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Are firms underestimating the challenges of hybrid events?

By TBM Team
23 June 2021

More and more firms are looking to put on hybrid events rather than face-to-face events but may be underestimating the challenges they face in doing so, a webinar on the future of the events industry heard today.

Research carried out by leading marketing and business development business Client Talk found that 75% of businesses expect to hold more hybrid events (where attendees are both face-to-face and participating virtually) in the future, citing Covid and environmental benefits as reasons.

Claire Rason, MD of Client Talk (pictured), said the success of virtual events in 2020 meant it was unsurprising that hybrid events now seem to be a real draw – enabling firms to hedge their bets with continued Covid uncertainty, bring down the barriers for attendance, reach international audiences and improve sustainability.

But Rason said businesses needed to be sure that hybrid events were what clients wanted and speakers at the event flagged that hybrid events may not be as easy as people first think.

Speaking at The Future of Events webinar, events consultant and founder of My London Event, Milly Sutton, said: “A lot of corporates are considering hybrid events as their short and midterm solution, allowing them to attract a larger and wider audience than in-person events, but they do have their drawbacks. Is the audience engaged when they are also checking or responding to emails in the background?

“How do you facilitate networking when so much of traditional events is bumping into people that you hadn’t expected to see? If attendees have paid to attend, their expectation levels are higher so they are less forgiving of technical issues. But the biggest impact is on the speakers. Gone are the days that they ask a team member to write the slides and the partner or director turns up to deliver the event.

“Rehearsals are essential with hybrid events. A technical run-through of equipment, lighting, sound and background is a must. Planning, rehearsals, organisation is key. And it all comes at a cost as most corporates don’t have the equipment to run this seamlessly.  But when they are done well, the impact is fantastic and the reach of audience keeps the BD teams very happy.”

Colette Norfolk, of recruitment specialists Leighton Taylor Consulting, said, “we have seen a marked increase in events roles recently. It seems that firms are looking to bring events back in the second half of 2021." This mirrors what was seen in the survey, with 50% saying they were planning events for September.

Peter Laurie from The Business Magazine said: Many of our clients are professional services firms, they have got to grips with the virtual way over the past 12 months, now keen to engage with clients on a face to face basis. Interesting to hear from David Garson on Virtual Real Estate the mixing of the human side with virtual by using Avator."

“Our survey showed that there seems likely to be a split between events providing content, which are going to favour virtual platforms and networking-orientated events. These are likely to be smaller and more targeted. Perhaps reflecting continued uncertainty about Covid-19 restrictions, but perhaps also reflecting the increased need for face-to-face contact to build trust.” said Rason of Client Talk.

Rason said: “All of this leaves another big question unanswered: have firms actually asked their clients what they want or what they feel comfortable with? Some clients will have missed seeing their advisers and be keen to get together; for others, their companies might have policies in place which prevent attendance at events, or they might feel nervous about what is proposed. The best advice is to build your events calendar, not only with your clients in mind but also by asking them.”