By Matthew Byrne.
As we look ahead to 2021 and what might happen to the events and meetings industry, what clients and partners are facing in the coming months, we know that the future of events will not be a simple recovery and return to “Normal”. New formats and thinking will be needed to navigate the months ahead.
Here are our top five reasons we think the future is Virtual and Hybrid:
The last nine months are full of stories of events and conferences shifting their programming to virtual and being amazed at the additional reach and audience that they have been able to connect with. Conferences and events of all sizes are seeing more than 150% growth in their audiences as people who would not normally travel to a conference now have immediate and intimate access to the content and speakers on offer. This trend is going to continue as clients and planners will realize that they do not have to limit themselves to the audience sitting in the room but an increasing set of eyeballs, decision-makers and attendees that can view the event remotely.
The Biden administration’s renewed focus on responsible climate policy, coupled with large companies like General Motors shifting their entire manufacturing strategy to renewable energy and electric vehicles, sets the stage for a corporate focus on carbon emissions and accounting for the footprint of events. Clients will be looking to account for every ton of carbon emission they can reduce over their entire portfolio. What better way to reduce that footprint for conferences and meetings, live events and awards shows than to offer a significant part of their programming that can be accessed without incurring long-distance flights, high energy consumption on-site and or tons of food waste. By shifting parts of their events portfolio into a virtual space and hybrid offerings, companies can offer the same programming with a greatly reduced impact on climate.
Health and Safety
The reality is that COVID-19 and many other viruses may enter into a seasonal cycle, much like the flu. This means that in the recovery of live in-person events, risk factors associated with contact tracing, protocols and planning around infection control and cleaning will be an essential part of any major event. Similar to how we now ensure that fire safety regulations, entrance and egress planning and risk assessments are part of an event plan, facing the realities of large amounts of people in confined spaces will be with us for the foreseeable future. Some secondary education institutions and professional training platforms are now offering certifications for risk assessment professionals focussing on transmission risk, airflow and spacing requirements to reduce contact factors. Will clients now be looking to reduce those factors by having fewer people in the room, thus leading to more virtual and hybrid focus?
The Emergence of the Virtual Native
Our industry took years to catch up to digital natives and change the way they do things to accommodate this massive change in demographics. We see that happening again with a new set of audiences and attendees that expect a virtual option. We need to be ready for this as we lift restrictions and accommodate our audiences for the future. Many conferences and events will not be feasible nor competitive in the future without offering their audience options to participate virtually. Can you imagine a conference a year or so back that did not have a social media campaign or an app?
Availability of Technology
At the beginning of the virtual shift in events and meetings, a lot of people were reinventing the wheel and trying to figure it out. As an industry, we have now spent the last nine months to a year working with technology that has been invented, adapted and tested to make it easier to use. Connecting large remote audiences, event sites and production teams from a distance used to be an expensive and logistically challenging proposition. Platforms and systems that would have had a 1-2% growth year over year have been accelerated in a compact period leading to more accessible and affordable options to make hybrid and virtual events more feasible. As these technologies become more accessible and feasible, the adoption of these techniques will become commonplace. To us, this is similar to the adoption of video technology over the last 10 years. What was once uncommon due to availability and expertise, like, say blended projection mapping, has become more commonplace over a wider set of event executions.
We are excited about the possibilities of what the development of Hybrid and Virtual will bring in the future. There are vast possibilities to frame content in high production value to make it compelling and engaging for your audiences.
About the Author: Matthew Byrne, CSEP is the President and Founder of Byrne Production Services, specializing in technical and production for large-scale Live, Virtual and Hybrid event projects. Over the last 20 years of his career, with various companies across the industry, Matthew has had the opportunity to work on some very exciting projects. His passion for the industry is all about pushing the limits of what is possible within the scope of an event to wow the audience while creating an exceptional production experience for the entire team. He consults with you and your suppliers to assist in the creation of amazing events. Matthew Byrne, CSEP.
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