Making In-Person and Hybrid Events Work Together

October 2021
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Before the pandemic, many technologies that we now find essential for meetings and collaboration existed only as a “plan B” in case a scheduled event conflicted with attendees’ travel schedules. 

Early adopters raved about the benefits of virtual meetings and events, but most of us were reluctant to rely on these digital substitutions for the real thing, let alone incorporate them into our daily routines. Platforms and apps for virtual events, online learning, fitness and telemedicine struggled to gain mainstream traction. Global lockdowns changed all that. 

Virtual novelty became genuine chore.

To meet the flood of demand as organizers of in-person events made snap decisions to cancel or go virtual, digital event platforms ramped up fast, changing our work culture. But for event planners and organizations, the move to livestream video-conferencing technology such as Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams was a gamble. Could these virtual platforms replicate the in-person experience for event attendees, speakers and exhibitors?

Even now, many people wonder: Will virtual events become the norm? We were and continue to be skeptical. 

What began as a novelty — “Look how much we’re saving in travel costs!” — quickly became a chore. Going to in-person events gave us a break from the daily routine. Finally, we could see our clients and colleagues in-person again, catch up, grab coffee and build relationships. 

Now, we fit in-person events into our regular work schedule, cramming in a conference session between client calls and lunch. 

Even as we enjoy returning to in-person events where it's safe to do so, we’re too busy working to attend every session. At the same time, technology for virtual platforms continues to improve, offering perks such as detailed metrics on visitors and sometimes, access to lists of conference attendees.

Virtual is a great way to present important information to a global audience, but to build relationships, nothing beats face-to-face interaction. The ideas and business generated in hallway conversations also cannot be replaced by technology. 

We’re excited about the flexibility the hybrid option gives us. Now, we can have a global workforce without opening offices in other states or countries while also maintaining contact with worldwide clients, saving on travel budgets and reducing our carbon footprint. 

Whether your staff is in the office or works remotely, we recommend spending the money upfront to ensure they have the right tools to be productive in hybrid settings: extra computer monitors, good earphones, ring lights, etc. We also recommend that business owners invest in remote-learning opportunities to hone their interpersonal, technological and PR skills. 

For clients, we suggest they beef up their online presence (including websites and social media accounts) and use all the tools available to them for working virtually. At the same time, we urge them to safely get back out there in person. To reconnect with customers, we suggest clients increase their budgets for hospitality and face-to-face opportunities, as well as for remote interactions. 

As the world continues to fight through the COVID-19 pandemic, let’s remember to use technology as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. That way, we can remember the human relationships that really matter. 

Return to Current Issue Inspiring Innovation | October 2021
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