It’s no secret that we are excited to see face-to-face experiences coming back into play. However, after a year and a half of adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic we must ask ourselves what should be taken into account when creating future experiences.
We are used to connection through screens. While the technology existed before the pandemic, 2020 thrust names like Zoom and Teams into our daily schedules as our industry scrambled to adapt to the new rules of engagement.
Now we have adapted, the question we must ask is how should we return to face-to-face experiences?
In short, the answer is no, at least not for the entire industry. The digital engagement opportunities we found during the pandemic were discovered out of necessity, but that doesn’t mean that we will be turning our backs on them in the future. Going digital helped towards solving our client challenges like budget, timing, and access.
Professionally and personally, our tech has allowed us to stay connected with ease, kept us informed, and helped towards dealing with being locked down. It would be naïve to assume that upon returning to the new normal, these avenues for connecting audiences will disappear.
One thing to bear in mind is something that we undoubtedly have all experienced - digital fatigue.
With so much of our time having been spent in front our devices, there has been overwhelming reports of fatigue, lack of attention, and lapses in interest when experiences are formatted solely on digital platforms.
Being as our devices have been our main form of connection and escapism recently, time spent in front of screens should be a crucial consideration when designing an experience.
Soon, we will see hybrid elements playing a huge role in events. The pandemic fast tracked the move towards the combination of analogue and digital elements within events. Now, this shift will unlock new engagement streams and overcome some of the key challenges that haunted events in years gone by.
Here’s an example. When expanding your audience base, there’s a high chance of those audiences hailing from different time zones. Hybrid helps us solve this challenge by allowing us to split our event into different time zones, staggering the content and helping to create a better shared virtual experience.
However, it’s important to remember that although engagement streams can be separated using technology, it doesn’t mean that your event will be disjointed. You will be able to segment your content into digestible and focused portions, and even target the most relevant sections to respective locations. Hybrid is about increasing audiences, not dividing them.
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When pivoting events to a more hybrid-focussed design, we must re-evaluate what you can sell your experience on. This is one of the key considerations that must be taken into account going forward. Previously, we were able to promote events on keynote speakers and special guests attending, but a new environment always calls for a new approach.
An exciting part of hybrid events is going to be the shift in how your audience engage with your event and the boosted attendance through digital audience streams. But this may come with the added challenge of finding new ways to draw people in.
By using hybrid solutions, there is a new way to make experiences live long after the physical event has ended. By factoring in digital communications for before, during, and after the event; the opportunities for education, excitement, and networking can be tremendous.
It is up to us all to really utilise this technology, design our audience journey from the very start, and reap the benefits from hybrid.
What we may even see in the future is an emergence of new platforms that allow you to stay connected with your audiences and keep the conversations going. In the return of face-to-face, we expect to see experiences starting in emails, moving to expo halls, and finishing on personal devices.
With everything I’ve said, remember this. Never underestimate the value of serendipity.
There is one aspect of face-to-face events that just cannot be replicated via digital, and it is those little moments that aren’t taken into consideration. It’s those watercooler moments. It’s the conversations that start when you both reach for the same small eclair at the food table.
We are curious and social creatures whose interactions are made up of much more than what we see and hear. It’s clear that there are ways that we interact which cannot be designed - sometimes a room full of people can come together in unlikely, unusual, uncanny ways.
When you bring the best elements of virtual and analogue experiences together, you are truly creating an environment for success. The right hybrid solutions can open up new avenues for engagement, education, and ultimately, revenue.
Want to hear more about how your organisation can benefit from a face-to-face future? Get in touch now.