People attend business events primarily for two reasons. First, for content: attendees come to hear informed speakers or partake in a panel discussion where different perspectives are presented. Second, for networking: with peers, potential customers and suppliers or with new business partners. The networking might take place in small discussion groups or through 1-to-1 meetings.
While COVID-19 has changed the world and event industry in so many ways, two facts of life remain. First, people will still want to attend events for both content and networking. Second, for business events, the overwhelming proportion of the costs will still be borne by the suppliers.
What will change in the post-COVID world, however, is the shape that events take. Pre-COVID, most events were in-person. Today, almost all events are happening virtually. Once the event industry starts open up again, it is reasonable to assume that most business events will be hybrid events.
Hybrid Events are the Future
To understand hybrid events, it is important to view them from the perspective of both content and networking. Hybrid content has been happening for many years. I’m sure most of us will have seen a TED talk at some time. Presentations to a live audience are broadcast live to remote viewers, or they are recorded and broadcast later. With the advent of fast internet, live-streaming has supplanted TV broadcast, but for the viewer the end result is very similar. However, pre-COVID, neither the streaming of live nor recorded content was a priority for most organisers of business events. They were just keen to get as many “bums on seats” as possible on the day of their event.
By contrast, hybrid networking is a completely new phenomenon. Even at in-person events, many boundaries are imposed on event organisers by software suppliers, through the design of their solutions. Who, for example, can choose the time when arranging a meeting? Can hosted buyers book appointments directly into suppliers diaries? Can organisers collect attendees preferences, but schedule the meetings and ensure that less popular suppliers get a minimum number? Delegate Select has been addressing such user requirements for over 12 years and today we offer the most flexible solutions on the market.
From In-Person to Virtual…
Moving from in-person to virtual events, especially if an event is an international one, two more variables are introduced – time and space. All your participants have to see times automatically adjusted to their own locale. They have to be able to make themselves unavailable for meetings when they are sleeping, or otherwise engaged. Meetings, once scheduled, have to result in a single link in participants’ itineraries, which, when clicked, will bring them into the same online ‘meeting room’ at the same time (and throw them out when the meeting is over!)
From Virtual to Hybrid
Moving from virtual to hybrid – where some people attend in person and others attend virtually – brings further challenges. The software now needs to cater for the vagaries of human nature and the changing rules set by politicians attempting to contain the pandemic. It needs to super flexible. Participants should be able to reschedule individual meetings at the drop of a hat and flip between attending them in-person or virtually.
For Delegate Select, enhancing our 1-to-1 meeting services to cater first for virtual and now for hybrid meetings has taken plenty of development resources. But, we are pleased to say that we have risen to the challenge. Please contact us if you would like a demo.