2020 triggered change on a scale that many will never experience again. The pandemic forced individuals and businesses alike to adapt and evolve to meet new requirements, and for many, this new virtual way of life has been welcomed with open arms. With restrictions easing, the possibility of returning to normality seems likely – but do people really want to? And is there a new normal on the horizon?
The rise in WFH (working from home) and hybrid working would suggest yes: the pandemic has created a new normal. And for many, virtual is now the new reality. So, the question now is: “Have these changes reshaped the events industry or can we expect to see a rise in face-to-face events once more?”
What are hybrid events?
As the name suggests, hybrid events involve both in-person and virtual components, with common examples including conferences, trade shows and exhibitions. On the surface, they would appear to be the perfect solution for every modern-day event organiser and attendee – but does the reality match the expectations?
The benefits of hybrid events
Think of hybrid events as offering the best of both worlds: because that’s exactly what they do. They give your audience the option to get involved no matter where they are in the world – and with no loss of engagement. Despite the common misconception that virtual attendees of hybrid events are simply streaming sessions or viewing content on-demand at a later date, this is not the case.
Hybrid events are characterised by their high levels of engagement – be it in-person or online – meaning technology is used to create a seamless event experience for both virtual and in-person attendees, enabling equal participation from both audience groups.
So, whether your attendees are right next to you or halfway around the world, they will all experience the same level of engagement and there should be no greater benefits for either party (this doesn’t always work out in practice – but we will touch on this later).
Some of the other key benefits of hybrid events include:
- Increased reach and attendance
- Greater sponsorship opportunities
- A more sustainable alternative to in-person events
- High levels of audience engagement
- Digital content can be repurposed
- Improved ROI
- Increased flexibility
- Opportunity to obtain valuable data and insights
The drawbacks of hybrid events
Perhaps the most obvious drawback of hybrid events is the sheer planning and often complex delivery involved. After all, you are essentially delivering two events, which means additional planning, resources, and in some cases, stakeholders, are required – not to mention the added risks.
There’s also a chance in-person attendees may become envious of online attendees (and vice versa). Naturally, there are unique benefits for each option that your audience will be aware of when they come to choose how they are going to attend your event – many of these cannot be changed. However, you should aim to deliver as equal an experience as possible when it comes to hosting your event.
And of course, as we’ve all learnt from WFH for the past 18 months: technology doesn’t always work. We’ve all experienced the effects an unstable connection can have on a small Zoom call. Now imagine this but on an extremely large scale. There’s potential for a lot of frustration and dissatisfaction.
The future of B2B events
So, whilst there are a lot of benefits accompanying hybrid events, it’s important to be aware of the possible risks, too. It’s also worth bearing in mind that hybrid events are still a relatively new concept, so naturally, there will be some challenges along the way. But with 72% of marketing professionals predicting that incorporating virtual elements into live events will be a lasting change, we should all be prepared to take a trip down this bumpy road together.
If you are looking for an experienced pair of hands to support your strategy, why not give us a call today and organise your free consultation with one of our marketing experts.