Hybrid Events: A Stepping Stone for the Return of Physical or a Rising Trend on its Own?

Against the backdrop of a COVID-19 pandemic landscape, are hybrid events the reality of our future, or is it just a segue for the return of full-fledged physical events?

April 28, 2022
Opinion Pieces

Article actual date: May 6, 2021

The Meeting, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) industry was one of the many global markets that took a drastic hit due to Covid-19. PCMA’s survey findings showed that approximately 87% of events had to be cancelled during the early stages of the pandemic [1]. Events at one point had to be fully virtual, meaning attendees had to attend an event online via their laptops or mobile devices. For an industry that thrives on human-to-human interaction, the pandemic has certainly imposed an unprecedented imperative to rethink events with social distancing measures in place, one arm’s length at a time.

Informa states that 2021 is most likely to be the year for the return of physical events, as COVID-19 vaccines ignite recovery in consumer confidence [2]. However, as we enter the second quarter of the year, the road to recovery seems to have hit a plateau. Anticipation for the return of full-fledged physical events is running high, with audience interest and engagement on virtual platforms cited as the predominant limiting factor faced by event organisers alike [3]. As physical events gradually transition their way back into our lives, where do hybrid events stand in our industry’s future?

Hybrid Events, a Next-Generation Event Model

Combining both physical and virtual elements, a hybrid event takes place on-site with a limited number of attendees present, alongside others who participate remotely through a virtual platform. Early hybrid events saw simpler, one-dimensional formats. Apple, for example, adopted the hybrid model in 2019, in which CEO Tim Cook took the stage at the Steve Jobs Theatre to present to a live audience of over 1000 physical participants, with over 2 million attendees online.

Fast forward to 2021. The pandemic has revolutionised hybrid events, paying greater attention towards garnering total user engagement. Virtual and on-site presenters can now connect and engage with audiences in two-way interactions, through features such as live chats and Q&A sessions. On and offline attendees are able to interact and socialise as well, with smart business matching capabilities becoming an integral part of event technology platforms.

Piloting Hybrid Events in Singapore
Convening Leaders 2021 event at hybrid event broadcast studio (photo by PCMA)

The Event Industry Resilience Roadmap (IRR) recognises hybridisation as the new normal, acknowledging the model’s potential as an avenue for monetisation. With future-proof planning and support from the Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS), we were able to witness hybrid events taking flight from local grounds.

Geo Connect Asia (GCA) 2021 was Singapore’s first large-scale hybrid event that took place this year. The two-day event hosted close to 1000 physical attendees and over 1000 delegates across the globe attended online. The GCA was among one of the first few trade shows to trial the physical-virtual event model in Singapore, setting an optimistic precedent for a paradigm shift towards hybridisation.

Similarly, the PCMA Convening Leaders 2021 (CL21) showcased Singapore’s capacity to host successful hybrid events. The event was held at the industry’s first hybrid event broadcast studio located in Marina Bay Sands, where it hosted 300 attendees while broadcasting live content to 3000 virtual attendees worldwide. By employing the means of a virtual platform, CL21 was able to ensure the longevity of their event — attendees now had post-event access to content and sessions on demand, from the convenience of their desktop or mobile platforms.

The Future of Hybrid Events

As hybrid events continue to shine bright in Singapore’s MICE industry, a survey conducted by Singapore Tourism Board indicated that 91% of event organizers were keen to incorporate the new model into their events.

The rising trend of having both on and offline event platforms then raises an important question — are hybrid events a mere stepping stone for the return of physical events, or are they in a league of their own?

With countries around the world ready to take their next steps into recovery mode, physical events are making an aggressive return to the scene [5]. However, the hybrid event model stands strong, allowing event organisers to reap the benefits of both on and offline event formats. Furthermore, with advancements in the event technology industry, problems such as low rates of engagement are being bridged by incorporating engagement solutions into virtual event platforms. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the industry’s need to remain versatile and adaptable against the ever-changing challenges posed by the global landscape. While the hybrid event model is not without its flaws, it has proven to be the sustainable option for event organisers in times of crisis. The future is now, and hybrid is here to stay.

Do you think that hybrid can be the new normal? Talk to us at info@jublia.com or reach out to anyone you know at Jublia!

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