hybrid events: why your digital event needs a home.
Coronavirus has presented the event world with an unprecedented challenge. Millions of attendees have abandoned trips, thousands of events have been cancelled and the financial losses are inconceivable. For ten major tech conferences alone – including Google I/O, Facebook’s F8 event, Mobile World Congress and SXSW – the economic loss is beyond $1.1 billion. And as travel disruptions continue, social distancing becomes standard and anxiety towards gatherings persist, events are facing a rocky road ahead.
In response, events have swarmed online. Webinars, lectures, panel discussions, summits, conferences, workshops and more are now expected to take place online so they can ensure the safety of attendees whilst still delivering quality experiences.
Whilst the digital space is a lifeline and an opportunity for businesses, it has its hurdles. The technical requirements to host an effective, glitch-free event are more demanding often thought, needing both specialist equipment and expertise on hand. And once you have that in place, it’s difficult to create the same level of engagement found at in-person events. Attendees can get up and leave at any time and looking at a screen instead of being surrounded by thousands of excited minds is hard to match.
Enter hybrid events. An idea that has gained traction amid the pandemic (although not new), hybrid events mix the wide-reach and almost unlimited capacity of an online event with a physical location and audience. By doing so, they enable companies to connect with global audiences whilst still benefitting from a sense of place and human interaction. Some say that hybrid events are the near future of the event industry, and we think so too. Here are three reasons why your digital event needs a home.
Engaging people online is hard. Not only do you lack a physical presence which can feel alienating, but you’re also competing with texts, emails, social media, unclosed internet tabs and household conversations. These problems are universal for anything that happens through a screen, but online-only events face even more problems as they often don’t have enough human context for people to relate to – seeing a face streaming on your computer is rarely enough to keep someone hooked.
What’s needed is a location that creates a real place for audiences to engage with. Being able to see a speaker’s entire body as well as see them move on a stage, sit in a chair and respond to other speakers and an in-person audience are vital components to building a powerful digital event. Physical settings are the critical context that people need to feel involved, and this is what hybrid events can offer.
And for hybrid events, there’s also the possibility to share valuable content long after the event has ended. Instead of watching a half-baked Zoom presentation months after airing, people can revisit both the setting, content and atmosphere of a hybrid event – a much more appealing proposition.
In normal times, events are networking heaven. The connections you make during breakout discussions, lunch breaks and networking sessions are paramount to the experience and value of an event.
Replicating this connection online is a gruelling task, although chat functions, comment capabilities and virtual living rooms attempt to come near. These additions are helpful and they do allow attendees from across the globe to interact, but they remain a mediocre substitute to the real thing.
Integrating a physical location into your digital event, however, allows for those invaluable connections to prosper. With the correct safety measures, businesses can continue to create authentic networking opportunities for local entrepreneurs whilst also facilitating digital areas for in-person audiences to connect with digital attendees. Hybrid events blend opportunities to connect from the physical and virtual realm, maximising value and offering people a middle ground between the familiar and the new.
As events around the world move online, it’s increasingly difficult to stand out. A technically flawless event is the minimum expected whilst an innovative, creative and unique event is what’s desired, and audiences’ expectations aren’t any lower than they were pre-coronavirus. People are wanting events that leverage digital and physical realities to create meaningful experiences, and compromises to either side will result in a diminished impact.
Having a location is fundamental to achieving a level of excellence and creativity that will inspire, and the opportunities to build a setting tailored to the ideas behind your event are endless. As a result, your event can speak clearly to both a local and international audience about your mission and brand, something that is much harder to accomplish without that vital backdrop. And as online events become even more normalised, new benchmarks will be set. Those who limit themselves to only the digital world will struggle to keep up.
If you have an idea for an ambitious digital event, we can make it happen. Find out more here.