Is it time to step into the era of Hybrid Events?
16th November 2021
Hybrid events are the future
According to Forbes, there was a 1000% increase in virtual events in the year 2020. It led to the drastic changes seen in the industry and the way of work and interaction with others.
Despite a significant COVID-19 blow, the world is now adapting a theory of “new normal”. With unique manners and approaches to the changes in the industry, event managers had to alter as well. This created an opportunity to re-evaluate the infrastructure of the industry and integrate live events into a virtual events space.
As of now, we welcome the unlock phase. Events might return to their traditional face-to-face design, because of easing restrictions and new perception to the Covid-19 situation around the globe. However, it is likely that virtual events will still be a concept. If not completely on its own at least as part of the Hybrid Events experience.
What does it mean to be hybrid?
In its simplest form, hybrid is the mix of in-person and virtual components. In the events industry, these two elements are used to tailor and design personalised events and provide optimal and equal experience for each audience .
This Post-Covid concept of hybrid events with new adjustments and innovations far beyond usual online streaming is likely to shape the future of the event industry.
“The idea of hybrid is something everyone should be aware of right now because it is the future and what we are moving into as a new model.”— Hopin (@Hopin) November 10, 2021
GitLab Director of Corporate Events, Karen Hartline, on #hybridevents live from the Hopin micro-theater at #IMEX21.💡 pic.twitter.com/n5pNdEMuMK
Why hybrid events?
Events industry and many other companies have suffered during lockdown due to majority if not all face-to-face events being cancelled. Therefore, hybrid events could be seen as the alternative for event managers and industry leaders during these unprecedented times, because hybrid events provide benefits that people do not even realise:
- The flexibility for the participants, as they do not necessarily need to travel, resulting in higher engagement levels and reduced expenses.
- Cost-efficiency and easier way to attract corporate sponsors and build relationships with other companies.
- Sustainable alternative that would reduce the carbon footprint, limiting greenhouse gas emissions through travel.
Concerns around hybrid events
Although hybrid events became an enthusiastically used tool over the past 12 months, which offers endless possibilities, there are still some concerns, risks and complexity that come alongside:
- Negative effect of long screen time on people’s health and wellbeing.
- Shift of production methods. Special focus towards new technological standards.
- Additional equipment and employee training and upskilling costs.
- Utilizing digital creativity skills to produce engaging content to a virtual and physical audience.
Existing gap between audience experiences
71% of the event planners still believe that the biggest challenge is connecting the in-person and virtual participants (Wolff, 2021). It is difficult to manage two audiences at once and ensure that some sort of interaction between them exists.
Atmosphere of the event can also be a concern. It is something that virtual attendees might find hard to enjoy or ‘feel’. More than 70% of individuals prefer to attend in person opposed to virtual which is due to “affiliative social engagement” need (Groskop, 2021).
Individuals who attend live events have better chances for emotional engagement and excitement. It is something hard if not impossible to replicate virtually. Important social element of the events might be taken away, as people need to be in the same room to experience the same thing.
While keeping all previously mentioned aspects in mind, it can be seen that it is still complicated to organise a ‘good’ hybrid event, which would create equal experiences in-person and behind the screen. As a result, some event organisers try to avoid facilitating hybrid events as they often just do not work effectively. In order to ensure the effectiveness of hybrid event model, it is necessary to rethink how to bridge this pre-existing gap and blend virtual and live experiences into one cohesive event.
Expectations for the new hybrid events model
Advancements in the technology creates new possibilities for event organisers. With a plethora of opportunities out there, event coordinators can not only generate revenue but also increase people’s engagement levels. Best way to do that is by incorporating various techniques and tools into the event strategy.
Diverse ways of functioning with each other and the audience can drastically booster the quality and perception of your hybrid event.
Aggregation tools create an opportunity to connect with audience in more ways between different networks. Cross-platforms such as Walls.io creates a social media wall, which allows to collect necessary data by hashtags, keywords, or specific profiles. It helps event managers to tailor the experience for virtual audiences.
Hybrid event app
Such an app would limit the number of multiple systems used during the event. With a few steps the hybrid app will help in planning, registration, live event production, produce analytics, and provide customer support. What could be better than accessing all of these features in one place?
