2022 is ramping up with many eager to see a return to in-person events. Most are also leveraging the widespread improvements in technology and increased digital dexterity on the attendee side. This new digital confidence is unlocking the potential for wider reach, stronger networks and longer, more meaningful conversations. It’s also helping the events industry feel positive about its future and building confidence in creating impactful and measurable hybrid experiences.
Many have taken on the challenge of merging digital communities and communication strategies with face to face experiences. Event professionals are no longer seeing digital technology as a threat, instead they are stepping up to lead the charge in a new hybrid world.
So what are the trends that separate the early adopters and everyone else? How can event professionals start to expand and evolve their programming with tech tools and design innovations?
Experimenting in a Hybrid World with more intention
For many events and event owners this is the first time they have “gone hybrid”. This can be intimidating, but it will allow the industry to rapidly innovate its way back, engaging audiences in all modes of delivery. Some are experimenting with remote and in person networking and others are focusing on content capture, dissemination and post event online conversations.
The simple act of putting the remote audience mosaics on screens in the venue gives a sense of connection for presenters, remote and in person attendees. With additional camera shots in the room, hybrid can offer remote attendees options: a little in-room experience from the comfort of their home. Providing the remote attendees a piece of the in-person experience with virtual platforms emulating the in-person venue (a digital twin) provides some with a sense of community and builds a healthy dose of FOMO to drive future in-person ticket sales. All event design teams will need to experiment more to find what creates the most impact in a hybrid mode.
Step into the Metaverse
With Meta (facebook) leading the charge and Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Blizzard giving them increased credibility in developing their own Metaverse, it is inevitable that the Metaverse will play a big role in the future. At the moment it’s hard to grasp if audiences will be willing to engage in a virtual space especially with cartoonish avatars.
Perhaps the apprehension is linked to generational change. How new generations adopt Metaverse experiences will dictate its longevity. Most emerging business professionals have spent their entire lives linked by technology and are comfortable with digital communications.
Event professionals wanting to break ground with this form of event experience must be willing to experiment heavily and receive critical feedback from audiences. Then take that feedback to adapt and evolve their strategies at breakneck speed. Additionally, it is more important than ever to develop multi-generational adoption plans to ensure all participants are able to engage and immerse in ways that are accessible and natural.
Finally the Metaverse has some specific security challenges too. It is becoming clear that event planners must have a safety plan for Metaverse events including duty of care and code of conduct aligned with corporate governance and DE&I regulations.
Remote and Hybrid Work
Many large corporations have started their “return to the office” strategies. Many are deciding to adopt a hybrid approach to the office, recognizing there are benefits on both sides of the equation.
In 2020 the world learned that certain individuals, tasks and activities benefit from the remote work environment while others did not. Business leaders will have to be connected to their teams, arguably more than ever before, to avoid losing talent to more agile organizations. Many office workers have told me they like the idea of getting back to face to face collaboration. But fear time commuting to sit at a desk and staring at a monitor will feel like a “Time Wasted”, as opposed to “Time Well Invested.”
During the pandemic many organizations found they struggled to align and inspire teams particularly when addressing creativity and innovative initiatives. It’s about finding the right balance between those who want to work from home and the necessity of being face to face for specific tasks.
We already have many companies asking us to help them design collaboration sessions, turning them into Mini Events. Applying more intentional design is resulting in a better guarantee of “Time Well Invested”.
Other businesses have us auditing their technology solutions to ensure effective documentation and better cross pollination of ideas via digital collaboration tools. This ensures organizations achieve the desired alignment and innovation potential.
This unique business challenge is a great opportunity for event planners to provide their expertise and valuable recommendations that support this new hybrid work model. Empowering them to become, not just event strategists but also leaders of positive human-centred change and innovation within their organizations.
After facing the challenges of the pandemic, the industry learned to lean into innovation and exploration, shifting our emotions from fear to fascination. We need to understand and evolve with technology while keeping in mind that in-person events matter more than we ever realized.
As communities start to come back together and gather face to face, we are seeing sparks ignite, deep conversations rekindled and a new appreciation of what can be achieved when we gather to focus on shared outcomes, intentional collaboration and community building.
Anthony Vade, CED, is event experience strategy director at Encore, a full-service event production company specializing in audiovisual and video production. Vade has contributed to many award-winning productions over the last 20 years and received many accolades for his involvement with industry associations.