Hybrid Events

When the future is uncertain, flexible hybrid events are the solution

The events industry has proven itself resilient in the face of adversity. Once the implications of the Covid-19 crisis were understood, event planners got busy evaluating risks, writing event plans and conceptualising new, virtual alternatives using the technology that stepped up to fill the void.

This ensured that most planned event calendars were able to go ahead, in a safe and practical manner, and with great results.

Now that there is some light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel and some parts of the world have reopened for live events, planners are considering what the future holds and where the lowest risks are when it comes to future proofing their plans. Excitement is growing at the prospect of the return of the face-to-face, but there are some serious considerations that need to be kept in mind when appraising your options:

Things can change quickly

Not all delegates will be ready for a swift return to ‘normal’

The environmental impact should not be forgotten

The end of the UK lockdown, which was due to take place on 21st June has been delayed by at least 4 weeks in response to the rise of hospitalisations and deaths from the Delta variant. However, the ramifications from the recent easing of restrictions have seen the re-ignition in the spread of the virus, and the impact has yet to be fully understood. The speed of change in response to the virus is to be applauded, but cannot be ignored when assessing event plans.

Attitudes and behaviours may have changed irreversibly as a result of the pandemic. According to data shared by the ONS on 11th June 2021, nearly 3 in 10 (28%) UK adults reported they felt it will take more than a year for life to return to normal and 5% indicated they believe life will never return to normal. When the time comes for lockdowns and restrictions to be lifted, partially or completely, the reality is there may be individuals who are reluctant or nervous about travelling or being in spaces with large groups.

As the effects of climate change are felt worldwide, the events industry has a responsibility to reduce carbon footprints and move towards a more sustainable future. Now that we have experienced how successful the virtual events space can be, is it justifiable for organisations to return to full travel and in person events? How would you fare in a discussion with Greta Thunberg, now that an alternative has been proven to work?

So, what can planners do to reduce risk and uncertainty? At DWC, we believe the future is the flexible hybrid.

By combining both in-person and virtual elements, flexible hybrid events can range from simple in-person events with live streaming components to large scale events with thousands of participants, concurrent live streams and mixed, semi-live agendas, virtual and face-to-face networking sessions and experiential engagement tactics. The key to success in these uncertain times is flexibility and scalability.

If you have a workshop, conference, seminar or exhibition that you wish to host, it would be very risky to suggest that you go ahead with a 100% in person event at this time. With a flexible hybrid approach, you can ensure that the event is attended by all your delegates in some fashion – those who can and are willing can attend in person, while the remaining (potentially majority) of attendees can attend online.

So, what does this mean to you as an event planner? Here are some key points to consider:

Budget control - Despite most venues offering full refunds for events that have not been able to go ahead, this remains the case for destination restrictions only. If some delegates are based overseas and are unable travel due to local restrictions, there is a huge potential for financial loss and some very difficult conversations. By offering up a hybrid event strategy you can scale down your live event while scaling up your online presence. This allows you to reduce onsite costs while still reaching a large audience, making a positive difference to your margin.

ROI –Hybrid events, in some cases can also offer a better return on investment, due mainly to the cost-effective online solutions available and the increased reach and the scalability.

Higher numbers of delegates in attendance means more views for sponsors and exhibitors, and better engagement means higher ROI for sponsors too!

Insights and data – as the organiser, an online platform provides you with lots of data to provide more accurate reporting on the event’s performance that simply isn’t available offline. Specific reports on participation numbers, engagement and drop outs can be drilled down in real time. Session participation insights can boost your long-term content strategy and sponsors gain essential data on exhibition stand traffic and attendee engagement, helping them prove a positive return on investment.

The Dawson Walker team first faced a hybrid event challenge back in 2005 when a client at Shell asked for help creating an HR Conference that included a number of delegates and speakers who would be based in a range of countries. The ensuing event was a huge success.

We also managed a complex hybrid competition when we launched the first edition of Airbus Fly Your Ideas in 2008 - a global student innovation competition. Teams met and developed their ideas in a virtual environment - to solve some of the big aerospace challenges of the day. The winning team of the 2015 edition hadn't actually met in person until the final that was hosted in Hamburg.

For Shell Ideas360 we invited students to come up with ideas to help solve some of the world's critical challenges around shelter, water and energy - with the final held in the Olympic Park, London.

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