Moving beyond the hybrid vs. virtual vs. live debate – good events transcend format

Chris Ridd
Chris Ridd
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    It goes without saying that the world of events has changed forever since 2019. It’s difficult to imagine that just four short years ago, the terms hybrid event and virtual attendees didn’t really exist – and now, they seem to hold the key to the very future of event management.

    Much has been written and said about the future of events, particularly in this crucial period as we emerge from the strangeness of the Covid era and settle into the new normal. At EventsAir, one of the most common questions we hear from our customers is around the event formats that have emerged since 2020.

    Are virtual and hybrid events here to stay?

    It’s a simple question with a slightly more complex answer. Yes, it is clear to us that today’s event attendees want – in fact, expect – the option to attend most events virtually. While the event planning industry certainly faced its fair share of challenges in the early days of the pandemic, the overwhelming response from attendees was that they preferred the flexibility and autonomy to consume content at home, or wherever they happened to be at the time.

    The numbers also back this up. In 2022, the global virtual events market was valued at US$199 billion, and Market. US research estimates that it will reach an eye watering $1,066 billion by 2032. (Source)

    However, here is the more complex part for consideration. While we’re going back and forth on the hybrid v virtual v live debate – and wondering whether we have the skills and resources to deliver different types of events – are we losing sight of what we’re here to do as an industry?

    Events are about people and content – not format

    At the end of the day, most events need to deliver on two things: content; and networking and engagement opportunities. How the delivery of those two elements happens should be a secondary consideration. It really is that simple. 

    This is why we believe events are no longer hybrid or in-person. They just are. Events have remote and live attendees – it’s simply a mode of content consumption and a method to expand audience reach.

    Most of us in the events industry will agree that the people involved in the event – attendees, sponsors and exhibitors, and even those who are delivering it – should drive the experience and the format – not the other way around. And the overwhelming characteristic of post-COVID life is that people want autonomy, in all areas of their lives. That also extends to events.

    The good news is that delivering exceptional events that are format-agnostic doesn’t have the same set of challenges it did in 2020 and 2021. In fact, in 2023 it’s quite simple and cost-effective, when you have the right solution supporting you.

    For professional event planners, we hope this gives you a chance to get back to core business –  planning and delivering exceptional events and experiences – and leave it to your strategic partners to help with the rest.

    5 considerations for exceptional events that transcend format

    If you’re ready to plan events that transcend format, these five key considerations will elevate the experience for your attendees, exhibitors and sponsors – as well as make life easier for everyone involved in delivering the event.

    1. Session length

    One benefit of digital delivery is we are able to measure with precision when people start dropping off or disengaging from sessions. Experience suggests most sessions should be between 30 and 45 minutes to keep your attendees engaged.

    2. Plan for virtual engagement

    Virtual attendees will always have different needs to your in-person attendees – for example, they don’t have to change rooms between each session, which leaves an extra five minutes to fill. A virtual MC can help keep them engaged and entertained. Whether it’s giving an update on what to expect next or even conducting vox pops, there is always room to add value to every stage of the virtual experience.

    3. Virtual value-adds for exhibitors and sponsors

    Virtual event attendees offer a significant opportunity to drive value for your exhibitors and sponsors. It pays to give some thought to how the exhibitors are presented in your events management platform, and finding new points of entry for the remote attendees. For example, can you create a virtual 3D exhibition environment with custom branding? Are there additional elements you can gamify?

    You may also need to give your exhibitors some direction to engage with virtual attendees, as well as track and capture leads

    4. Simplify by leveraging what you already have

    Incorporating virtual attendees doesn’t mean you have to make a large investment in new gear. In fact, we always recommend leveraging whatever AV is already in place. For most events, remote attendees can be catered for in a budget-friendly way.

    For large conferences, the plenary session room will already have cameras, so it should be fairly simple to capture a live stream. For breakout rooms, all you need is two pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras to capture your content. 

    5. Consider your virtual pricing strategy

    Remote attendees shouldn’t pay the full fee, because there are fewer overheads. However, they shouldn’t be free, either. Your content is the product, and they will be consuming it, after all.

    We recommend setting the virtual registration fee at around 35% of the full registration fee. This usually represents the profit element of an on-site attendee.

    Case study: CONVIN delivers award-winning hybrid event for 2,000 at WTC2023

    How can we help you plan for the future of events?

    At EventsAir, we understand the importance of selecting the right event technology partner – someone who can help you deliver exceptional events both today and in the future. We understand that your events need to transcend format – whether hybrid, virtual or live – and be exceptional, no matter how they are delivered.

    We have one simple mission: to help event planners deliver the WOW in their events with the world’s most powerful event management technology. We’ve delivered some of the world’s biggest events, and we’d love to help you too. 

    Reach out to request a demo, and one of our team members will be in touch shortly.

    Event Industry TrendsEvent Planning & ManagementHybrid EventsIn-Person EventsVirtual Events