Event organizers should be investing strategically in hybrid events platforms to position their businesses for the short, medium and long term.
As we’re halfway through the long Easter weekend here in the UK, there is an expectation that our well-justified travel restrictions will be extended.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has warned that countries hoping to have peaked on their flattened curves could see resurgences in infections if they lift restrictions too quickly. As such, it seems very clear that this seemingly strange period in our lives is not going to come to an abrupt end, with the pubs reopening, parties in the streets and physical events back in business overnight.
The reality is that we are likely to face a long and very drawn out period with variable and fast-changing restrictions on a local and global scale, likely driven by demographics, testing and infection rates, until a vaccine is found.
Some people will be infected, tested, recovered, hopefully no longer passing on the virus, and these people will become the engine room of our economies. They will want to travel, to meet, to attend events and interact in a physical space again. Meanwhile, a large number of people will still be working from home, under travel restrictions, web conferencing, and attending events virtually (hopefully with a newfound love of participating that way).
For a not insignificant amount of time your delegates will be split between those willing and able to attend physically, and those attending virtually: a hybrid audience.
Event MB recently highlighted data out of Germany, absolutely backing this up: smaller meetings, with potential restrictions in place preventing larger gatherings, meaning virtual delegates may have to fill the gap. It’s likely the shift ‘back to normal’ will be gradual, from meetings that are primarily virtual and very partially in person, through a 50/50 scenario, to physical events augmented by virtual guests.
This means a changing shape of event structure, with nobody really sure the pace of change. This creates uncertainty in businesses - particularly those that are heavily dependent on events for their revenue streams.
So to the point I made upfront. In this uncertain environment event planners need to be selecting technology providers that have the best solution for hybrid events, not pure play virtual events. Meanwhile, event agencies and AV experts have a valuable role to play in supporting this evolution through to a hybrid model.
Hybrid providers offer a faster implementation, de-risk uncertainty in the buying decision and help position your business for the future.
In the short term, it means existing, familiar event marketing websites, registration platforms, CRMs and marketing automation software can be used as normal, reducing disruption where it need not happen. These systems are so critical to the traditional event tech stack, that hybrid event solutions have always focused on plugging into them. Keeping these solutions in play will get your events up and running quickly in a predominantly virtual environment.
In the medium term, there will be this period of unknown length where events will be hybrid, based upon the scenario outlined previously. Event organizers do not want to be running both a virtual platform and, very separately, a set of in-room tools (event apps, matchmaking apps, traditional PowerPoint sessions, etc.) doubling their workload and creating complexity. In-room solutions that have hybrid options through video integrations are perfect here. These providers are also well-versed in working together, using API integrations to match their products to the needs of your event.
Finally, thinking long term, there is some genuine positivity to come out of this for owners of media/publishing/events companies, or those focused on events within corporates.
By adopting a hybrid model and hybrid technology, these businesses will finally be able to take the opportunity to perfectly blend the physical and virtual audience experience, using consistent data-driven insights both off and online. Without the constraints of ‘business as usual’ and fear of change, the fine balancing act of introducing digital innovation into established physical events is now much easier.
The companies that get this virtual/hybrid decision and implementation right will come out of this terrible situation far stronger because of it and the strategic options it affords them right now.