What’s changing about corporate events?
The pandemic has changed a lot of things for many people and industries. The event industry is no different. It pivoted and changed immediately, and some of those changes may not be temporary.
The pandemic forced our hand when it came to virtual events, and as we build our new normal, our hand will be forced again when it comes to hybrid events. As we were quickly thrown into planning and participating in everything from virtual ‘water cooler chats’, to virtual conferences, webinars, galas in a box, and everything in between, we very quickly embraced new technologies, found new methods to connect and engage, adjusted our work systems, and we learned a great deal about our capabilities along the way.
Virtual events have allowed event organizers to reach larger and wider audiences. That seminar no longer has a participation cap on it. The whole family can now attend the gala. The shift worker can watch a webinar replay on their schedule.
We already know that we will see a staggered return to in-person events. We have to take into account capacity restrictions and people’s comfort levels as they consider returning to in-person events. From a reach perspective, it’s hard to ignore the vast audience that we have been able to reach virtually over the past 18 months. A scaled-back, in-person event may not give an event the reach it needs or has become accustomed to.
That’s where hybrid event models are going to play a role, embracing the technologies that we’ve learned to love (and started to hate!) through the pandemic. But what does a hybrid event look like? It’s more than a recording of a live event. Think outside the box! Pre-packaged snacks or a remote bartender demo so virtual attendees can participate in the food & beverage experience. Focus on connection and experience, across both types of guests. How can your virtual and in-person attendees engage with each other, before, during, and after the event?
Hybrid events will help to maintain the reach of virtual events while simultaneously re-capturing those attendees who haven’t participated virtually (be it due to lack of interest or access). Here we are again, pivoting and planning a new style of event, accommodating changes in schedules and learning styles, and adapting to an increase in flexibility that many have become used to.
There is no easy answer, no one-size-fits-all approach. Look at this as an opportunity, a chance to revisit the event plans of the past and hit the reset button. Ask yourself, and your past and current attendees, the right questions. Find a venue that can accommodate hybrid event plans. Consider planning more frequent, smaller in-person events. Think creatively. Use technologies to enhance the participant experience. Provide options – for engagement, networking, and interaction. And perhaps most importantly? Clearly set expectations for the attendees and guests – what to expect when attending in-person versus virtually, how will the experiences differ, and guide them through making the decision that is best for them.