Why You Should Plan for Hybrid Events in 2021
If you dial back the clock to last year when the COVID-19 outbreak had just started showing a global trend, there was a perception that things would return to normal once the pandemic was successfully contained. It turns out, even with the rollout of a vaccine, making an accurate estimate about the timeline for the ‘return to normalcy’ is a tough ask.
While there is a general desire to again attend live events under the safety guidelines and restrictions, many people are still assessing their comfort levels for in-person events and face-to-face interactions. This has created opportunities for the event industry to innovate through hybrid events, presenting options for both physical and virtual participation.
According to a spokesperson for the Virtual Events Institute, a community for digital event professionals: “Even when live experiences return to pre-pandemic levels, hybrid events will continue to play a pivotal role in the marketing, comms and events mix”.
With hybrid events growing in popularity, here are three reasons why you really need to start planning for them in 2021:
1) More flexibility for stakeholders and attendees
Despite the shift to virtual last year, many sponsors and exhibitors have been sceptical about the value of purely online events or displayed reluctance in getting acquainted with the complexities of virtual event technology. For them, hybrid events offer the flexibility to attend events live and stay connected with their business interests.Similarly, the virtual component is a critical aspect that enables organisers to reach a diverse global audience, such as:
- a) Attendees in remote areas of the world or located in countries facing political, social or healthcare challenges, where access to the internet is the only way to participate in such events.
- b) According to official figures, in the UK alone there are 14.1 million disabled people, of which 4.1 million are in work. Physically impaired event participants have greater chance of attending hybrid events, making use of assistive technology available in virtual event settings.
2) Your competitors are also planning one
The era of virtual events has made the event landscape more competitive than ever, with many new players throwing their hats into the ring. With the market teeming with opportunities, many businesses hamstrung by the lack of live event options are already creating hybrid experiences in 2021.Research by event industry blog EventMB shows 71 per cent of event professionals stated they would continue to employ a digital strategy even after live events return.
In fact, in the near future, hybrid events could become the standard where physical and virtual experiences operate in parallel and ignite new forms of storytelling, content delivery and creativity.
3) You’ll activate new sponsorships and boost top line growth
The pandemic had a major impact on the finances of the global events industry in 2020, as many events were cancelled or postponed. For example, the world’s largest exhibitions group Informa Markets projected its profits would plummet by more than 70 per cent for 2020. Hybrid events can help recoup these losses by activating revenue streams through both online and offline channels, some of which include:
- Ads and banners (physical and virtual receptions, lobbies, live streams)
- Branded giveaways (Freebies, gift vouchers, e-vouchers, lunch coupons)
- Sponsor branding (breakout rooms, exhibitor booths, website home page, landing pages)
- Value-added exhibitor charges (hosting extra team members, sessions, products)
- Premium attendee access (to exclusive sessions, content, training and workshops)
Hybrid events are here to stay. The pandemic triggered a strategic shift of events to include virtual elements, opening a window to new audiences, technology and business. For organisers, there’s never been a better time to experiment with hybrid events and shape an event strategy that’s flexible, sustainable and ROI-driven.
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