What started as a quick pivot to virtual events in the early stages of the pandemic has now shifted to hybrid events, and it’s now expected that hybrid events will remain a common format long after the pandemic is behind us.
An Encore Planner Pulse study completed in April found that one-third of respondents have either planned or executed a hybrid event in the last six months. Additionally, while events are still largely virtual, the expectation is that the platform will start declining in the second half of 2021 with the preference shifting toward both in-person and hybrid. The study also showed that the majority of event professionals expect event spending to return to pre-COVID levels in 2022.
“Hybrid incorporates many elements that have long been in place for our customers,” said Ben Erwin, president and CEO of Encore. “The last year has taught us that purely virtual events struggle to fulfill the need for personal and professional connections. As the world recovers, it’s critical that our customers understand the expanded possibilities to reconnect its communities by integrating in-person and remote attendee forums to work on what’s most important to the success of their organizations.”
Technology and platforms
A great hybrid experience bridges the in-room set up and technology with a digital event platform to ensure all attendees can maximize engagement and participation. Based on in-person and virtual audience size, there are numerous configuration options, from a single room with remote attendees, to multiple in-person sites that connect remote participants. Through a network of more than 35 Presentation StagesTM worldwide from Encore, other alternatives are available to record or broadcast in high-quality from a dedicated space.
As the industry works together to uncover the answers to questions about hybrid events, there are several event elements to consider when designing safe environments. In terms of program attendance, event professionals can offer alternate times for groups of attendees to visit the exhibit hall. When it’s time to eat, staggered times can be provided so groups of attendees can dine together. And to the extent that it can be done, outdoor and lobby spaces can be utilized for educational sessions.
The MeetSAFE™ guidelines by Encore were developed with four key areas of focus in mind: event design, room layout / traffic flow, technology enhancements, and cleaning guidelines. With input from venue partners, event professionals and leading industry associations, the new guidelines include a series of meeting formats, technology solutions, and other recommendations that outline paths around how the event industry could re-open as we continue to work toward recovery.
Effectively engaging both in-person and remote participants at hybrid events has increased as a key challenge for meeting organizers. To make your event an equitable experience for both audiences, consider ways to engage your remote audiences by having a dedicated host, offering the ability to interact with presenters between sessions and bring the full space to the remote audience with mixed views of the venue.
People have a strong desire to meet through in-person meetings and events. The last year has taught us that personal and professional connection are incredibly and increasingly important. One thing is clear: as much as we hope in-person events can return sooner than later, we expect the hybrid format to continue for some time.
To learn more about the comprehensive set of end-to-end solutions from Encore that seamlessly connect in-person and virtual audiences, visit encoreglobal.com/hybridplus.