is the future of the event industry hybrid?
We can all agree that hybrid is a current buzzword without a fundamental definition or business model that can be scaled for different types of meetings. Hybrid events are an exceedingly expensive endeavour with constantly changing factors that are hard to predict or plan for. This reality challenges event professionals to shift their focus away from meeting design, and towards assessing complex logistical issues. Only then can they examine the most effective way to deliver content – the core reason for holding an event in the first place.
While the future is certainly somewhere between virtual and in-person meetings, the answer is not necessarily hybrid. Looking at hybrid vehicles for example, they clearly state the use of multiple types of power, say electric and diesel. The definition is evident for everyone – the manufacturer, the user and the mechanic. In our industry’s case, however, the fact that event organisers and owners recognise that a hybrid event caters for both online and onsite audiences simultaneously, is not necessarily true for their audiences.
Hence, the definition of hybrid remains vague. Even though in the past countless events held broadcasts and streams for their online audiences, we didn’t refer to them as hybrid – think pre-pandemic IMEX and PCMA’s Convening Leaders. Does this mean that we’ve been in a state of hybrid for a while and are now simply complicating matters with new fancy words?
The power of in-person events derives from the depth of emotion that the participants experience, engaging all five senses. For a few days they are part of a larger community, be it due to their physical location or a set of common values and beliefs. Much like a dance performance, once the moment is gone, regardless of what was captured in digital form, they will never experience the same feeling in the exact same way.
Virtual events, on the other hand, allow the participants the freedom to choose the time and place of the event experience or even the number of times the experience will occur. They take place in a new reality in which each element can be altered and personalised, compensating for the lack of emotional depth.
So, is the future of the event industry hybrid?
Referencing back to hybrid vehicles, the first hybrid cars were very expensive and could not cater for everyone. It took many years before they were priced similarly to petrol cars, and the number of buyers grew significantly.
In much the same way, we believe that events will continue to exist and grow in the virtual realm more than ever before. The virtual experience will evolve and with it, so will the terminology.