When the pandemic hit last spring and shut down the event industry seemingly overnight, the hospitality and conference industries experienced a severe downturn. Many professionals in both industries had a very challenging 18 months—and many of those challenges continue today—especially as the effects of the virus linger in many markets.
However, as with most challenging situations, the market has turned to innovative solutions and new options have emerged out of necessity. A whole subset of the event and meeting industry has provided savvy event managers with the tools needed to plan and implement virtual events, enabling professionals to attend and participate in conferences and meetings from the comfort of their work-from-home set ups. Unencumbered by budget or travel restraints, more people than ever before have been able to experience and attend virtually-delivered events over the past year, and it has created a whole new level of user experience that the industry embraced and incorporated into their 2021 marketing plans.
That said, a recent report from EventMB, showed that even though 80% of event professionals have improved their proficiency in event technology over the past 15 months, only 18% consider themselves to be savvy event technologists.
Now that physical venues are slowly beginning to open back up, many in-person events are being scheduled for the last quarter of 2021. However, that doesn’t mean attendees and exhibitors are automatically rushing out to purchase flights and hotel rooms to attend these events. The Event MB report stated, “Despite the recent lifting of mask mandates and a return to in- person events in several U.S. cities, we found that 42% of event professionals will nevertheless be pivoting their next major event to a virtual format.”
Fortunately, there is an alternative that provides the benefits of both event formats. Hybrid events, with their in-person and concurrent online component, have clearly shown the potential to bring together all the benefits of physical and virtual events to provide a tailored attendee experience that reinforces the value of the event and the host organization.
“Over the past 18 months, the big pivot to virtual events was out of necessity. Today, hybrid events have become a permanent part of the event industry landscape, because attendees have now come to understand and value the virtual option. In-person physical events are becoming much more virtually experiential, to not only fill the wants and desires of Millennials and Gen Z attendees, but also to provide impact, ROI and shared experience opportunities to those who now have the clear option to stay home and participate on their connected device of choice,” said Michael Cohen, CEO of UgoVirtual.
In short, there are four primary reasons that hybrid events are well positioned to permanently revolutionize the event industry:
1. Increased inclusivity
Hybrid events are much more inclusive. People with compromised health, very young children, disabilities or traveling restrictions can more easily attend and interact with the content presented in a hybrid event. This means that all attendees—whether physical and virtual—have the same opportunity to participate in the full range of event activities This may account for the steady increase in the success of pivoting to virtual event solutions, which has steadily increased from 60% in the third quarter of 2020 to 83% in the quarter that just ended.
2. Enhanced networking opportunities
Hybrid events allow more attendees, sponsors, and speakers to connect with one another, regardless of where they’re located. Those who attend in person can meet with others at the event venue, then also meet with online attendees for further conversations at a time that’s most convenient for everyone. Both groups enjoy the flexibility of meeting through the event’s virtual platform at any time during the event and for whatever length of time they’d like. Plus, all parties can continue their conversations through the virtual side of the hybrid event experience, even after the physical event concludes.
3. Better ability to pivot
Unexpected challenges like the weather, national health emergencies and personal unexpected challenges will always cause some uncertainty surrounding live events. Knowing you can pivot between attending an event in-person or virtually takes some of that uncertainty away. Hybrid events make investing in the cost of attendance more realistic for many professionals who don’t want to gamble their professional development budget in an unpredictable world.
4. Opportunity to divide and conquer
Because the cost of attending an online event is usually less expensive than attending in-person, hybrid events present the opportunity for teams to attend the same event without going over budget or completely abandoning their posts. Not all companies allow an entire team to attend an event at the same time, especially with today’s labor shortages and cutbacks. With hybrid events, an organization can send one or two representatives in-person to learn, exhibit, or both, and the rest of the team can attend virtually, while continuing to work.
Hybrid Events Are Forever
Now that organizations have learned out of necessity about the benefits of the virtual attendance option, from cost savings to attendee convenience and analytics, hybrid events are certain to be a popular option for organizations wanting to host all types of gatherings. From the ability to be more inclusive to their unmatched scalability and potential to earn more sponsorship revenue, hybrid events will become a valuable staple for event planners and management teams.
At UgoVirtual, we have assembled an experienced and knowledgeable team of virtual and in-person event architects who can help design, plan and implement seamless hybrid event experiences that maximize the benefits for all stakeholders, including organizers, sponsors, exhibitors and attendees. Visit www.ugovirtual.com today to learn more.