The event sector appears to be going through some sort of identity crisis.
Are we still the event sector, or are we currently the virtual event sector? Soon to become the hybrid events sector? Or one the many names that one hears being used from ‘composite events’ to ‘blended events’ to ‘mash up events’. Who and what are we right now?
Perhaps the better question is, does what we call these events really matter? And the answer is a resounding NO.
Sure - I believe quite strongly that at this moment in time the sector is craving progress from both a business perspective and a human need perspective (we’re all still human and emotionally we need to move forward). The term 'hybrid event' shows immediate progress, so has a moment in time relevance. However it’s not what they are called that matters, it’s what they achieve. Ideally this will be inclusion.
To achieve this we must develop progressive forward-looking events that are not stuck in 2019, but that offer multi-faceted, multi-channel access for our attendees.
Attendees are already making noises that they want the ability to participate in the manner of their choosing, and not the ways in which we as event professionals may have forced upon them in the past. They no longer want to be forced to travel to get access to a small number of relevant content sessions, in amongst a larger agenda. They may want to, but through choice.
The debate on what we call these events can be really quite polarising. Indeed I myself have been drawn into this debate and ran a poll earlier this year that indicated that 65% of event professionals embrace the term hybrid, which means that a whopping 35% don't.
Looking to others for their thoughts, and you can see passion levels can be high:
“Hybrid is such a terrible word in the world of events. There are other alternatives. It just requires thinking outside of the box and a bit of tweaking of the business model. From a semantical point of view, hybrid is perceived as something not natural to us humans. Leaning towards genetics and robotics and implies unknowns and complexities that can scare people. We should use just, ‘Events.’” said Dejan Mitov, Chief Futurist at ZIGNotch.com.
Given the general energy and passion in the event sector, it’s no surprise that beliefs are strong at the moment, and indeed it’s this strength that is driving the transition to hybrid at the fastest pace that attendees will allow.
In the UK there is evidence of attendee interest in attending in-person events with several occurring in recent weeks, including the recent Reconnect hybrid event hosted at Chelsea Football Club where there were around 30 people in the room, and 500 online. Incidentally they used Glisser as the hybrid event platform to enable synchronised interaction and engagement of the in-person and virtual audience, and are hoping for a re-run in October where perhaps the ratios of in-person to online will have shifted…
What’s clear is that attendees want choice: they want the ability to go in person or the option to join online if they prefer. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise. To look to another commentator on the ‘what we call events’ debate, attendees are perfectly capable of deciphering how your hybrid event will run, and what the best attendance option is for them:
"Good events were already driving more digital content and engagement. It's just a matter of degrees. We will take that further, but I don't think a new name helps. I think ‘Event’ alone is fine. These days everyone knows they have to read the next line to get relevant details." James Flinchbaugh, Founder of Old Dutch Group & JFlinch and Advisor at Kinta.AI
Given that attendees are also progressing on this event evolution and are becoming proficient at identifying what attendance channels are available, does this mean we're already one step closer to just calling them ‘events’?
I believe so. Whilst I’ll be using the phrase ‘hybrid events’ at this moment in time, I believe the phrase will become obsolete in the coming years, if not months.
And as long as nobody is looking backwards to events of old and we are all looking forward to future events, which are expanded, multi-channel and inclusive, then who’ll really be worrying what we call them anyway?
Vanessa Lovatt is an established virtual and hybrid event professional experienced in building engaged digital communities and delivering high-quality digital content and training.
Having run her first virtual event in 2012, Vanessa has been immersed in and witnessed the scope, landscape and potential of events, training and digital content evolve. Now, as an essential part of today’s business world; she has made it her mission to facilitate event organisers, training companies and digital content providers to navigate the rapidly evolving world of virtual opportunities.
In her role as Chief Evangelist at Glisser, Vanessa is demystifying the tech that can help trainers and event organisers breathe fresh life into their work.