Kim Myhre, founder of Experience Designed, shares his thoughts on why hybrid events open up a whole new world of opportunities and possibilities for event organisers and audiences alike…
I joined a Clubhouse discussion yesterday where some very well-known events industry experts were sharing their views on Hybrid events. All of the speakers acknowledged that we are in the midst of a period of digital transformation where event organisers and their audiences are grappling with how to best take advantage of recent technology innovations. But each of them also agreed that transitioning to hybrid events, where live and online experiences are seamlessly integrated, was unnecessary and unlikely. They viewed hybrid capabilities as still some way off in terms of delivering on what they all believe is the primary benefit that a live event delivers – face-to-face networking.
The crux of their opinion on hybrid events was that attendees at a live event shouldn’t waste the opportunity of the live experience by taking time out to go online, and remote virtual attendees have no need to be connected to what is happening at the live event. In their view these two audiences are different and require distinct event experiences. So, whilst they expect that event organisers will likely produce virtual events, they will, and should be separate from their live events.
The discussion left me puzzled. Why did these experts not recognise the potential for the innovation and new benefits that hybrid experiences could deliver? Why the apparent reluctance to at least explore the possibilities?
Then I came across a recently published blog by event tech supplier Eventsforce called The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Events where the company raised the question as to why event organisers are reluctant to consider the hybrid event model.
According to Eventsforce, “. . . . . hosting a hybrid event that enables both in-person delegates and virtual attendees to participate will make a lot of sense. Which is why we’re seeing so much hype around hybrid in the industry right now. Interestingly, however, a new poll from Eventsforce has found that 70% of event organisers are NOT considering hybrid as part of their 2021 event strategy. Which opens up the question as to why.”
The blog then went on to highlight the pros and cons of hybrid events. Most of the pros – like more choice, greater diversity and inclusivity and more sustainable connections – were all good for attendees. Most of the cons – like complex and potentially more costly to deliver, possible remote audience envy and the need to change – were all mainly challenges for organisers.
So, it appears that there is a reluctance on the part of many event organisers to acknowledge demand for hybrid experiences. In fact, as confirmed on yesterday’s Clubhouse call, some event experts are saying that whilst hybrid events are possible, they don’t believe audiences actually want or need them.
But I can’t help but wonder if when event organisers and experts emerge from their pandemic induced hibernation, they wake to find that the audiences, they thought they knew so well, have changed.
Younger audiences, more digitally engaged, accustom to working, meeting and networking online, and expecting ‘events’ to be more personal, accessible and sustainable, may require that organisers begin to reconsider their insistence that the ageing, more traditional live events model is all that these audiences will want and need.
The confidence with which event organisers and experts believe that they know what audiences want, reminds me of the famous quote by Henry Ford as shared by Steve Jobs: “Our job is to figure out what customers are going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
I like to think that the move to hybrid offers significant new opportunities to enhance and transform the attendee experience in ways that traditional live events never could. Imagine this new world of technology enhanced experiences that can reach and actively engage more people in more personalised, convenient, meaningful and potentially life changing ways. At the root of hybrid, is the value to be gained by more seamlessly integrating our live and online lives to reflect the way that we increasingly engage with the world.
The Eventsforce blog concludes “hybrid events offer an alternative, a new way forward, but they do come with complexity. They come with risk and they come with benefits. They can be hard to navigate but at the same time they offer endless possibilities.”
The good news is that 30% of organisers who took the Eventsforce survey might recognise these possibilities. That is, I suppose, a start.
See our Virtual Event Guide here.