Gamification and Extended Reality (XR) to connect audiences
Gamification strategically uses game elements to enhance digital experiences, through motivating and encouraging individuals to engage, compete or participate in various activities. In hybrid events, integration of game elements helps to increase attendee engagement, modify participant behaviour, and allows to interact with virtual participants.
Extended Reality (XR) uses wearable technology that combines real-and-virtual environments and change our perception of reality and surroundings. Integrating Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) concepts as part of the hybrid event would allow people to engage in the same way as ones interacting in-person, improving the quality of experience for those attending virtually.
What are your thoughts on how hybrid events will look like in the future?
Will the gap between live and virtual still exist?
Or is it not yet time to step into the era of Hybrid Events?
Please comment down below, we would love to hear your thoughts.
Everyone wants to be hybrid now. Wars are hybrid, cars are hybrid, communication as well. Yet maybe time will show the power of face to face interaction, the value of “made by humans” brand and new normal will be old normal.
Hi Tony, thank you for engaging with our blog and leaving your response! Very insightful statement. While the hybrid warfare imposes new threats, hybrid cars boast improved green engine and digital era allows us to communicate with each other more efficiently, it still leaves a question whether the line at the expense of crucial face-to-face human interaction needs to be crossed.
In my opinion, the time has not yet come to step into the era of Hybrid Events, but that does not mean that somewhere in the future there will be no room for such a thing. I think that this idea will be implemented when the technologies will persevere so much that they can transmit 100% reality to a visitor, just standing on their own sofa at home. So if technologies will be able to transmit all the emotions and experience that a consumer can receive in a live event, there will be no difference between a virtual event or face to face. It all depends on the level at which the technologies will evolve.
Hi Mirela, thank you for reading our blog and sharing your thoughts and opinion. Currently we are seeing the early stages of hybrid events model. It can be seen that the future seems very promising thanks to advancements in Extended Reality. Perhaps in the future we will fully immerse ourselves in virtual events world.
I think Hybrid events are a good way of reaching people who couldnt otherwise attend the event, however, I still think the main focus of hybrid events be on the people attending the event in-person, as if the activities are too online based then it effects the people in the room negatively and they will feel rejected
Hi Georgia, thank you for your comment and opinion. You absolutely right, in a way hybrid events should still emphasise in-person audience experience. It also touches our issue, that the gap between face-to-face and virtual communication and experience during the hybrid event still exists. And as you mentioned unequal experiences are created for virtual and live audiences. Hopefully we will see new content being created, not only focusing on physical experience but also ensuring that virtual audience does not feel neglected.
I certainly think that the past 18 months have shown us the need to step towards hybrid events. Even now, I know a large amount of people missing out on weddings, funerals and life celebrations because they are at risk from COVID, or can’t justify travelling in the current climate. However the ability to join these events via a web link really helps people to remain connected where they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I also think that environmental considerations would work in favour of more hybrid events!
Hi Nia, thank you so much for your comment. It is great to hear your thoughts and opinion. Even though an attendee would prefer to join in person, travel constraints or other personal reasons may prevent them from doing so. However, if they can participate remotely, that is the next best thing! Also, face-to-face encounters are still valuable and will continue to exist. But taking your events to the virtual space is a terrific method to accommodate environmentally conscious attendees and lessen your environmental effect.
There is a whole area of emotional intelligence that comes in to this.
As humans, when communicating and building relationships in person, Body language is the largest part of communication, tonality of voice next and the actual language we use the least. That is 100% reversed in terms of what’s efficient when we’re online, so on that basis, person to person will always be a better and richer experience.
Would you rather go to a friend party in person or join it via a video link?
So this isn’t about online or hybrid replacing the in person experience, it’s about a combination of efficiency and reeach. If it’s a simple briefing and building rrelationships isn’t part of the outcome, but simply passing information, then efficiency says that online will be quicker and more =efficient for everyone.
If building relationships, getting a depth of understanding of people and getting your point across in a way that will engage, then in person will win every time.
