In Blog Form

January 2, 2021
Event Tips

20 Honest Hybrid Event Predictions to Prepare Event Planners in 2021 and Beyond

20 Honest Hybrid Event Predictions to Prepare Event Planners in 2021 and Beyond

Let’s be real - over the next few months, you’re going to hear the endless battle cry that hybrid events are the future and all the positive things about it. Although we agree, we tend to be a bit more cautious and realistic instead of following the herd with most things we do and say. We also like to challenge the norm, which we will do in this article in full force based on empirical observations we’ve made after powering a few thousand events in 2020.

Everyone has their reasons to support or not support the idea that hybrid events are the future, and although we believe they are, they are also not without their challenges. Of course, the extent to which your event is hybridized will make a big difference, because the phrase “hybrid events” is a terribly opaque one at this point.

Overall, we do believe hybrid events are going to play a big role, and PheedLoop as a platform is uniquely positioned for countless reasons to be a stable, robust and affordable option. But we aren’t ready to jump on the bandwagon and claim with unshaken optimism that the future of events is hybrid.

Hybrid events have a lot of challenges, at least in the near term. Those challenges will morph and many will turn into opportunities in the long term. We don’t really know if people even want hybrid events yet either because they’re now used to virtual events and their many benefits, or because they hate virtual and can’t wait to travel and meet again the way they used to. The only thing we do know is creating a hybrid event isn’t going to be easy.

To genuinely put on a good hybrid event, not just one where you record or stream content, will require immense creativity, effort, and money.

You’ll find a lot of companies talking about the exciting future of hybrid events, but we’d like to take a moment to step back and discuss some of the challenges (and opportunities, without overstating them) the events industry can expect over the next 24 months as the world begins to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll try to promote the fact that PheedLoop is a good choice to power your events (virtual, hybrid or on-site) where it’s truly relevant, but we’ll do our best to keep the promotional aspect to a minimum.

Disclaimers

  1. This article is largely addressing conferences, trade shows, and other large business or academic meetings. We predict sporting and entertainment events will grow rapidly in demand and be the first events to return successfully. This is because they are highly experiential, and virtual versions are not suitable replacements the way they are for meetings and expos. If this ends up being true, there’s something to be learned here for the types of events we will be talking about, and we discuss it in our fourth prediction “Experiences will matter more than content, it’s all about retention”.
  2. This article is largely going to address the challenges and opportunities for events and event planners that originally had on-site events, converted to virtual, and are now planning for hybrid. We don’t think these challenges will apply to virtual-first events that are looking to add an on-site element because their business models were never dependent on an on-site first approach. The economics of on-site events are different from virtual events, at least at present.
  3. The following 20 points are merely predictions. They are not facts, and they are not outcomes we hope for (or not hope for). They’re just our guesses based on trends we’ve seen as players in the events industry for the past 6 years, and having powered a few thousand events. We’ve leaned a bit more towards the negative with some of our guesses because all we really see people write about are only the (potentially) positive sides of hybrid events. No one actually knows what the next few months or years hold for events precisely.
  4. All things considered, we believe hybrid events will be an incredible new experience for events. That’s why we’ve built PheedLoop to cater to them. However, the next few years will be challenging as hybrid events mature, especially for events and event planners who are “on-site first”.

1) Plan for Q1 2022, we still have more questions than answers and "normal" is far away

We know many of you are excited about returning on-site with your events this year (2021), but for most events that will be a major challenge. Events, unfortunately, were the first to shut down due to the pandemic, and will likely be the last to reopen fully - that too with several precautions in place, perhaps for many years. We’ve powered on-site events and both their virtual and on-site tech for years now.

Question image events covid return

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that it usually takes 6 - 9 months before the event itself to get all your ducks in a row, if not more. Moreover, you can bet most attendees will hold off on purchasing tickets, booking flights, etc. for as long as they can for the next little while. This will make anticipating demand quite a challenge.

Planning an on-site event is hard, there are a lot of logistics involved, a lot of things need to go right. Plus, there are still far too many uncertainties around travel, vaccine acceptance/rollout, regulations for events, and most importantly, how many attendees are prepared to return on-site. It’s going to take a full year, at least, for the fog to clear a bit. It will most certainly clear, events will return on-site, but we will only know what the long-term impacts of the pandemic on the events industry will be after at least a full year of stability.


Our best guess is that the first safe largescale on-site or hybrid events will not happen before Q1 of 2022. There will be several events returning on-site in 2021, but they will be the exception not the rule. For the general event planner, preparing for early 2022 is probably their safest bet.

2) Revenue and margins will improve, for savvy event planners


One of the biggest challenges with virtual events has been generating revenue and profits. For decades, the business model of charging for tickets that may cost hundreds or thousands of dollars plus revenue from expensive sponsorships and exhibiting opportunities had proven to be a robust and valuable model for the events industry.

Event revenue from sponsors post pandemic

Virtual events changed all of that, initially making it much harder to charge attendees, sponsors and speakers in the same way or expect the same margins.

