This article was written in collaboration with Hubilo.
Industries the world over suffered enormously when COVID-19 struck with little warning in March 2020 – and the US$400 billion events industry was one of many that took a major hit. With lockdowns in place in many countries, live events were no longer an option. But rather than panic or become despondent about its business, one company saw an opportunity.
Hubilo decided to take a new path and turn cancelled live events into virtual events that could connect even more people from around the world in a more convenient and engaging manner.
In an interview with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, Cathy Song Novelli, SVP of marketing and communications at Hubilo, said: “Last year, we were all forced to quickly pivot to virtual. So we all did what we knew, which was essentially to run our virtual events like webinars.”
But this year, as virtual events mature, event organisers have started to realise that virtual platforms can do a lot more to deliver more entertaining and engaging content.
“Most event organisers we are talking to are currently testing the boundaries of virtual to create more ‘wow’ experiences, so they can continue to reap the ROI benefits of virtual, even after the world has opened back up again,” Novelli said.
While the above suggests a COVID-19 world hasn’t been too difficult to navigate for event companies, Novelli said there has been a lot of trial and error from Hubilo and other event platforms.
“As 2020 forced us all to find a virtual event platform, and do so fast, many event organisers realised they did not understand what they needed exactly,” she said.
As year-long virtual contracts inked at the onset of the pandemic start to now expire, many brands and organisers are looking for a solution that meets all their needs, explained Novelli.
“It feels like right now, everyone is in the market for a better platform solution.”
Tips for the hybrid world
With the world starting to slowly open up once again, it is understandable that event platforms and organisers are keenly looking to transition from virtual to hybrid. Novelli said that one of the new trends Hubilo has long been testing for events has been the micro in-person experience. These are small, physical experiences that provide just enough interaction to keep an attendee engaged with an event, but not to the scale of an actual in-person even.
“As the world opens up, organisers are testing micro in-person experiences in parallel to their virtual experience,” she said.
“I am a huge fan of this – test a variety of in-person micro-experiences; see what works in different regions and among different audience segments. Get attendee feedback and pair that with the vast data you get from your virtual audience. All that data can help point you in the right direction for your 2022 event strategy.”
As the world goes in and out of lockdowns, Hubilo has to constantly try different things and keep up with the demands and worries that its clients have.
“The biggest concern seems to be that sometimes organisers or event professionals don’t know what they don’t know. They are not experts in virtual nor how to best bridge the gap between online and offline, technically and experience-wise,” Novelli said.
“The best advice I could give to such organisers is to partner with a platform that comes with a real customer success team, available to you 24/7, to help consult, plan and activate on event day, and to support you post-event.”
Novelli also advises that a platform partner needs to be much more than just a medium to distribute content, and that it also plays the role of a technical expert who can help guide you through the transition from pure virtual to a hybrid experience.
Knowing that its platform was built for engagement and event excellence, in 2021, the brand underwent a refresh to ensure the market understands its unique positioning and differentiation.
The idea behind the revamp was for Hubilo to share its brand story with the wider community – and especially with event organisers looking to keep ahead of hybrid trends and engagement.
“Hubilo is the only event platform with a dedicated support team – not just an email alias to contact when you want to set up a consultation,” she said.
Three other tips Novelli outlines when it comes to creating the perfect hybrid event are as follows:
1. Partner with the right platform and partners (that is, event agencies for relevant events) who can help you bridge all technical online plus offline components of your event.
2. Test a variety of in-person micro-experiences; see what works in different regions and among different audience segments.
3. Push the creative boundaries of virtual – what is entertaining in person is different online – consider new forms of entertainment and engagement that do not require large crowds to feel successful. For example, an acoustic storytelling musician is likely to engage a large crowd online better than a comedian would.
“Hubilo offers a complete team of folks to support you, your planning, your day-of event activation, your transition to hybrid, and your understanding and storytelling of post-event success/learnings.
Virtual and hybrid events are not going anywhere, so having a team to help you grow into experts in this space is key to your long-term growth,” she added.
The future of events and event tech
When asked what are some new technologies Novelli and her team are keeping their eyes open for, she shares that video and green screen activations are two areas that might not be new, but are crucial in making attendees feel like they are there with speakers and other attendees.
“Test visual activations that feel like the anti-zoom experience and take attendees away from the fatigue-inducing online meetings they have all day! There are also some cool AR/VR technologies that are emerging, but I haven’t been blown away there yet. It will be interesting to see where it goes, though.”
But what Novelli is very clear about is what the future of events will look like.
“The future is hybrid. Virtual will be as impactful and engaging as in-person. And in-person will be shorter and sweeter. No one needs a whole week at a trade show anymore,” she openly shares.
At the end of the day, the company’s mission is to foster human connections through reimagined events.
“The future of events is being defined – and our world-class team is leading from the front by throwing away the status quo event model and finding new and more impactful ways to captivate online and in-person audiences,” she said.