The 2020 event landscape has most definitely been virtual. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the slowly growing trend towards virtual and hybrid event environments. But once the virus has passed and things go back to “normal,” will online event elements remain? Will the future be made up of digital and in-person event hybrids? Is this even what people want? As we start to look forward and consider what comes next, we decided to take a moment and ask: Are hybrid events really the future? Here’s what we’ve discovered:
The world is mainly divided into two camps at the moment: those who want to throw caution to the wind and return to life as usual before the pandemic, and those who are taking public health advice to heart and avoiding public gatherings. Selling tickets to a physical event is difficult when part of your target audience will not attend. And generating interest and registrations for a virtual event is equally complicated when some of your audience may be refusing to make any concessions. A hybrid event allows you to reach both audience segments. Even after the vaccine has been distributed and infection rates decline, it is going to be some time before it is safe to host maximum capacity live events. A hybrid set up will help you get around this obstacle. In counties where small gatherings are permissible, a hybrid event is likely to be the only workable option. When looking for a venue, choose a GBAC star accredited facility coupled with creative, pandemic-inspired decor elements to help maintain social distancing and keep event attendees safe. And using an event platform like Accelevents can help you deliver content to your virtual audience and create networking opportunities between both audience segments.
Even when hosting a live event is possible, opting for a hybrid format can give you the best of both worlds. It can allow you to respect crowd restrictions while still maximizing your revenues. Depending on the industry and subject, a conference of 50 people may work but generally speaking, these sorts of events draw on a larger audience and generate more revenues when there are virtual attendance options. If you are planning an event like a trade show or job fair, you will need to draw a large crowd, and for the foreseeable future that is likely to be impossible without using virtual elements and creating a hybrid experience. Remote attendees can access your event content without having to be in the same physical location. While networking and engagement can be challenging in this format, it is not impossible. By working interactive elements into your event program, you can reach and connect both audience segments. But here’s the interesting part, it is not always necessary to provide the exact same experience for both audiences. In some instances, the online audience isn’t interested in what is taking place for the live audience and vice versa. The virtual component can be run as its own thing with only shared content.In this way, hybrid events allow for greater flexibility, enabling event professionals to develop an event strategy that works best for their unique objectives. The event could be fully hybridized or be executed more like two separate but simultaneous events. The emerging trends suggest combining things as much as possible – the content, the technologies used, the platform, etc., but instead of connecting a virtual attendee with an in-person attendee, you should focus more on connecting virtual attendees with one another and do the same for in-person attendees. The focus should be on presenting the best possible experience for both audiences instead of making attempts to combine them.
Event apps and event technologies have made incredible progress in recent years. We’ve come a long way from using conference software and Facebook Live to reach an audience. Event platforms, like Accelevents, have adapted and grown to keep pace with increasing industry and audience demands. Today’s best event platforms offer in-depth, real-time analytics that can provide valuable insights to event marketers, sponsors, and planners. This data can be used to improve event marketing strategies and content planning making way for an improved, and potentially more personalized, attendee experience. Video production features are only going to get better as well. With Accelevents, for example, the platform provides integrated production tools to help create the highest quality stream possible and enables live streaming so there is no need to additionally source a streaming platform. Platforms like Accelevents have evolved to include ticketing and registration, attendee management, event branding and website building, marketing and promotion, fundraising, and virtual event hosting. These platforms can be used to host live events, virtual events, or hybrid events with ease.
We think hybrid events will play a significant role in the future of the events industry. As a whole, industry leaders are confident that physical events will make a return. But when they do, virtual components will continue to provide attractive opportunities to everyone involved from event marketers to sponsors, speakers, and attendees. While it is impossible to predict the future, and virtual events are clearly more than just a passing fad, it makes sense that hybrid event formats will be the way forward.