Hybrid events, which combine in-person participation with virtual remote logins, are set to be the new norm in the events industry post the Covid-19 pandemic, expert said.
According to statistics by EventMB, 66.5 per cent of event professionals are already planning to use ‘hybrid’ as their go-to format once in-person events resume. In addition, according to Forbes.com, acceleration in the virtual events space will outsize previous revenue estimates of $404 billion by 2027.
Experts in the events industry explained that people have been networking virtually for well over a decade now. Virtual connections have proven to build stronger ties and lets attendees connect with speakers and other high-level personnel that they would not necessarily have access to in person. It also allows for in depth analytics that helps improve on the user journey and better the experience with every passing event and its learnings.
However, now with more and more countries lifting lockdowns and giving a green light to live events, marketers are spending a lot of time trying to strike the perfect balance of live and virtual interactions. Brands across the globe have been able to expand their reach via virtual events. Even with live events kicking off, it is important for them to continue engaging the virtual audience that may not be able to travel or may simply prefer attending an event virtually.
Giving attendees this choice is paramount, says Tania Afonso, co-founder of 360X. “Letting guests attend an event in a way that’s most comfortable for them is going to become increasingly important. Even when live events return, many people are still going to prefer staying in and not travel. By shifting to hybrid events, brands take a customer-first approach and let the guests decide how they’d like to engage – physically or virtually. Adding virtual components to live events will continue to see greater focus with its increased reach across borders and thus better monetisation opportunities.”
John Lickrish, CEO of Flash Entertainment, said that carefully managed events including B2B exhibitions and sport are now a reality on the ground thanks to the UAE’s rigorous vaccination campaign, which is one of the fastest in the world. “Whilst we expect a cautious reopening, there’s a growing confidence that a critical mass of vaccinated people will mean we see a return to live events by the second half of the year.”
Technology, he added, has been essential to all during the pandemic, connecting individuals and businesses all over the world. “Throughout the pandemic, Flash Entertainment evolved its virtual offering to meet the rise in digital consumption, and events such as our virtual concert showed the potential for the entertainment sector, and the appetite for concerts and live shows from the audience who can still connect remotely. With new outlets for content always on the horizon or in production, and, as an industry innovator, we will continue adopting the latest entertainment tech to host events and provide world-class experiences for audiences.”
Cajetan Afonso, co-founder of 360X, explained that virtual and hybrid are now integral to the overall event experience and that the technology supporting them is improving. The industry will soon move into the adoption of true VR, and wearables, and audiences will find themselves even more immersed into events from the comfort of their homes.
“While we are all looking forward to live events, there’s no argument that live, virtual and hybrid must co-exist and the event industry needs to adapt to this new normal,” Afonso said. “Our goal at 360X was to bring back the wow factor in virtual events. We do not want people to think of virtual as a compromise, but rather a fun way of experiencing an event from the comfort of their homes and explore and participate in it with the same vigor and enthusiasm of a physical event.”
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