dB Blog #318: The Best of Both Worlds: Hybrid Events Offer Unique Benefits
January 12, 2022
By David Sonntag
BRAND ACTIVATIONS & MARKETING, COMPANY NEWS, EVENT INDUSTRY, EXPERIENTIAL, LIVE EVENTS, PRODUCTION, TIPS & TRICKS, UNCATEGORIZED, VIRTUAL EVENTS
It’s no secret that producers of large-scale events have had to quickly rethink almost every aspect of their existence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hybrid and virtual events took off, becoming the new normal for marketers and event organizers, with the majority of major events using updated technologies in their event planning to accommodate new health and safety concerns.
Hybrid events are not new. They have been around for years now, usually consisting of an in-person event combined with some kind of live streaming technology that allows viewers at home to tune in. That format still exists, but is quickly evolving. The COVID-19 pandemic has added serious fuel to the fire, necessitating events to embrace virtual and hybrid options, which ultimately means new technologies and greater innovation. Here are some awesome benefits hybrid events can provide for audiences and event organizers.
Let’s start with some data. A recent study conducted by LinkedIn, based on interviews with more than 1,800 marketers across 13 countries, gives us insight into the current attitude of the events industry towards virtual and hybrid events. Of those interviewed, 85% had held a virtual event in the last year and 28% said that between 91-100% of their events are now fully virtual. The same data revealed that event marketers are predicting 40% of events will be virtual, 36% will be in-person and 24% will be hybrid events, combining what could be the best of both worlds, if they are produced well.
Hybrid and virtual events are changing the capability expectations for marketers and event management companies. Skills nowadays should include producing and directing video content, having technical knowledge of different platforms, being able to moderate online comments and discussions, and understanding how to amplify the event on digital marketing platforms after the fact. While all of that might seem overwhelming, we think it’s all worth it and the events industry is largely in our camp. In that same study we mentioned earlier, LinkedIn also predicts many event organizers will develop a “digital twin” or create an online component of their event to ensure they are getting the most out of their investments. On top of the potential increase in ROI, the shift in the event industry towards hybrid and virtual events also poses serious benefits for audiences, event management companies, and the environment.
Let’s put this in the context of hybrid events. Hybrid events are actively experiencing a growth spurt. These new ‘grown-up’ events will be integrated experiences for both virtual and physical attendees. They can be tailored to individuals’ preferences, allowing for a wider audience and more speakers, and open the door for more extensive discussions and post-event promotions. They harmonize the magic of an in-person event while enjoying the extensive reach of a virtual one.
For conferences and speaker based events, hybrid events massively widen the scope of the experts from which they can choose. Now, organizers can invite and host speakers from nearly anywhere in the world. With more speakers comes more interested individuals. The virtual side of the event can accommodate many more attendees than an in-person venue ever could.
Hybrid events create the opportunity for the event to stay connected and relevant long after the in-person experience has ended. Organizations and companies can continue to extend the hype around their events with post-event campaigns and/or repurposing content for blogs and social media. This can help retarget attendees, gaining access to an entirely new audience beyond the one that attends the in-person experience. Hybrid events uniquely allow organizers to engage two types of attendees, measuring success both in-person and through an online community that will continue to grow long after the actual event is over.
For the environment, hybrid events, and virtual events even more so, pose an interesting solution to some of the more wasteful practices used for large-scale events. Hybrid events have the added value of maintaining the balance between sustainability and the joy of having an in-person experience. Again, the Linkedin research found that 42% of organizers will continue to produce virtual events in some capacity because they are more environmentally friendly than in-person sessions, reducing the need for transport, and cutting down on disposable items.
Inclusivity is another awesome perk of virtual and hybrid events. Having a virtual side to an event opens up the experience to more people, especially those who, for a myriad of reasons, might not have been able to access it in-person. Now, anyone can take part in the event from the comfort of their own home, with options for closed captioning, transcription technology, or other health and safety necessities.
This is all predicated on the fact that you produce a Hybrid event well. We have all seen some real disasters and epic fails over the past two years. We have also seen some very large AV companies claim they can host virtual or hybrid events, only to discover that they really do not have a handle on the platform, basic best practices, or have platform tunnel vision for their specific tech platform. What we know is that there is no platform panacea. They all do something really well, and many try to do lots of things pretty poorly. This also includes true accessibility and 508 compliance. With this in mind, it is important to have a solid vendor with an in depth knowledge of the landscape, that can anticipate needs and hiccups before they become problems and one that you trust.
As we enter 2022, we can’t wait to see how major events start to push the technological and social boundaries of the industry.
For more information about organizing hybrid events get in touch with the team at Decibel!