faced. purple cork’s wineries sold 3% of their annual production via a large global virtual conference in December 2020. Fast forward to today, and these same vineyards are beginning to look at opening up their in-person tasting again while continuing to evolve and expand their new virtual offerings.

Purple cork founder & CEO, Kelly Robb, has seen first-hand the impact and staying power of virtual events and experiences. She says, “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to help coworkers and clients spend quality time together, virtually, while enjoying some special wines typically only available to private collectors. People have fun, build and deepen relationships, and close deals, if that’s the goal.”

I believe the possibilities of hybrid events for both vendors and their clients continue to remain to be seen, but as long as vendors continue to think about accessibility and inclusivity of all clients, the benefits should surely follow.

Dino Kuckovic

Director of Community & Events – Falcon.io

What are the key benefits of hybrid events?
If 2020 taught us anything besides ripping up those Playbooks and starting from scratch is that virtual events can work if planned and executed well. I know that now, but when forced inside our four-walls in March of last year I couldn’t imagine the commercial benefits going virtual (later hybrid) will have. Two words…Increased attendance. The ability to reach out to more people and engage with those both online and in-person resulted in increased performance for 8/10 events of my annual calendar. While a venue has capacity limitations for in-person attendees, hybrid events provide an opportunity to reach audiences across the world. By removing the need to travel, you’re effectively able to increase your number of registrations and appeal to a broader audience. This is a win-win for the event organizer, sponsors and attendees. The second benefit becomes relevant post-event: on-demand viewing. By adding a virtual component to your events means you can stream it live or on-demand. This eliminates any timezone conflicts and offers those interested in listening in later a convenience factor to do so at their own leisure. More importantly, allowing attendees to view on-demand extends the lifetime of the presentation beyond the event. And finally, greater inclusion of global attendees and speakers is one of the best things about hybrid. They allow individuals who were not originally able to attend to now do so – this leads to more revenue and exposure if you’re aiming to secure speakers from another part of the world. Ultimately you’re left with diversity of opinion as a result which leads to deeper and richer discussions in-chat.

What are the key pain points or challenges?
Essentially we were forced to learn on the job in 2020 as hybrid events weren’t as widespread and certainly didn’t have enough infrastructure best practices to do events justice. One of the biggest challenges with hybrid is that they are complex and potentially costly to deliver. You’re ultimately producing two events and this means more resources. Your teams are likely the same size or downscaled due to COVID. It’s impossible to offer the same experience for both audiences. The virtual iteration has to be different otherwise it doesn’t make sense for there to be one in the first place. So the programs you create around a hybrid event need to speak to the respective attendee types. Long gone are the days where you can prop up a camera and virtually stream an event. Attendees are sophisticated enough and demand more these days. You should be aiming for a mini Academy Awards production with a theme, a host guiding us through the show, breaks, humor and more. My motto in my professional life is to educate and entertain. 50-50, there’s no way around it.

Hybrid Events Fad or Future?
The short answer: a mix. The shift to hybrid events reflects changing attendee behavior and expectations. When executed well, hybrid events have the ability to create truly transformative experiences. Whether you believe that hybrid events are the future is entirely up to you and your organization’s objectives, resources and budgets. However, what we all have to do is let go of any unconscious bias we may be holding on to about the format and include hybrid in our team-wide discussions to establish how and when they should be used. For us at Falcon.io, hybrid events offer an alternative and in an attempt to move forward I don’t mind seeing them on the menu of possibilities. As we learn how to navigate this new normal we’ll need to deal with hybrid complexities to delivery quality. However, the benefits of hybrid events lie in the elements of in-person interaction and sprinkling on top a virtual component. A post-lockdown reality where hybrid is an option but in-person the preference is what I hope to see. Why? In this WFH reality there are things we love and things we can’t wait to leave behind. Humans are social by nature. We need to belong, to connect and share moments with strangers we met at a mingle happy hour after a mentally exhausting 3-day conference. People love that. We even communicate subconsciously through body language with powerful impact. A screen cannot replace that.

Dylan Shinholser

Chief Experience Officer (CXO) – ViewStub

What are the key benefits of hybrid events?
For me, the benefits fall into 3 main buckets. First is the reach. In-person events have always and will always have built-in limitations with reach because you can only fit so many people in a venue. Going hybrid allows you to expand your reach beyond the venue and to MORE people who can’t come or won’t come. Next is the revenue potential. More reach = more revenue. You can sell tickets to the virtual event as well as get more sponsor dollars, as you now have more people “at” your event. This is all while not adding crazy amount of extra costs to your budget. Lastly, is FOMO. If you put on an amazing experience in person, the virtual attendees can see and feel that. If done right, they’ll be in the front of the line to buy in-person tickets to your next event.

What are the key pain points or challenges?
A lot of the pain points I have seen and heard from others is around budget, resources, and fear. “I don’t have the budget to hire anyone to do the production” or “I only have a small team and now you want us to produce TWO events at once?!” or “If I go hybrid, won’t that hurt my in person ticket sales?”. Let me address each of these:

Funny enough, MOST events are already paying a production team to be on site. Even more of them are already recording the event so they have the replay footage. You would be surprised at how little additional costs you are looking at to run a hybrid event. Also, no one is saying YOU have to take on the costs. Use a combo of selling tickets AND sourcing sponsors to cover those costs.

