25th August, 2020
Thousands of conferences and business physical meetings are being cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the last 12 weeks we have been zooming and webinaring, for everything from the team ‘check in’ to global conferences. The chit chat and hubbub over a pre-meeting cup of tea has been replaced by awkward silences and apologies for being late as another meeting ‘ran over’. (Which we all know is mostly code for juggling childcare!). Thankfully, Governments are lifting travel bans and meetings are starting to take place. There is sense of excitement in the industry and an optimism that business events will bounce back. At the same time, we’re preparing for events to be vastly different from pre-Covid times. We think they will embrace sophisticated virtual platforms, as well as being smaller and more intimate. We’ve adopted the term ‘hybrid event’… As the name suggests, these will bring together a smaller, in person group with a wider virtual audience. There are several reasons we think these will be increasingly popular.
Get people in the room:
Firstly, and most obviously, the hybrid meeting can include key people who are not able to travel because of Covid restrictions. And they can feed off the energy of a small live group discussion.
You can still do all the techie engagement stuff like live polls and chat rooms in a hybrid event. Anyone who has been to a large meeting pre-Covid will have now noticed that it is acceptable to be looking at your phone throughout. So, there’s no big change in social conventions needed for the in-room group to be chatting with the virtual attendees.
Get better (full stop):
Speakers and event organisers are going to have to think far more carefully about presentations and formats to engage in-room and virtual attendees. Those presentations must be cued on time and speakers really need to adhere to the stipulated timings. It is far easier to log off a virtual conference if the content is dragging.
But there are also really important things to consider when hosting a hybrid event.
Smart venues only:
It really is all about the tech. Powerful internet connectivity and in room audio visual are going to make or break an event.
Value adding ‘plug-ins’:
Most of us get the most value from the networking opportunities between sessions. Event organizers are going to need to plug in the virtual attendees. We’re predicting the increased use of virtual hangouts for online audience to network or even initiate small video chats with the in-person audience.
It is going to be more important than ever to use conference Apps (like Whova) to inform attendees and support networking.
To coin the famous misquote from Star Trek, ‘it’s an event Jim, but not as we know it’. We cannot wait!