From extended reach to increased ROI, there has been much talk about the benefits of hybrid events over the past year. But while huge learnings and advances have been made in virtual solutions since the start of the pandemic, the hybrid model is still emerging for business events. It’s only now, as restrictions on meeting face to face in larger numbers are easing in many destinations around the world, that organisers can truly put hybrid into practice.
To ensure the success of hybrid formats, collaboration and sharing best practice is vital, and Singapore, which is leading the way in the hybridisation of events, has plenty to share. As well as successfully staging several high-profile hybrid events, the destination has created an Event Industry Resilience Roadmap (IRR) to give organisations a blueprint for putting hybrid into action.
Whilst the IRR is primarily designed to drive the recovery of Singapore’s business events industry, the level of detail and advice it provides makes it relevant to anyone working in events. The best-practice guide is jam-packed with innovative ideas, inspiration, solutions, and practical tools for successful hybrid events, and here are some of the highlights…
Ultimately, attendees are the focal point of any event and curating a positive experience through both physical and digital means is the key to success. The IIR covers in detail the challenges and opportunities of hybrid as far as attendees are concerned.
Challenges range from bridging the gap between attendees present physically and attendees who join virtually to deciding on the time zone to hold the event so that as many attendees as possible can attend. However, it’s important to remember that digital allows for unique modes of engagement with event attendees and that digital engagement is cheaper and more efficient for attendees.
Without the limits of space and time, hybrid events also allow for the creation of non-localised communities of attendees, speakers and sponsors that gather around a shared purpose or value. The IIR advises that it is paramount to focus on community needs and allow participants to voice their opinions and ideas, co-create activities and crowdsource ideas. Utilising virtual break-out rooms, dedicated groups on social media, or live forums that exist beyond the parameters of the scheduled event can help to foster a collaborative spirit and generate more value for both attendees and sponsors.
The guide also provides a concise breakdown of the challenges and opportunities for speakers and sponsors.
The journey for online audiences is heavily reliant on content, as it’s the number one reason for attending virtually. In the IRR, Singapore advises keeping audiences engaged with a broadcast-style format that features the three C’s of content – captivating, cinematic and compelling.
A challenge hybrid events may face is that virtual attendees will be multitasking while tuning in to the event, and likely to be distracted. You can overcome this by curating captivating content; sessions should be shorter where possible; use visual content such as motion graphics and animations; and include interactive elements such as polls to make sessions more engaging.
Cinematic content should be snappy, featured prominently and updated regularly to entice constant viewings — like viral TikTok videos, informative TED talks or Netflix specials – and catered to the demographics and needs of attendees. Live sessions should also be utilised to create impactful moments that can only be experienced in-person, with a focus on creating shared and memorable moments.
Meanwhile, the digital content can create value even after the physical event is over. For example, videos and session recordings can be made available online and accessed on-demand, driving new monetisation opportunities.
For a hybrid event, you technically have two venues to get right: The physical space (hotels, ballrooms, meeting rooms, convention centres) and the digital space. Your digital venue—better known as a Virtual Event platform—is responsible for running the virtual components of your event.
As the report rightly recommends, the Virtual Event Platform must be highly secure, capable of supporting a large volume of attendees, offer easy access on any browser or device, compliant with all regulatory needs, and ensure all aspects of data privacy are met.
The physical space needs to be hybrid-ready, and organisers will need to prioritise AV support, technology, and incredibly fast internet speed when sourcing the right venue. New Covid-related health and safety protocols will also need to be considered in the physical space to keep delegates safe. The IIR is packed with insights around hygiene and safety, safe distancing and emergency management and contact tracing, with handy checklists for organisers, venues, and suppliers pre, during and post-event.
As well as supporting the hybridisation of events, technology can be a key enabler in making the in-person element of the event safer. For example, organisers can adopt technology to facilitate crowd monitoring and safe distancing alerts like an RFID token that blinks red when persons within 1m of each other, and movement tracking via beacon or Bluetooth technology.
The IIR features a plethora of other insights on learning opportunities, defining practical outcomes and commerce as part of the ‘Five Pillars of Hybridisation’. To learn more, you can read the Event Industry Resilience Roadmap in full here