It’s fair to say we’re all wishing we could transport ourselves forward in time. 2020 hasn’t exactly been kind to the events industry; in what was set to be a standout year for many, we’ve instead been forced to grind to a halt in a way that’s never been seen before.
Yet, perhaps we have fast-forwarded in some respects. Whatever pace the reliance on technology for day-to-day working and meeting was increasing at pre-pandemic, no-one could have foreseen just how quickly the circumstances would lead us to become 100% virtual in our workday. The rise of Zoom and other meeting platforms has allowed for a certain level of continued connection and served to highlight just how many in-person requirements could have been avoided – or at least held online.
How, then, will events look in the post-Covid era now we’ve become so accustomed to instantaneous attendance?
The millennial workforce rising through the ranks already prefer an online element to meeting; after all, this is the generation who grew up alongside the development of social media. Planners too have seen the inclusivity and cost-saving benefits of the virtual event. Yet there is still the need to meet the underlying human need for face-to-face connection, particularly for those not as confident in navigating technology.
Events will therefore need to find a way to accommodate both the virtual and the in-person attendee – and do it well. ‘Hybrid’ events of this nature already exist, but now we’ve all experienced nothing but online attendance for a number of months, delegates are going to be a whole lot more aware of what will and won’t make for a good event.
A successful hybrid event starts with the host venue for the ‘live’ element. Think super-slick tech, dedicated streaming equipment and enough space to allow attending delegates to form connections in between the content element.
Next is the host presenter – or better yet, presenters. If one person is assigned to lead the real-time session, another can be the facilitator for virtual guests, ensuring they’re included, their interactions are heard, and they are kept entertained during any breaks in the session with extra content or dedicated discussion time.
Thorough preparation of background information such as video or presentations is essential, as well as rehearsal from speakers and presenters to ensure no awkward pauses or fumbling which risks diverting viewers’ attention. Fighting against the distractions of WFH life is not to be taken lightly!
Finally, sticking to the schedule will be essential for those who plan to dip in and out of sessions virtually. Attention spans are all the shorter when you’re safely behind your screen.
If events can meet these criteria and strike the balance between attractive content and opportunity for guest connection, they’re onto a winner. And perhaps some positive change can come out of all this disruption, after all.