Our current disruption may emerge as the catalyst for a long-overdue transformation of the live events marketplace. Traditional event solutions will need to be reconfigured in a world of social distancing, restricted travel, and reduced spending. Typical large group gatherings could be delayed for many months to come; when they do return, new rules will govern.
We must all embrace the new technologies that will enable this transformation. The linkage between physical and virtual has always depended on tech so current offerings must be enhanced and expanded. Coming out of this downturn, immersive experiences won’t be optional; they’ll be expected.
With every new technology, strategy and approach that presents itself, given our new world order, we’re now looking at a set of variable directions that event planners can go when producing an event. As the hybrid event concept starts to take shape, it’s important to be flexible but to keep in mind how to best blend both worlds.
We call this the Hybrid Event Spectrum.
The spectrum concept provides flexible guidelines for evaluating how physical and virtual event components can interact. Discovering the right blend of both ends of the spectrum will deliver the best results going forward.
Here are 5 concepts to consider as you design your hybrid event:
- Technology: Explore new content delivery platforms for a more immersive online viewing experience. Virtual event attendees should be able to easily personalize their participation.Live and recorded content should be easily accessible and produced with broad availability. Select technology that can provide reliable, mobile app-based audience polling capabilities to encourage audience engagement.Facilitate attendee networking through personalized programs built on existing, tested technology.
- Reach: Extend the reach of online content by partnering with channels who can deliver existing subscribers.Consider sponsored content delivery such as interstitial messages, speaking opportunities, and activations.
- Continuity: Ensure continuity between physical and virtual content streams.For the physical event, plan to include live and recorded content generated from remote locations. For virtual, design short-form programs to accommodate opt-in viewing, reducing audience time commitment. To improve access, build in live on-screen caption features throughout physical and virtual event programs and expand opportunities forlive interaction, for both physical and virtual audiences.
- Scale: Scale down live "in-house" audience capacities, with adequate social distancing and spaced-out room arrangements.This presents an opportunity to have a more personalized experience—think break out and workshop formats. This can also easily incorporate virtual participants.
- Center: Provide an on-camera "host" interface to moderate programs, introduce presentations, and conduct live interviews. With two worlds colliding at one event, there needs to be a re-centering point as sessions end. This person should be the sole communicator and create excitement among the audience throughout the event.
The remaining months of 2020 will be a unique window to revisit and re-imagine the fundamentals of live events from the ground up. We should be ready to think about the unthinkable - and determine which traditions still benefit a changed world.