Hybrid is here to stay, hybrid work, hybrid cars, hybrid learning even hybrid people but not hybrid events, nor come to that hybrid meetings. However the hybrid business model is great – everyone wins. Live in-person events plus virtual events, just not in the same timeframe.
Hybrid cars work on one or other of their power sources, hybrid work works on being at home at one time, or at work the other time. Mixing the virtual and the face to face in office meetings is unbalanced and ineffective. The same is true for events.
The last two years has seen the explosion of virtual events driven by necessity. Now live events are returning, albeit in a stuttered manner, many organisers are rolling live, in-person events and virtual online events into a hybrid single event. It doesn’t work.
The online visitor has the benefit of time efficiency, they can jump from one session to another and they can run a session in the background whilst multi-tasking, Online sessions are great for attracting a far wider, larger audience but they attend alone, in isolation, and have stunted engagement
The in-person event attendees have the serendipity of networking, the engagement, the buzz, the excitement. Live events offer the engagement needed to keep the whole community cemented together.
When the virtual and live events are run at the same time the numbers are reduced because of the time and travel required to attend. The live attendees miss out on participating in the online sidebar chat and cannot easily jump from session to session..They also cannot easily identify others attending unless they are very close. Whilst the virtual attendees miss out on the important subtleties of face to face engagements and social interactions.
When run in separate timeframes with clear objectives then hybrid works. Face to face events at one time and online sessions at another time. This will require a shift in event marketing to encompass year round digital engagement.
The next normal is still taking shape, and we want visitors to come away from live events thinking “That was so worthwhile, I’ll be back next year, meanwhile I’ll find out what they are doing online” – the Hybrid Event Business Model, not the single event. Organisers that focus on both the engagement and the experience all year round will fare better and strengthen their ties to both visitors and exhibitors. There is much ground to cover and time is of the essence.
Bottom line: Nothing will ever replace live face to face events but please do not run the digital and live at the same time, run both, they both have their place, but not at the same time.