Extending reach hugely matters though – we run festivals of Business & Innovation. Any Festival hic is looking to build a community and culture will always be better in person. But during lockdown, when we went online, we acquired a wide range of international partners, the majority of who could / would never travel to the UK to join us twice a year for two days, So Business Insights, our international event is all online and Livestreamed – and that fundamentally allows that very valuable part of our business to exist.
Adding a Livestreamed element to our regional UK events allows our International partners to be a part of those events as well. There are very few of our UK attendees would bother with a livestream if they could get to the live event – Unless of course they simply weren’t able to get there for whatever reason.
Hi Pete, thank you for your interaction with our blog, it is nice to hear your thoughts and an industry point of view. We agree that there is nothing like the excitement of the social side of the event with an opportunity to understand body language, hear people around you and be able to communicate. It is all part of social engagement process, which improves happiness, health and general well-being. Yet, success of virtual and hybrid events in regards to efficiency drastically shifted the market and business events. Thank you for sharing your experiences during lockdown, it is nice to hear that hybrid and virtual models of the events provided an opportunity for your business to engage with international partners. Integrating online aspects into your live event help reach wider audience (even globally) and it also plays an important role in Sustainability and Responsible Event Creation. We can only see what the future holds for us. For now, what do you think about the future of Hybrid Events? Would you employ Extended Reality technologies to your business and event strategy?
That depends on the business model for a given event and the outcomes that are being sought.
Extended reality is a tool hat come at a cost (either financial or resource or both). If by deploying the tool you’re going to deliver greater outcomes to a degree that out weighs the cost, then yes, why would you not do that?
If the event has a paywall and the guests are either greater in number or are willing to pay a greater fee for the enhanced experience, then deploying it makes sense.
If the event is free to attend, or is on a thin financial margin, then you have to ask what the pay off is for the added expense / resource deployment. If it grows the event attendance, then where does the return come in on the business model to justify the investment?
What you wouldn’t do (normally) would be to increase your overhead spend on an event without the return, otherwise you’re moving to or increasing a loss making position.
Unless the event of course is experiential / campaigning / enthusiast based, when the time and money deployed is covered from areas external to the cost centre of the event – then it’s down to “did it make it a better experience, and did we enjoy doing it?” – along side any other metrics you’re putting on the effective outcomes for the event
Thank you again for the comment and engagement. There is a lot of things to consider before employing Hybrid Events model. You are absolutely right, people should not be afraid of experimenting extended reality and using it as a tool to attract wider audience and gain profit. But still, lots need to be considered, for example return on investment (ROI) and whether the new tool is actually necessary. Managers should think about how it will make a difference at THEIR event if such technology were integrated.
Great article! Insightful and interesting read :))
Hi Saule111, thank you so much for reading our blog! It is nice to see that you found the topic interesting and of great importance.
A great read! Big fan of the Extended Reality technology so I’m excited to see how events will use this technology in the future.
Hi Tod, thank you for your comment. We are happy that you enjoyed reading our blog. It is nice to hear that you are looking forward to future events. Extended Reality will absolutely take events to the next level with better graphics and visual designs for presentations, more natural performances, ‘teleportation’ of presenters from different parts of the world, and introduced newfound audiences.
I loved reading this blog, everything is so true. Hybrid events are already a thing. 2020 really showed the world of new capabilities – that the internet can bring people together without eye-to-eye contact. We see that in classrooms, events, graduations, parties, forums, concerts even remote jobs! I think we are heading in a right direction. It’s a fresh start for everyone in this field. This whole online shift opens doors for so many positive possibilities (ability to work from home or work in office; attend lessons in person or from home – all your choice!). It let’s people be flexible at any given time. Probably everyone noticed a spike in gaming industry. A lot of people turned to games during quarantine and found interesting and exciting ways to spend time at home and not die of boredom. Although, it’s clear the eye that depression made a high jump in the quarantine. Many people were not used to isolated life. Still, I think many of them found ways to reach their families and friends with help of social media platforms and communication tools like Skype, Viber, Discord. Of course it mighty difficult time for eldery people struggling to learn new technology. In my opinion, you can learn anything if you just try but older generation some people not only refuse to learn but also insist they won’t be able to adapt to it. And that I think is what the problem can be when you speak about older generations – unwillingness and stubbornness.
