In-person events will resume. Virtual participation is here to stay. It’s not a contradiction. Hybrid is the new descriptor for all the ways of blending online and in-person events for the days to come.
The hybridization of corporate events is something Loren Maisels, the Founder and President of LOMA Marketing Agency in Toronto, has spent the past year thinking about.
“This past year has shown us that we can be innovative and there are more opportunities to reach a wider-audiences, even globally, than we ever had before,” Maisels says. “During this year of experimentation, people have had a chance to become comfortable with meeting online and finding ways of connecting. Whether that continues with a free or a premium model, there will be a way of communicating value and that will have a price point attached to it.”
Maisels does not believe companies are going to want to stick with solely virtual events as they move forward post-COVID.
“They have derived savings from virtual events,” Maisels concedes. “And they have been re-directing those savings to their people, helping them to adapt to remote work, for example, but there is a sense of excitement brewing about getting people back out there, connecting with each other.”
Maisels believes there will be, over the short-term, an incremental release of budget to create in-person events, but acknowledges there will be changes.
“One take is that we will see an OMNI channel hub and spoke approach or, more road shows that spread an event out over eight cities, instead of bringing everyone to one location,” Maisels says. “You might see the main event be live streamed with mini-events across many locations along with virtual watch parties to avoid large gatherings. It boggles my mind how much tech has been developed and just how much is possible.”
The technological innovations touch every aspect of how events may be run in the future, regardless of whether attendees are experiencing the event virtually or in-person.
“We are talking about food and beverage service changes,” Maisels says. “We’re seeing the end of the buffet, but self-service reinvented using apps or QVR codes. We’re looking at bracelets that have built in tracking and tracing. These are real innovations that let us be creative as we work with strategic partners in the design of events.”
The biggest innovation of all, may not be technological as much as it is ethical. Participation agreements, she believes, will become standard.
“There will be a duty of care to events, a code of conduct that companies and participants will have to agree to abide by,” Maisels explains. “There is a social contract that comes with contact with others now. These agreements will acknowledge that ‘I care about you, I care about me and the guidelines in place are there for our care.’ These are the protocols in place and if we are going to achieve safe events again, we will have to agree to follow them.”