Gavin Newman, CEO of Ivent discusses format options for hybrid events
After the groans of “virtual fatigue” fade as in-person events open up again, we now have the word ‘hybrid’ being bandied around the events industry. What does that really mean and does the events sector need to look more seriously at hybrid?
In a recent State of Events 2021 survey conducted by Ivent, 83% of respondents said they will continue to run virtual events? So virtual seems as if it will live on but what about hybrid?
Some 33% of survey respondents said they would include a hybrid element in up to 50% of their events, so the evidence is there and it thus warrants a deeper dive in to how this format could potentially deliver value in the sector.
Hybrid is not as simple as just streaming your event presentations however and it shouldn’t be – that’s a kop-out and will soon induce the same moans we had for Zoom overload.
Those who innovate and truly understand the different formats of hybrid will not only survive, they will thrive. I have seen some outstanding examples of hybrid events that have been really well thought through.
What is a hybrid event, and is it really that new?
Hybrid events are designed to merge both live and virtual event audiences. Two distinct audiences each participating in the same event, brought together through different mediums, designed to provide them with comparable experiences and outcomes.
With the worldwide pandemic ongoing and mass vaccinations progressing fast, some in-person events are returning but not in the traditional sense as international travel is still hugely restricted, but a hybrid event will allow physical events to be attended by much larger audiences.
Many big hotel organisations like NH Hotels and InterContinental have already adapted themselves to bring this format to the table. However, there are notable challenges for businesses like mine that need addressing head on, the biggest of which is in the stat below.
71.1% of event organisers say that connecting in-person and virtual audiences is their biggest challenge (source: markletic.com)
So what are some of the possible formats?
Concurrent: This is the one we all know and expect, the typical hybrid format. The live presentations are streamed using an AV team at the venue into a virtual event where remote delegates consume the content.
Different vendors offer very different ways of in-person and virtual delegates interacting with each other, so if you are looking to deliver a hybrid event check out what they offer as it’s the make or break.
The one big con for me with this format is it means there are essentially two events to organise on the same day and sponsors/exhibitors will not thank-you for having to man both a physical and virtual booth at the same time.
Echo: We have been delivering this format successfully for over 10 years. The presentations are captured at the event but not streamed. They have some post production to pretty them up and get them absolutely right and then a virtual version of the event is delivered two plus weeks after the in-person event.
Advantages of this format are huge – only one event to organise at a time, and less cost to capture but not stream video. The presentations can be beautifully edited but also you can add some exclusive virtual event content to spice the original programme up.
The presentations are then delivered “as live” with the Q&A element still being completely live with the presenters participating again but online. We have seen up to 35% of in-person delegates also attend the virtual version.
Book-end: A virtual element is built and deployed before the event to amplify the in-person occasion, build the excitement, create community, possibly deliver one or two online presentations and also for delegates to arrange meetings with sponsors and delegates.
The in-person event happens and then an Echo event is delivered afterwards. Fantastic sponsor value too with the extended presence and long tail exposure to delegates.
Community 365: My forecast for the future of virtual events is this one. A virtual event environment is built and sits online 365.
An annual in-person event happens and then at various points across the year smaller and more focused virtual events are delivered. This keeps the event community connected instead of just having one occasion each year to try and do it all. A great content repository that grows over time, a community hub and the advantage of live, interactive and engaging sessions.
Plenty to think about.