Hybrid events are not a threat, but an opportunity to empower event communities
This year has been tough. The pandemic turned the world upside-down and our industry was caught by surprise. We were all looking for immediate solutions to minimise the loss of revenue and plan our recovery for 2021. Overwhelmed by uncertainty, it’s easy to forget what motivates people to attend events and trade shows.
I’m not talking only about ROI here. Yes, companies send delegates to events looking to get a return on their investment, but there are many opportunities online and offline for promoting products and services.
What is it about events and trade shows that make them unique?
It’s the experience. Virtual events can recreate some aspects of this experience. What virtual hasn’t been able to recreate yet is the social component of bringing people together and working as a team.
People go to events in groups to “divide and conquer”. Some build relationships with vendors, others research the competition, some attend seminars, others to close deals. At the end of each day, the teams get together to debrief and plan what to do next.
Even if travel bans are lifted and events are back in 2021, we can expect a significant decrease in the number of attendees and exhibitors. Concerned about safety and budgets, companies that used to send four or five people to an event will likely send only one in the coming year.
The question the whole industry is asking itself is how to make events safe and give people the confidence they need to come back. But this is not enough. We should also ask ourselves another question:
How can we deliver the same value and ROI companies are looking for, even if only one person from a team or delegation is going to be present at the event?
This is where hybrid events come into play. At first sight, hybrid may seem like a threat. Some think adding a virtual dimension to an event may discourage people to attend while the pandemic is still a problem. I believe we are failing to see the opportunity to leverage the best of both worlds.
For those participating remotely, we can use virtual to deliver parts of the experience, such as attending seminars, scheduling meetings, and researching exhibitors. This way, their colleague attending the event can focus on making the most of being present on the show floor. In addition, hybrid events can create an unprecedented opportunity to get people who can’t or won’t attend in person to engage with the event community.
The right technology can help streamline a delegation’s “divide and conquer” strategy by allowing teams to collaborate and share their experience, even if they are in different physical locations. This is what we’ve been working on over this year here at Konduko.
Our goal is to enable each team member to focus on their task: build relationships with vendors, attend seminars, close deals, etc. With this in mind, we created virtual tools to allow the whole delegation to follow what their colleague at the show is discovering. This way, the team can debrief and plan what to do next in real-time.
If we do hybrid right, we can increase the value of participation by empowering people to engage before, during, and after the event. Let’s focus on implementing solutions that nurture event communities and give people the confidence to collaborate and share their experiences. This is what people miss from face-to-face events.
Keeping an open dialogue about fresh approaches can help keep our industry relevant in the coming year. What are your views on hybrid events? Let me know in the comments.