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April 22, 2022

Back to Live in a Whole New Way

The past two years have been unprecedented for live events and exhibitions. While the impacts have been apparent, what many anticipated as the near, overnight death of an entire industry was essentially saved by the ability of innovators to adapt on the fly and to keep people connected in a world of isolation.

The past two years have been unprecedented for live events and exhibitions. While the impacts have been apparent, what many anticipated as the near, overnight death of an entire industry was essentially saved by the ability of innovators to adapt on the fly and to keep people connected in a world of isolation.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, the live events industry - including trades shows, conferences, performances, and other forms of in-person entertainment - was temporarily shuttered while industry leaders scrambled for creative ways to adapt. What many had seen as a traditionally-run industry, was now forced to dig into the small pockets of innovation that existed, to try and pull together new, technologically-driven models that would be appealing to audiences that were essentially starved for any form of engagement.

What started as a mission to bring people together was forced into the pursuit of keeping people connected - all while providing meaningful experiences.

From In-Person to Virtual to Hybrid

We clearly remember the logistics of attending an in-person conference or live event. Travel, accommodations, food and beverage, and time out of our busy schedules - all for the sake of tracking with someone else’s carefully crafted agenda. And we’d willfully engage under the promise of the experience and connecting with colleagues and friends. Yet, we always had to weigh some sort of cost-benefit analysis to rationalize our participation.

If anything has fundamentally changed, it is that hybrid events are here to stay. While many are eager to participate in-person once again, according to Kaltura’s, The State of Virtual Events 2022, 75% of event attendees plan on attending virtual events, even after in-person events have resumed. And further, 84% of attendees would like to always have an online option available to them, so that they can attend any event as a virtual/remote attendee if they so choose.

Some of the primary reasons for this mindset include the easier, more cost-effective access to the content, whether in-person or online, with average no-show percentages tracking only slightly higher for virtual events. In addition, with an intrinsically tech-based registration and entry point, event organizers have the ability to provide more value in terms of resources to attendees and in exchange, have access to greater analytics related to how attendees choose to engage with the content and resources provided.

Certainly, challenges exist with organizers having to negotiate paid-event ticket prices while incurring the costs associated with physical venues and virtual platforms. And with the ability of the industry to now potentially offer more events than before, there are obvious concerns with over saturation. But as we continue to evolve into this new model, those equations will work themselves out and both organizers and attendees will once again find a happy medium.

Expanded Brand Marketing and Experiential Value

From a consumer-facing brand or event organizer’s perspective, physical, in-person events always offered unique challenges because of the sheer scale required to rationalize the costs. And the risks were always high. Bad weather, competitive offerings, and shifting trends, could diminish the shine of a consumer event in a few weeks that had in fact, taken many months to plan.

That is not to say virtual or hybrid events take any less planning but the cost to scale and reach larger audiences can be very attractive for a number of reasons.

With the proper technology platforms in place, organizers now have the ability to dust off their old in-person event playbooks and combine them into hybrid models that allow for thousands vs. hundreds of potential attendees to participate. Where seasonality and geography always played a role in organizing live experiences, now, virtual-live can play as well in wintertime Chicago as it does in springtime Miami. And the concept of smaller, more frequent events to maintain consumer or customer engagement over time has always been an appealing objective that is now more easily attained.

Beyond the “anytime, anywhere” appeal of hybrid events, a few other benefits have bubbled up and are just now being fleshed out.

First and foremost, the idea of multifaceted, multitiered engagement. While in-person events provide a level of networking and personal connectivity that is still being considered in virtual models, hybrid events have the ability to connect with participants in the best of all scenarios.

Imagine, a brand developing a series of experiential events to connect with customers in-person, across the country. Now, overlay the information and data collected during those in-person engagements being used to invite those same participants to a series of virtual events that continue the customer journey. Further, the opportunity for a brand that has established leadership in this hybrid space to reach out to non-competitive, symbiotic brands to help expand the experience of the customers and offset costs. The possibilities are literally endless.

Taking the New with the Old and Making it Better

The term “experience economy” has been used since the late 90s but still holds true - businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and the memory of those experiences, in fact, becomes the product.

This is the basis for experiential marketing and for better or worse, the past two years has forced an old-school industry, as well as its constituents, to embrace technology like never before.

For the sake of bringing people together in new ways, and with the objective of them experiencing new things, we owe it to our customers, partners, and employees to continue pursuing innovation in a way that keeps us at the forefront of, not only our industry but, all industries that strive to teach, train, and engage people.

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