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The Future Of Events Is Hybrid



‘Cautiously optimistic’ is a phrase that we think everyone can get behind at the moment. In the UK, opinions are strong about how the Pandemic has been managed but one thing surely must be certain: we’re on our way out of it, now?? A global vaccination programme is underway, with logistics that even the Events industry would be proud of! And with falling infection rates, it’s time to look toward what post-Pandemic experiences might look like. Reed Exhibitions’ COVID-19 Customer Needs & Mindset Barometer is a bit of a mouthful but a solid read.


So, in the KGA spirit of doing the things that you don’t have time or inclination for, we’ve summarised the key findings into this short(ish) blog-post. Now you can continue on into 2021 with as much optimism as we have.


Reed surveyed nearly 3,000 exhibitors and over 9,000 attendees across 201 events from June 2020, monthly to October 2020 (read report here). The headline takeout? The future of events is hybrid.


Adoption


Often attributed to Plato, the truism “necessity is the mother of invention”, has rarely been as true as in recent circumstances. There has been a proliferation of new event tech, and folk have shown more willingness to adopt it. From surveyed respondents, on average visitors had tried 3.3 new digital services by June 2020, while exhibitors had tried 3.2 new services. By September, the numbers had increased to 3.5 and 3.6 respectively. We also know that once people ‘see the light’, there’s no going back. 77% of attendees said they would like a digital component to a live event, moving forward.


New Ways of Learning and Interacting


51% of the respondents expressed an interest in webinars, with 41% stating that they had tried online learning since the start of the Pandemic. Particular interest was shown in live meeting software (43%) and a searchable database of content (42%). For exhibitors, the belief in the power of online events has increased from 48% to 51%+ in a matter of a few short weeks.


Needs Must…


While in-person socialising and networking events are essential for creative industries, their digital, more tech-savvy event-cousins have also become indispensable. It’s the same situation for exhibitors where commerce and lead-gen is paramount. Exhibitors are favouring digital tools and services that facilitate new leads and direct sales.


For visitors and exhibitors unable to attend physical events in person, hybrid events that offer remote buying and selling opportunities are increasing in attractiveness. 44% of visitors currently find the idea of hybrid events appealing, up from 39% in June 2020. Exhibitors are coming round to the idea. Since June 2020, exhibitors rejecting hybrid events have fallen from 50% to 45%

The needs don’t change with the medium, and it’s our task as event management companies to utilise the best tools to facilitate these requirements.


Health and Safety


Despite the recent good news, the common consensus is that measures for Covid-safety, are here to stay for the foreseeable… Consumers may be desperate to get back to in-person events, but the emphasis on visible health & safety measures will continue to be crucial. So event production companies are utilising new tech for disinfection, ventilation and contactless operations. 76% of the surveyed cohort believe that contactless tech within an event would make them feel reassured.


Confidence is Returning


75% of attendees felt positive or neutral about returning to events, compared to 56% of exhibitors. Similarly, around two-thirds of exhibitors expect to return to normal levels (or spend more) once the vaccine is deployed.


We’re approaching a new era for events and for event production agencies. This ‘Bionic’ era is unstoppable with in-person events being digitally-augmented. 65% of visitors and 57% of exhibitors believe digital will continue to work for events after Covid-19. The future is now and it’s an opportunity to create new experiences and engagement with customers in ways not previously imagined. Experiential production will be more immersive, interactive and inclusive for all participants, whether in person, online or both.