Great blog nonetheless! You tackled both postive and negative sides of what Covid made the world face. Can’t wait to read more articles.
Hi Roberta, thank you for a detailed comment and engagement with our blog. It is really nice to hear that you can relate to the situation and find the topic interesting and important. You are absolutely right, hybrid events created an opportunity to ‘choose’. Online platforms definitely became a good tool to integrate various experiences into one place. It can be seen that there has been a massive spike in the entertainment industry, still lockdown affected everyone’s mental health and wellbeing negatively. Also, has been very difficult to encourage and provide training for the older generation on how to use technology which allows us to communicate virtually, when the most important experience comes from personal touch and communication.
I think hybrid events are definitely becoming more and more popular and it is great for reducing carbon footprint in terms of not having to travel, but not to forget that every technical piece that people own in their homes and attend those events with, are still heavily dependent on fossil fuels and in contemporary society, humans tend to buy the newest phones or laptops for comfortability, while throwing away a completely working phone that produced waste 200 times more than the weight of the phone when being manufactured.
As I come from a very innovative country Estonia, hybrid events have been a ‘thing’ for as long as I remember, we would have hybrid events back at school also, as well as apps for grading and homework that every single school uses to this day, voting online and signing contracts online through Identity card etc.
Hi Sandra, thank you for engaging with our blog. You have drawn great attention to one of the important aspects of hybrid events, which is sustainability and responsible event management. Not a lot of people understand the impact of mass technology production and choose not to recycle their old devices. Anyway, it is nice to hear that hybrid model of events have been already used in your country for a long time and that people have been acting upon a sustainable approach. As it can be seen that hybrid events are advancing over the time, we only can wait and see how future events will change.
I think you could look at the ‘era of hybrid events’ from many a different angle. I think, technologically speaking, we as a race have come leaps and bounds ahead of what I ever imagined would be the case even just a decade ago when I was little. This, often times, has come from that desire to make things easier and more accessible. Whether that will be the bane of our existence remains to be seen, but as it stands I think there is much to gain from these hybrid events predominantly by making venues less congested, increasing the volume of participants you can have at such events and being inclusive to those who are unable to be physically present. That said, I currently work for a company using this hybrid approach to working and know that it doesn’t come without it’s difficulties. Mental health being a huge one – it’s so easy to feel alone and isolated from society and the sad reality is, with the current pandemic, there are those who really aren’t being helped. It’s all well and good saying people have the option, but unfortunately some really don’t. Overall I think, as you mentioned, hybrid events are very much here to stay and whilst it will bring with it it’s own set of difficulties, I have no doubt it will have it’s benefits.
Hi Joe, thank your for your comment. It is nice to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding hybrid events and use of technology. You are absolutely right, technology and hybrid events model integration can give louds of different benefits, however there are also many downsides which comes alongside. That is why managers and event professionals need to be aware of potential issues and plan ahead how to overcome them, especially in order to ensure people’ mental and physical health and wellbeing.
Hybrid events are going to be a significant portion of the events. But it’s important to not try to give the same experience for In-person vs Online attendees.
They both have unique interfaces, expectations and ideas of engagement and they have to be addressed differently.
While it seems like people want to get back to meeting others in person. With time, my guess is that the benefits and superpowers of connecting virtually will far outweigh in-person – at least for majority of events.
Hello Arjun, thank you for engagin with our blog and sharing your thoughts! You do highlight some interesting points, and it may seem that people had already adapted to this type of model for certain events during lockdown and there’s quite the contrast in terms of experiences for live and virtual audiences. It may be that individuals who did not enjoy the virtual aspect want to go back to face-to-face, though only time will tell how advancements in technology, especially in this area, change the future of the in-person events.
Excellent article and very topical!
A lot of people I know want to attend live events at the moment because they have not been able to. However, a lot of people still want to attend online because they can see the benefits (time saving and environmentally friendly to name two) so I think a hybrid version will become more popular over time.
Very interesting, relevant and informative blog. Thank You!:)
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