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Time to go hybrid!

Localised, connected events on the rise

We all live in a connected world. This simple fact has already transformed the way we live, interact with others, work, manage daily tasks and have fun. It has changed multiple industries beyond recognition. Now, especially in the current atmosphere of fear and damage control, with the coronavirus prompting event cancellations and travel bans worldwide – it is also changing the way we organize events. Here comes the rise of online and hybrid events*.

It was inevitable, virtual events have been becoming more and more popular in recent years. They are after all a brilliant concept. Cost-effective, sustainable, they can easily extend the audience reach all while saving a ton of time, for both the organizer and participant. The benefits are countless, the coronavirus outbreak just speeded-up their rise to popularity. But they are also flawed in many ways.

100% virtual events, where all of the interactions take place online usually have very patchy participation Unless the guest is very motivated to attend, there’s always something standing in the way. They either easily skip the online conference, get distracted by incoming emails or phone calls, leave sooner than they should. You end up with the Zombie audience, which we have previously talked about here. Virtual events lack a lot of aspects we love about experiential marketing. Face to face interactions with other people, food and drinks, immersive technologies engaging all of our senses – we don’t want to miss out on all of these. Is a compromise possible?

*Yes. Hybrid events (or localised, connected events). They use technology to connect smaller, localised live events — again through predominantly live streams. This online engagement serves essentially to expand the event’s reach and to allow for participation from afar. All while saving money, cutting down on transport, providing engaging experiences and, especially now – reducing the risk of spreading the coronavirus (or any other) to a minimum.

Hybrid events are a perfect solution for international product launches, bringing people together in distributed companies, or conferences with charismatic celebrity speakers from the other side of the world. The benefits are plenty, including cost-effectiveness, inclusivity & reach, sustainability (fewer people travelling!) and most current – health & safety. Hybrid events are a fairly new concept, quite different from the ways we’re used to. There are some key aspects we can’t forget about while planning them, to make the experience truly unforgettable and effective (whatever the goal is):

  • Keep everyone involved: ideally, each local event being a part of the hybrid should have a moderator or host, making sure each connected venue is equally active. They need to be trained in working with the camera and public speaking to live audiences. Each local event can take turns to ‘host’ a part of the agenda so that neither of them feels excluded/less important. To allow real interactions between the local events a cloud-based collaboration tool, like CoCreate could be implemented. That would allow, for example, to set tasks for the different locations and then the output between them.  

  • Make sure it’s the same event: each local event should have similar catering, event soundtrack, event identity, room props or common set/backdrop. That will create a feeling of being part of the same thing among the guests. The set design should take the broadcast format into account. If the event is truly global – time zone management should be in place.

Hybrid events, together with fully virtual ones are still quite avantgarde but will continue to grow as a mainstream, event format. It’s a perfect time to be at the forefront and play with them before everyone else does it.

Meet the authors:

Teresa Crook is Digital Experience Director and lead for SF xLab, innovation hub and RnD arm of Shelton Fleming: email

Kuba Jugo canvases the latest trends and developments across the live events industry at Shelton Fleming: email 

Further reading