This spring, as the world began to reopen, it seemed that nearly every conversation I had included a reference to hybrid events. Many people believe they’re the future of the entire $3 trillion events industry, a must-have in an eventual post-Covid world. But what “hybrid” actually means in practice, and whether attendees now conditioned to the convenience of virtual events will truly demand it, is still hazy.
The one thing I know for sure is that hybrid can’t mean doubling the workload and resources for marketing and events teams: running a full in-person event and then producing an entirely separate virtual event for those at home.
To do that well is extremely cost prohibitive. Corporate event planners would need two separate significant budgets—and internal teams—to produce a single hybrid conference.
And to do that poorly, by simply offering video feeds of live presentations, would ignore what so many of our clients—and their clients—tell us they want: access to the full immersive experience of an event but with the convenience of attending or speaking from anywhere. Many people have come to depend on the ability to access event content where, when, and how they want—without having to show up in a room in person.
The future of events is not a digital add-on to an in-person experience; it’s a physical add-on to a digital one.
Like most solutions to hard questions, then, the answer to hybrid is simplicity: one flow, one experience, one event company that takes care of the entire production. This isn’t a hybrid model of events. It’s the future of events—full stop.
For our partners, that means working with a single event partner to create a magical, consistent, and seamless experience—the same design and schedule and onboarding process for both in-person and virtual versions of the event.
The same custom videos and set designs would appear in person and virtually. The same event agenda and one-on-one meeting schedule would be available in person and virtually. And speakers would be prepared by the same event staff, in the same physical or virtual greenroom, whether presenting in person or virtually. Some speakers would take the main stage at a physical venue. Others would appear on-screen or, in the near future, as holograms.
And for event attendees, this means maintaining the ability to mix and match their experience. They can attend live sessions one day, network that evening, then watch video highlights of 20 speakers they may have missed on the flight home.
Meanwhile, whether a person attended in person, online, or both, event organizers would have access to all the same performance data and customer analytics, as well as a living, ever-expanding archive of event content.
In the end, the future of events is not digital or hybrid or physical. It’s all of these things, because creating a unified theory of events is the only way to get the best of all worlds—in-person networking and granular digital analytics, serendipitous encounters, and the freedom to engage in content anywhere.
It comes down to creating a unified, simple event production flow that combines the best of the physical and virtual worlds, so that attendees can experience a live event wherever they are, in whatever form they want, whenever they want—whether in a theater with hundreds of others or flying 35,000 miles above it all.