HYBRID EVENTS IN 2021 AND BEYOND:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR EVENT PLANNERS?
We have all heard the term “hybrid events”, but what does this buzzword mean among those in the production and planning side of the event industry? And what does a successful hybrid event look like for both program managers and attendees alike?
“Hybrid: having two different types of components performing essentially the same function” – Merriam Webster
This is a definition that highlights a key takeaway – both components must be equally compelling. For events, this means in-person attendees need to walk away feeling like they were provided value for their time and effort to travel and attend, while virtual attendees of these hybrid events need to be entertained and engaged. In the end, the overall event experience needs to feel cohesive and exciting for all attendees.
The world turned upside down in early 2020 due to COVID-19, and the events industry, like so many others, had to pivot and quickly adapt to a new norm of event experience – that experience became dominated by being completely virtual. All event attendees became proficient in virtual event technology for things like meetings and conferences, (we all learned firsthand about the phrase “Zoom fatigue”), and event professionals across the industry worked hard to transform their in-person events into virtual experiences that still inspired meaning and drove engagement for their audiences.
With the worldwide roll out of vaccines, many are wondering when in-person events will return, and what will these experiences and events be like? As far as “when?”, answers are still sounding a bit like a Magic 8-Ball – “ask again later”, “cannot predict now”, “concentrate and ask again” – but we do have some predictions as far as the “what?”.
- VIRTUAL: The general consensus is that all events going forward will need to have a virtual component for both presenters and attendees. Both sides of the equation have grown accustomed to the flexibility and promising opportunity the virtual event sphere provides. World renowned presenters can now share their expertise from any global location with audiences of all sizes. Attendees can view events from the comfort of their own home or office, and on their own schedule. Aside from the health and safety component, many will not want to trade in the convenience factor that having a virtual element extends.
- HEALTH & SAFETY: Depending on location, some counties have already outlined the guidelines for resuming safe in-person events. Health and safety will remain a high priority for attendees, and thus will need to remain top of mind for planners. Things like mask protocols, additional cleaning, touchless check in, onsite testing, proper space for social distancing, attendee capacity limits, and signage for all of the above. Planners and production teams will need to work in collaboration with their legal departments as well, to implement protocols and waivers that serve all sides.
- BUDGET: In many aspects, hosting a virtual event alongside an in-person one is like putting on two events at once. Although much of the content may be the same, the two different dynamics will require different resources, which will be equivalent to additional budget requirements. Just as before, budget allocation is a driving force in the direction and design of an overall event experience. For proper streaming services, comes a line item for additional internet connectivity. More space for attendees to properly social distance, might mean a higher budget amount for an increased venue space.
Experience is still #1 for attendees: whether they are in-person or watching from the comfort of their own location. The changed landscape for events is pushing Planners and Event Professionals to collaborate and think outside of the old models and into new experiences and reach. The next few years will be a new chance to deliver in innovative ways for our partners, and this resilient industry is absolutely up for the challenge!