5 key considerations for your next hybrid event 

This article is brought to you by Lighthouse Events.

Last year, most of us went all in with our digital executions for our marketing campaigns, content executions or event gatherings. Overnight, Zoom went from being the name of just another enterprise conference platform to a verb. 

Now, with vaccinations being rolled out globally, and the economy slowly opening up, it is natural for most companies to want to revert back to the glory days of events - where we could actually meet our fans and consumers in person. 

In Singapore, the government recently announced that B2B events can host up to 750 attendees for approved MICE events, with pre-event testing (PET) required for all attendees and safety protocols in place. For approved B2B MICE events with up to 250 attendees, PET will not be required for local residents. However, the number of attendees in each group must not exceed eight, with at least a metre spacing between each member being maintained throughout the event with no intermingling with another group.

While quite naturally most of us in the event industry can’t wait to run our next in-person physical event, the truth is we shouldn’t be so quick to throw out all the myriad of skills we picked up last year virtually. 

According to a recent study by IBM, it is expected that once people have received the vaccine, the daily routine that came screeching to a halt in 2020 will not be reprised, but rather, rearranged. A majority (52%) of respondents in the study said they will change the extent to which they interact with people outside of their household after vaccinations have taken place. Overall, 30% plan to interact with others less. 

While the study found that more Gen Z respondents want to spend time with people outside of their households once they get the shot, a March 2021 survey of more than 14,000 consumers from nine countries, found that only live sporting events, amusement or theme parks, museums and art galleries, live theatre events, and movie theatres are expected to see an uptick.

The study by IBM also said that on average, 60% of 18-to-24- year-olds plan to visit venues once vaccinated—as compared with 71% of Millennials and 69% of Gen X respondents. This appears to be the continuation of a trend where Gen Z’s are reported to visit venues less frequently than those in other age groups during the pandemic. 

When combined with Gen Z’s desire to interact with more people outside of their household, this begs an important question: Where do Gen Zers want to spend their time in the future? Well, even before the pandemic, it was clear that people in Gen Z were uniquely tied to their phones and with virtual communication largely supplanting in-person interaction for more than a year of their young lives, Gen Z may have cemented a preference for digital experiences that will outlast COVID-19.

So where then does that leave the future of our events? The answer, we believe, lies in going hybrid.

Here are five key considerations you should take for your next hybrid event:

1. Proper and detailed pre-event planning

When creating a hybrid event, proper and detailed planning is not an option. As they say, the devil is in the details and given hybrid events are a combination of physical and virtual, you will definitely have more on your plate to balance and should only expect the unexpected to emerge. 

Unlike a physical event, where the majority of your attendees at the venue will be experiencing the event homogenously, having a hybrid event means your attendees will also be attending your events through a device of their choice – be it mobile, desktop or tablets. Ensuring that each of these devices allows for a great experience requires multiple rounds of testing, learning and adapting.  

Moreover, in a hybrid set up, you need to also ensure that both sets of attendees are having a consistent experience. Today, the world is all about O2O – offline to online and vice versa. There needs to be seamlessness in your event execution.

2. Experiment with new technology  

The world today is all about engagement- be it online, offline or hybrid. Engagement creates value for your attendees. Keeping the mobile-savvy generation in mind, brands need to experiment with AR and VR elements. While AR and VR aren’t new terms to us in the marketing and event world, they most definitely can alter the way attendees can experience and interact with your event. AR and VR tech can also be used to enhance product experiences for the attendees who aren’t able to physically be at your event due to travel restrictions.

Moreover, virtual executions of your hybrid event also require a whole lot more visually charged elements for them to come to life. Have a range of visuals beyond just a static background. Play around with animations, moving graphics or even 3D! With the power of technology, you could very easily replicate a physical venue and bring it to life on your screen. Your viewing might be confined to the four walls of your screen but your imagination need not be! 

3. Hybrid is not cheaper    

Let’s talk budget and let’s get real. Times are tough and you might not have a bottomless pit of dollars to execute the event of your dreams. And that’s absolutely fine! We believe the right partner will be by your side to execute within your means (and theirs too!). But a common misconception is that a hybrid event is cheaper because it is simply killing two birds with one stone. 

But a closer look will indicate that holding a hybrid event requires you to have more manpower – all of whom have to be aligned to ensure consistency of experience (remember what we said in the first point? The devil is in the details!) 

Moreover, the virtual element of your hybrid event should not just be thought of as an online execution. You need to think of it as a show with its own cast and crew.   Holding a hybrid event is as good as holding two events at the same time! Your event executors not only need to think of their tasks but will also need to concurrently manage the tasks of their peers to ensure seamlessness. 

4. Unique collaborations can be fun  

We are in the era of unique collaborations! Last year, LVMH-owned Sephora collaborated with stationery brand Stabilo to launch liquid eyeliners shaped and packaged just like the latter's iconic highlighter.  

We also saw the collaboration between Nike and Ben & Jerry resulting in Nike churning out a chunky rendition of the Dunk Low, featuring hues and textures that mimicked Ben & Jerry's signature packaging. The outsole captured the blue skies, bovines and green pastures seen on Ben & Jerry’s container, with colourful tie-dye patterns and bold text graphics on the shoe's insole and heel.

Unique collaborations can surprise and delight your consumers when done right. It can be used to reflect common interest and values or to enhance and differentiate your service. It can also be used to create new levels of consumer engagement, loyalty and community.

So why not apply the same principles to your hybrid event? Why not incorporate elements you wouldn’t usually incorporate and partner with firms that you wouldn’t really think to? Trust your event execution partners to come up with out of the box ideas (while of course ensuring your brand DNA remains on track). You never know, it might just result in magic!  

5. Add a human touch  

We can’t stress this point enough. Your consumers and attendees want to feel seen and heard. They want to matter to you beyond just a data point or statistic. This matters more for those tuning in via the virtual channels as they are already one more layer removed. 

So beyond just offering an experience online, try incorporating goodie bags or morning coffees and snacks for those tuning in from home. This not only will make those away from the venue feel special and cared for, they will also be more inclined to tune in. 

You are also likely to gain social media brownie points as consumers today are more likely to share experiences that make them feel special. All in all, this will also aid in your word of mouth marketing, exposure and earned PR points.

The writer of the article is Yeo Wei Qi, regional director, event services at Lighthouse Events. She can be contacted at weiqi@lighthousemedia.com.sg.

If you want to learn more on how to bring your hybrid event dreams to life, reach out to Lighthouse Events here.  

(Photo courtesy: 123RF)