I understand not everyone has large teams. I personally run a very lean team at 99% of my events, so I get it. What you can do to get around that is have ROCKSTAR vendor partners. Vendors who understand what needs to get done, and how to do it. Partner up with them and make them a part of your team. When you’re choosing a production company, go with one who understands how to take events virtual and let their expertise guide you and the event. Take the pressure off yourself and your “small team”.

The last one is less a pain point but more of a challenge that I see when people are doing hybrid events. Organizers are scared if they offer a virtual component to their event, no one will show up to the in person component. WRONG. People have and will always PREFER true human to human connection and experiences. People only opt to be a virtual attendee if they CAN’T come for various reasons or WON’T come because they’re worried about large crowds still. Also, I must throw in here, if people don’t have an excuse of why they are not coming to your in person event, it’s probably because they don’t see enough reason or value to and in that case, you should really consider going back to the drawing board on your event and think about if your event is something people actually WANT TO COME TO.

Hybrid Events Fad or Future?
I think this all comes down to the execution. I think there is plenty of room in the future for more hybrid events with more developments into other tech like VR. I can totally see some event types adopting this more than others though. The B2B space (conferences, association events, etc.) is more likely to stay hybrid or virtual than the space I play in of entertainment and festivals for example for tons of reasons. Back to my first sentence though, the longevity of hybrid events all depend on the execution of us organizers. If we can go on to throw great hybrid experiences then the attendee will feel more comfortable and see value in being a virtual attendee for more and other events. If organizers continue down the path of poor execution and end up leaving bad tastes in the attendees mouths, then that will kill the hybrid experience’s future before it even really starts.

Gita Odedra

Freelance Creative Director

My first point when discussing hybrid events is to highlight that this is not a new format and should not be viewed as one. I for one have been using this format for the last 10+ years. Of course, our current version of hybrid events is far more sophisticated than it’s pre pandemic counterpart. Our industry was forced to evolve overnight as we attempted to replicate the live experience digitally. For many a hybrid event is a mix of the fully fledged digital experience mixed with a live event – This is not necessary what is needed for the next stage of events! In essence a hybrid event is both live and digital, we should remain flexible to what this experience looks like, we do not need the full virtual offering along with a live event after the pandemic (in my opinion)

There are some large global organisations and sectors where hybrid events have been the norm for many years!

For example, in 2011 I managed a rebrand event for a global tech giant, the head office is based in LA – The event was split into a half day conference with a half day party /celebration. Bringing the entire global organisation together would mean shutting down the business for a number of days, this would also have been a lot more planning time and a much higher budget! It made perfect commercial and logistical sense to have the conference live at the LA head office and then stream across the globe with individual parties at each location. Delegates joined via their laptops, we added branded gift boxing, live interaction during the event and access to the recording post event!

So everything our industry started doing during the pandemic, the smart and savvy global organisations have been doing for a long time and will continue to do so! These were also the same organisations that had their internal servers (VPN’s) and IT systems set up for remote working decades ago!

The gaming sector in particular has been organising hybrid events since the start, most participants will attend and interact digitally. Esport tournaments and game launch events have always been hybrid and will continue this way.

What are the key benefits of hybrid events?
Flexibility and options – This is a key benefit; we are allowing the delegates to join virtually or live. People want choice, we are obliged to give them this.
Cost savings – Not having everyone travel and stay at hotels, a much larger venue, catering etc the list goes on. In particular with internal events this could be a great cost saving.
Sustainability – We are all looking at our carbon footprint, by offering a hybrid event, organisations could be cutting their carbon footprint dramatically. The number of items thrown away and the number of trips taken for live events is phenomenal.
Safety – Stating the obvious, the less people travelling and leaving their homes the less the spread of the virus.
Time – Less time is spent organising logistical aspects of events, less time away from business during internal events.
Reach – For example consumer experiences and influencer activations are restricted to those in nearby or those that can travel, the digital experience opens this up to just about anyone anywhere!
Post event assets and metrics

What are the key pain points or challenges?
Language barriers – Ensuring the content is translated in real time and adding sign language can be quite important, else organisations may end up alienating attendees, this may be more of a challenge in consumer marketing events.
Engagement – The level of engagement for those attending virtually is very low compared to live! There is nothing that can replace a live experience.
Product showcase – Once again you cannot replicate this online the same as you can in person.
Fun – Try as you may, it is just not as much fun online as it is live!
Relationship building / networking – Having those conversations in person over a drink with great food cannot be replaced online!

Hybrid Events Fad or Future?
For me hybrid is definitely past, present and future -This being said by no means is it necessary to have a hybrid event for every event, if you are having a drinks reception there is no point at all! The hybrid event will evolve again in my opinion, so the current virtual offering will probably stay until we are all able to travel and interact safely, we will then move onto a simplified digital experience. For those organisations thinking this is a fad, look around!! Most organisations have adapted to the new normal, people will be working from home indefinitely, not everyone will want to go back to live events and travel. As we have seen our industry has to adapt to the forever changing world- Covid has changed the way we work and interact forever! Yes, everyone is super keen to meet again but like it or not digital is here to stay!

