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The Latest Thinking on Hybrid Events

Quick-fire tips and insights from six events industry leaders on how to define, utilize and optimize hybrid events.

This month’s VEI Summit, sponsored by ExpoPlatform, explored ‘New Business Models for a Hybrid World’.

The virtual session kicked off with a quick-fire round where each expert panelist shared their latest thinking on hybrid events.

Jessie States, director of MPI Academy at Meeting Professionals Academy

A big challenge in the marketplace right now is the pressure on meeting professionals from their organizations to choose one technology platform as their enterprise solution.

This level of inflexibility is incompatible with designing experiences that matter for audiences in the hybrid era.

There are a lot of different goals, objectives, and event designs that can be utilized for hybrid meetings and events, and each of those may require a different platform. There's no one platform that does everything incredibly well at the moment.

Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group

Carina Bauer of IMEX Group

There's no singular way to look at hybrid. It’s important for event professionals to really learn what kind of events they're doing, who the audience is, and what the strategic purposes of that event are, and then choose the best channel to deliver their messages.

Hybrid is really about considering the mix of channels and how to utilize them to your best advantage. Look at this as an expansion – hybrid gives us a great opportunity to expand our audience and drive more people to in-person events.

Martyn Clarkson, SVP head of strategy at George P Johnson Experience Marketing

Martyn Clarkson, George P Johnson Experience Marketing

We have identified eight different variations of hybrid. At one end of the spectrum, we are looking at fully integrated digital and live events that are intermingled and the content plays off each other.

At the other end, the events are much more separated, discreet operations that could be small roadshows or virtual-only events that have some sort of live echoes or live sales opportunities at the end.

Hybrid is going to be part of every meaningful experience going forward because expectations have changed. The brands that will succeed will be the ones who approach experiences from a more human or ‘audience’ point of view.

The focus should not be how do we merge digital and physical into a hybrid approach. The focus should be more about how do we create human experiences that feel unified for live attendees, remote attendees, and for on-demand viewers.

Dahlia El Gazzar, tech evangelist, DAHLIA+Agency

Dahlia El Gazzar of DAHLIA+Agency

The word hybrid is causing more angst than it did last year as event professionals feel they need to layer experiences on top of each other. What it has done, however, is create bigger conversations around hybrid events, their design, and existing business models.

What scares people the most is that you have to change. Audience behavior has changed and you need to look at the 5 C’s for the future of events to work: change, creativity, co-creating with stakeholders, community building, and continuity of experience.

Greg Topalian, CEO at Clarion UX and Leftfield Media

The phrase hybrid misrepresents what we're trying to do. We've been given an opportunity to reinvent the nature of the relationship with our customers. Once we stopped thinking about how to take a trade show and move it to an online experience and, instead. started to focus on what our customers want and need right now, it opened up new products.

And these products are not part of something that used to exist and are not hybrid in any way. It opened up a whole new line of year-round business.

Luke Bilton, Chief Growth Officer at ExpoPlatform

What is really interesting to me is the hybrid business model as opposed to a hybrid event. The main thing we need to fix is on the exhibitor side and, the megatrend hitting us in the face, is the rise of e-commerce. The opportunity for exhibition organizers, in particular, is around the move to marketplaces. It means moving from a three-day event to a hybrid business model over a year that delivers leads as a year-round service.

Marketers entering an industry right now will be used to getting measurable and tangible ROI from social media dashboards, which is something we all need to get into. A type of dashboard is needed that brings together data from live and online events into one place. The next step is how you take that data and use it to grow your reach and engagement.

We're only really scratching the surface at the moment, but if I had to pick one major trend it would be around the move to year-round buying and selling through digital platforms.


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