Although face-to-face events are back in demand, hybrid events are going to be a part of the events landscape for good, say Michael Magafa, Encore Event Technologies’ National Sales Director and Brien Keys, the company’s Regional General Manager for the South West.
The desire is to have an in-person element to events wherever possible. But the genie is out of the bottle with respect to online events. According to the latest Encore Planner Pulse Survey, just under 30 per cent of planners are expecting to deliver their events in a hybrid format for the foreseeable future.
We’re seeing demand for more sophisticated technical solutions, particularly for the online audience, to ensure they’re engaged and gain as much value from attending as in-person delegates.
Most industries would prefer to meet face to face, but some are more risk averse than others. Often, we are proposing multiple solutions for a single event to meet a variety of potential circumstances.
Hybrid is taking over from the virtual format due to that desire to have some form of in-person event. Clients are seeing the benefit of hybrid to extend their audience, reduce the need for travel, as well as extend the life of the event through on-demand recording. The detailed analytics available from hybrid events are also proving valuable for clients.
The other advantage of planning for a hybrid event in the current period of uncertainty is to ensure the event can go ahead no matter what happens, by pivoting to fully virtual or more live depending on circumstances. And hybrid fulfills the need for a back-up online element that allows delegates who can’t make it in person to participate. Isolation and close contact requirements are ever-changing and very last minute – giving the customer comfort that all delegates can still meaningfully engage with the event is important.
Hybrid events are becoming global. They are no longer just a tool to connect teams that can’t meet due to restrictions. We are seeing an uplift in enquiries and conferences that connect Australian, US, Asian and European teams. They are also becoming more complex, with multiple breakout rooms, bringing in multiple presenters from around the world and using newer technologies to elevate the user experience, such as Encore’s Chime Live event platform.
Nothing beats in-person meetings. Hybrid contingencies end up being just that – options for mitigating the lack of the ideal – a full in-person event – with a good, but not perfect, solution. However, these hybrid solutions still need time and energy invested in them for the benefit to be realised and as clients become more familiar with the hybrid format, they are less inclined to spend the time and energy needed to get them right. Expecting that a technologically complicated solution can just be switched on at a moment’s notice will be a real challenge to overcome.
Perhaps the biggest change in mindset for event organisers needs to be to understand the cost/benefit of a hybrid event. Too often clients focus on the higher costs of delivering the technology that realises the hybrid meeting without factoring in reduced costs for airfares, accommodation and food and beverage that come with some delegates not attending in person.
2022 is going to be about contingency planning and risk avoidance – having a suite of options pre-planned and available as needed is going to be important. The good news is customers now know there are solutions in the hybrid space for just about any eventuality.