Nika Kurent

Head of Events – FIGO

Few events professionals were brave enough to dip their toes in the virtual space pre-COVID-19 pandemic. We knew of brave souls that tried to push for more virtual engagement with our audiences, but most of us were only livestreaming (or recording) the main stage from the physical event to virtual space. We were aware of the need to engage with our audience in a different way, to host sustainable events, to cut back on air travel and offer vegan only alternatives to save the environment. And we talked about different options in our peer to peer discussion on what else can be done, listened with amazement when thought leaders talked about virtual reality and the use of that at our events. And most of us were starting to explore the new technology, were trying to persuade our boards or clients that there is an enormous pool of potential attendees, that we are just not reaching with classic in-person approach to delivering events.

And then the pandemic hit.

In a short span of a few months or a year event professionals were forced to progress their events knowledge and understanding, to look at stakeholder segmentation, to engage with our sponsors and exhibitors, and to look at what software is available. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to do the work we were slowly getting ready to do in the next 5 years, in the next few months. The crisis did our industry a favour, we managed to jump a few steps at a time, and steep steps they were. Not all of us succeeded in the first go, but the crisis gave us that security blanket of “try, fail, try again” mentality. We didn’t have the luxury of overthinking it, we had to give it a go, fast. And it worked! We did it! We hosted virtual and hybrid events left, right and centre, we took our stakeholders on a journey with us, we convinced the boards and clients, we engaged with our sponsors and supporters, and we attracted the participants.

The virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. But we will soon come out of the grace period, when making big mistakes can be swept under that before mentioned security blanket. Very soon we will need to jump multiple steps again in development of in-person part of the hybrid event, making sure that that the in-person part can follow all the rapid development of virtual part. We will need to reposition the in-person part of the event to allow synergy with virtual space.

If we ask 10 event professionals, we will get 10 different descriptions of what a hybrid event is. Which is fine, as all of those 10 professionals are meeting different needs of their stakeholders. Nevertheless, when developing your hybrid events, try to think about the following: * Define your event objectives, what impact or behaviour change you want to achieve. Having clear objectives will help develop your event. This is true for any event, but even more important when you’re trying new approaches. * Content is king! We’ve heard that many times, but it doesn’t make it less true. Let your content guide your event development. Would your content work better in a meeting room or in an online space? Do you need to travel overseas, or would your content carry better in virtual space? * How will you be able to achieve synergy between virtual and in-person? How will you make sure that the two don’t compete but complement each other? * There is a difference between networking and socialising. Different platform providers have developed interesting networking tools, but how can you offer that socialising element to virtual participant? And how can you make sure that in-person and virtual attendees benefit from same level of networking?

There are many more aspects to consider, many of which we don’t even know of yet, until we try it out. One of my face-palm moments was seeing how the in-person backdrop looks on camera in a virtual space. It was awful, the logo was not on screen and the screengrab could have been from any event. But now I know. With hybrid events, the branding has changed, the old rules are out the window and we need to start learning from broadcasting experts on positioning and staging.

Stephanie Utting

Managing Director – emc3

I am certain everyone within the events industry has the word ‘Hybrid’ engraved onto their brain, and if it wasn’t before, it is now used within their daily vocabulary.

Hybrid is the way forward – The route to a brighter future for the conference industry.

In my opinion, a brighter future was ultimately fast-tracked thanks to the pandemic and lockdown. Hybrid events existed long before covid decided to show up. However, the level of Hybrid and virtual technology has skyrocketed in the last year, allowing a huge improvement in the event’s industry offerings. Thankfully hybrid events are now being taken seriously. Thinking back to pre-covid times, when we encouraged clients to stream their conferences to a wider audience, but many were concerned with how this could reduce the value of the in-person event.

For most of our clients, this fear has now been replaced with excitement. Excitement for the added value offered by combining virtual and live events.

The key to success within the hybrid model is to see the virtual and live event as two individual events, with a shared vision, content, and audience. You cannot provide the same offering to those who attend a live event and those who log in virtually; so it is best to consider their individual experiences and put a unique value proposition to each.

This requires separate teams focused on each event, with a project manager bringing the two together. But keep in mind, events will not be two for the price of one, so expect to see an increase in your production budget for a hybrid event.

One of the main benefits of hybrid events is the flexibility they offer. Attendees have the choice between the in-person connections and experience vs the benefits of having to invest less time and cost to travel to each event. It is not just the attendees either, it opens more flexibility for the speakers and talent you provide at your events: it is perfectly acceptable to stream a remote keynote speaker to the live event audience and so you could find your talent budget going further.

Another benefit that should not be underestimated is the wider audience reach. By going Hybrid you allow more people to attend an event that would have previously been restricted by venue and location.

Another benefit that should not be underestimated is the wider audience reach. By going Hybrid you allow more people to attend an event that would have previously been restricted by venue and location.