With the recent passing of rock legend, Eddie Van Halen, I’m reminded of one of my favorite songs “Best of Both Worlds.”
Wondering what a Van Halen song has to do with the future of events? Everything.
While the world may be headed towards another COVID-induced quarantine, it’s safe to say that someday, life and business will be back to normal. We’ve all become accustomed to working, learning, and networking from behind a computer screen. But eventually, the threat of COVID will pass, we’ll be safe to gather in crowds, and live conferences and in-person meetings will once again reign.
The question is will we ever return to meeting face to face entirely, or have virtual events brought about a change in the way the world works?
The Benefits of a Virtual Event
Anyone who has attended a conference or training from the comfort of their home, while wearing a pair of electric guitar pajama pants and Gene Simmons slippers, can attest to the benefits of a virtual event.
(Am I the only one wearing those?)
Virtual events rock because:
They are convenient to attend. And your ability to go is not hampered by location.
They require no travel (and no travel budget).
There’s no need to wear PPE or sit 6-feet away from your closest neighbor.
They are less expensive to host which translates to a lower cost for attendees.
Attendance is not limited to the venue’s capacity.
With today’s technology, it can be easy for even the least tech-savvy attendee to have a good experience.
When run properly, a virtual event can achieve the same desired outcomes as a live, in-person event.
The Benefits of an In-person Event
The more traditional route, in-person events have been going on since the days of the cavemen… although probably with less PowerPoint. You’re likely familiar with the benefits of an in-person conference, training, or tradeshow:
Being away from the office and family responsibilities allows attendees to immerse themselves in the experience and focus solely on learning.
Amazing networking occurs in the hallways between sessions. Relationships are forged, deals are made, and careers are catapulted.
The energy in the room is palpable and attendees can’t help but get swept up in the excitement.
The change of scenery can provide an opportunity for attendees to see more of the country and get a little break from the daily grind.
Swag bags offer the opportunity to showcase brands and products.
In-person events are a powerful way to rally the troops, introduce new products or ideas, and prepare your attendees for the future.
What is a Hybrid Event?
There will come a time when a vaccine is widely available and it’s once again safe to gather. When that day comes, there will be many people eager to jump on a plane, gather in a meeting room with thousands of their future friends, and have the full “in-person live event” experience.
Of course, there will also be those individuals who aren’t ready.
Whether due to residual fears about the virus, the inability to travel due to finances or logistics, or just the realization that
working in your PJs is awesome; there will be some people who are not ready to attend in-person events.
In order to host a killer event that caters to all potential attendees, you’re going to need to embrace the hybrid event structure.
A hybrid event is held in a venue and welcomes in-person attendees, AND live-streams the event so people can attend from wherever they feel comfortable. A hybrid event is truly the best of both worlds.
How do you make your Hybrid Event a Success?
Now that you’ve embraced the hybrid event model, how do you create a thrilling experience that will leave your attendees wanting more?
Always include your virtual audience
There’s nothing worse for a virtual attendee than paying your attendance fee and then being forgotten. Utilize games, live polls, and Q&A sessions throughout the event to engage your virtual attendees.
Consider your content
Content must be entertaining to keep everyone engaged, but it must also be presented in a way where the virtual attendees don’t feel like they are watching a bootleg concert. Make sure that any visual content you create translates across the different platforms on which attendees may view it.
Offer breakout sessions
Your attendees don’t just want to engage with the speakers, they also want to feel like they are in the room with their peers. Smaller breakout sessions allow in-person and virtual attendees to chat and learn from one another.
Hire an experienced MC
No matter what type of event you create, you don’t want to play on-stage host while making sure everything runs smoothly on the back end. You also don’t want to rely on the organization’s leadership to keep the troops engaged and the event flowing smoothly.
In order to create the best possible event for your attendees, you’ll want to hire an MC who excels in presenting in-person and virtually. Marvelless Mark Kamp has over 25 years of experience delivering electrifying entertainment to audiences around the world (and on the computer). He will ensure that your event creates a rockstar experience for every attendee, whether they are in business casual or Gene Simmons slippers. He’ll help you provide the best of both worlds.