Hybrid events: you will hear this definition a lot in the coming months. Since the world of meeting and conventions was turned upside down by the pandemic, the whole industry has tried to find creative solutions to make up for the ubiquitous bans on gatherings and live events. Technology has been our most powerful ally: we have been able to organise entirely digital and virtual conferences, meetings, trade-shows, and all sorts of online events to keep our respective industries going, to further business relationships, generate leads, and generally connect and interact without travelling or shaking hands. As lockdowns are eased more or less all over the world as a consequence of the massive vaccination campaigns and the hope of herd immunity, the event industry finds itself in a fluid and rapidly-changing scenario, which calls for new solutions. Hybrid events might be it and, according to many industry observers, they might stick around well beyond the end of the current emergency because, quite simply, they provide a wealth of hitherto unforeseen advantages. In short, we accidentally stumbled upon something we really like, while trying to get out of a situation we absolutely hated.
What are hybrid events?
A hybrid event is a combination of a traditional live-event format with virtual elements. This usually means that some attendees will be able to gather in the same physical place at the same time, while others will interact remotely, using digital platforms. The real challenge of this type of event consists in making it equally viable and profitable for both groups of attendees, i.e. making the virtual interactions as meaningful as the “live” ones, granting remote attendees the same opportunities for networking and lead generation as those physically present at the event.
Why are organisers so keen on keeping hybrid events going regardless of the emergency
For months we have been turning to technology and virtual event platforms thinking of them merely as a temporary solution – albeit one we were immensely grateful for. However, it wasn’t long before event organisers began to notice a shift in their audience and modified their marketing strategies accordingly. Suddenly, events that had catered to mostly local audiences in their traditional formats started attracting international attendees, conferences that would have been limited to individual, geographically and linguistically defined groups found themselves having to provide translations and subtitles, as they welcomed audiences they never hoped of reaching before. Event organisers started marketing their conferences and trade shows differently, targeting much wider audiences and enjoying the luxury of connecting with potential attendees and clients based solely on their interest in a certain topic, regardless of physical distance. All in all, this aspect of the momentous change we went through was overwhelmingly positive and the industry is not willing to let it go any time soon. And, after all, why should we?
How does a hybrid event work?
There are several ways of organising hybrid events. The first key aspects that need to be defined concern the possibility of gathering a certain number of attendees in a physical place. For instance, if the physical part of the event can be organised in a Country in which limited gatherings are allowed, the first step would be defining who needs to be there and why. Panelists and speakers will usually be the first choice in this case, as well as – if the regulations allow it – a small number of premium attendees or stakeholders. In order to allow for remote interactions to work as well as direct ones, it is essential to hire capable moderators, ideally reserving one for online community management and one for live-interaction management. Creating a well-defined schedule for the event will shift the audience’s attention to different speakers at different times, making sure that those interacting online get the same opportunities for networking and participation as those physically present.
Is this the future of events?
We believe so. More than that, we are convinced that this was always going to be the future of events: the current crisis simply accelerated a process that had been underway for years and only needed to gather momentum.