How Virtual & Hybrid Events Are the Future of Corporate Meetings And Events

Event Trends

February 26, 2021

Guest Writer

hybrid event

“Hybrid events combine face-to-face and virtual audiences and allow you to share your content across a much broader audience. With appropriate use of back channels, either private within the media forum or other social channels, a hybrid has the power to connect across borders and boundaries. In our current state of never enough time or money to do it all, hybrid events offer a great solution for bringing together the largest audience”.  From Intentional Event Design. Our Professional Opportunity, 2017. 

Nobody could have expected it would take a global pandemic for the world to shift to virtual, and eventually hybrid events, making this more valid today as we consider re-entry from digital/virtual to our first live events where we anticipate ‘hybrid is our future’. 

With varied views on when we will return to live events, virtual events have allowed corporations to stay connected to their teams, clients and customers and the numbers show this will continue.

The numbers don’t lie. 

In the January 2021 Report by the Event Manager Blog based on a survey of 5,000 event professionals 67 percent of respondents agree that hybrid is the future of events, and 71 percent said that they would continue to employ a digital strategy even after live events return.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

The 2020 January Dashboard from PCMA shows the frustration with hybrid. Planners who are budgeting for a hybrid event are finding the costs more difficult to justify: 44 percent said it was their top challenge in January vs. 37 percent in December. As one planner said, the issue is trying to design hybrid events “that are not double the expense and effort. Otherwise, live events won’t happen until the pandemic is over and digital will be a piece of the live event, but not the same production quality and effort of an all-digital event. Unless vendors can come up with a way to make that affordable, the large in-person meetings will continue to languish as it’s not commercially feasible to do both well right now.”

The reality of home-based, remote workers and digital nomads underlaying many global workforces requires corporations to think differently about meetings and events going forward. As noted above there does need to be an understanding that: 

  • a virtual event is not free and investment in the tools that do these well and the people trained to deliver are critical
  • a hybrid event requires two teams – one focused on the digital event and one focused on the live event  
  • you need someone paying attention to the production that delivers the meaningful intersection of these two 
  • face-to-face events where trust is built and planned and serendipitous dialogues are key elements will remain a core business driver in the future, but can benefit from augmenting with the above 

How are they the future? One step at a time, one event at a time. Back to the basics. 

  1. Why are you meeting? Once you have defined the purpose you can work with your stakeholders to determine the best approach. 
  2. Who is your audience? Internal, external, a combination. How many people do you need to reach? Are you sharing top-down messages, offering a connection and teambuilding opportunity, seeking space for dialogue and innovation? Some of these will be BEST face-to-face but with forethought can be accomplished virtually. 
  3. How can you best accomplish the goals at hand? Will it work to connect a live audience or live pods or are you best to have individual virtual connections? Do you need a particular type of platform to enable visual sharing for collaboration or one where you can create a sponsor hall? Are you looking for planned networking where you choose who meets or serendipitous networking where the individuals are either randomized or can float avatars between groups of people? These are all examples of options we have available.
  4. Where it requires a home base and with a global audience understanding the When – I have learned over this past year there is no such thing as a ‘good two-hour window’ when dealing with a global audience. Consider what needs to be live, what can be recorded and shared later, and the best time to reach the maximum amount of the largest audience share.

For example, delivering a message top down to a global audience – virtual lets you do this easily, in real time and hybrid lets you bring together an appropriately sized regional, national or global audience under one roof and then extend the message with hybrid delivering the messaging to offices, pods or individuals who log in to hear the message in real time still creating a sense of unity. 

These will continue to have a place going forward. Meetings, typically more of a business focus are easier to translate. Events, which by their nature have more components that create connection and build the feeling of being part of a tribe will benefit the most from the return to live to deliver maximum benefits. Collectively, the event creators and the platform designers will continue to get better at the ideation and delivery of cool, heartfelt digital events that create meaningful and memorable participant experiences.

This article was written exclusively for Attendease, written by Tahira Endean, CITP, CMP, DES, CED – Head of Events, SITE global.

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