Hybrid theory: sticking plaster or long-term solution?

Hoping for September. That’s the mantra among event professionals at the moment, when faced with the question of when we can get back to holding events.

Your attitude will change depending on which sector you’re in. Anything consumer-focused is more bullish, hoping to do something in Q2. But most corporates have a more conservative outlook and September is the most optimistic prediction.

From the Covid-19 get go, corporates have had safety at the top of the agenda – with good reason. And this safety first aspect is also what’s driving many to see hybrid events as the future.

The attraction is obvious; hybrid events promise decreased safety risks and increased scale and reach. Plus, planners are also realising that there are benefits to virtual events that will never go away; as well as the reach of an event, the return on investment and the sustainability advantages are hitting home. But there’s still a need for that face-to-face element, so hybrid works. In theory.

In practice, the people I speak to who are organising hybrid events are finding that they are a lot more work. It’s essentially like organising two events simultaneously. The virtual and the live audiences are having two separate, distinct experiences – and if you want to make it a true hybrid event, you have to make sure both of these are the best they can be. That takes more resource, increasing the pressures on planners.

Nevertheless, most people agree events will have some hybrid element in future, if only so they can reach those larger audiences and boost inclusivity.

Not all events, obviously – those for the purpose of in-person engagement are not likely to lead a double life – but for anything content-led hybrid seems an inevitability.

Whether hybrid takes off or not remains to be seen. It could be the future of events, or simply a sticking plaster for 2021. But whatever happens, the new skills that event professionals that embrace hybrid will learn can only serve to elevate the sector. And this in turn will boost our value proposition, whenever events return.

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