The good news is, we’ve seen many events really turn things around over the past few months. Virtual events, given their low cost, have become extremely lucrative for event planners who have mastered digital marketing and low-cost, repeatable, high-quality event production. Affordable and feature-rich platforms like PheedLoop have become exponentially better on the virtual side to better support the monetization efforts for event planners, and things are looking bright.

Hybrid events, once the dust settles, should open up even more opportunities to generate revenue for savvy event planners who can sell both online and offline experiences to larger volumes of attendees, sponsors and exhibitors.

Our advice to event planners is to work hard to make their virtual events profitable. It’s doable, it requires a different skillset, and most importantly it’s sustainable as it will prepare you for a possible virtual-first or hybrid future.

Don’t bet everything on returning to the same revenue and profits from pre-COVID for a long time, possibly ever.

3) Majority of attendees will be virtual, plan with a virtual-first approach

No matter what hybrid events look like or if/when they begin popping up, most events can expect the majority of their attendees to start out as virtual attendees. Widespread confidence to travel will take time to recover, and so will convincing attendees that it’s simply worth attending in-person if a virtual experience can provide them most of the benefits at a lesser cost.

Virtual event attendee virtual reality image
Virtual events have acquired an attendee base that never attended the on-site events to begin with (a 32% increase on average), so those attendees will likely stay virtual and as an event planner, you probably won’t want to ignore them after the pandemic is over. So our advice is to plan with a virtual-first mindset.

If 50 of your attendees are on-site and 200 are virtual, the priority should be to cater to the virtual event experience and create exclusive experiences for your on-site attendees that will hopefully attract virtual attendees back on-site (if that’s your goal).

One other thing to watch out for is ensuring that the majority of your on-site attendees are not salespeople (i.e. sponsors and exhibitors) if your event is a sponsored one. If there aren’t buyers on-site as well, the on-site experience will not be valuable for your sponsors and exhibitors risking their future investments in your event.

4) Experiences will matter more than content, long-term retention will be the goal


It’s fairly clear at this point that if an attendee is interested in consuming content from your event, it’s a lot easier, cheaper, and simpler to just watch it online. It’s going to be a very tough sell to attract attendees to your on-site event to watch speakers (even more so, if the speakers themselves are remote).

Hybrid event party image

On-site events will face a lot of pressure to create memorable experiences and exclusive networking opportunities. A big mental challenge will be to not let the spike and resurgence in travel post-pandemic convince you that it is what the future will look like. A lot of people are likely just itching to travel and meet right now, but that’s a temporary itch. If their first post-pandemic on-site experiences aren’t memorable, retention can become a problem as they may not come back the following year and opt to attend virtually. This is especially important for exhibitors and sponsors. If your event doesn’t offer a virtual option, you can be sure that eventually a competitor will.

5) Growing emphasis on sustainability, the pandemic has given us a head start


The events industry, in spite of how much pain most of it is in right now, may just look back on 2020 in the year 2030 with gratitude. There have been tremendous negative impacts due to the pandemic, which cannot be discounted, but the pandemic is a temporary problem and there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.

Event sustainability image

However, the elephant in the room is climate change and the increasing awareness around it which will most certainly impact regulations, standards, and consumer behavior across all industries. Unfortunately, the events industry is infamous for its innate sustainability issues, and while that hasn’t been discussed too much publicly, you can expect it to become a hot topic at some point over the next few years.

It’s hard to say what the increased focus on sustainability will mean for events as companies commit to sustainability goals by minimizing business travel (among other things). Our best guess is events will look very different sooner rather than later, we are headed in that direction not away from it.


The good news is that this pandemic has forced the events industry to adapt to the most dystopian form of that future, with on-site events dropping to zero attendance. In spite of that, many events have done exceptionally well and we’re seeing even more do progressively better.

Our advice is to not think of virtual or hybrid events as a fad, but as a trend. Do not ditch your virtual event strategy the moment you can return on-site. Consumer behavior changes fast, and you want to be prepared. In many ways, we’re lucky the pandemic has catalyzed that change and forced event planners and tech companies like PheedLoop to innovate rapidly.

6) Unified event experiences are the key, do not plan two events

We’ve been saying this for a while now, and it was the theme of one of our sessions at our most recent user conference as well. Given how little everyone knows about what a hybrid event can and should look like as much as everyone likes to speculate, there’s a major risk that event planners will unintentionally build out two entirely separate event experiences.


The challenge here is that the logistics, cost, and expectations will increase dramatically. Think about the challenge of running an on-site event and your most recent virtual event, and add them together. For most event planners, that will be a monumental task that will either significantly reduce the experience for one of the two event formats, will overrun budgets, or will lead to one format cannibalizing the other.

Combining virtual and hybrid events image
What you want to aim for is creating a unified experience for both virtual and on-site experiences so that instead of adding the efforts together, they overlap as much as possible.

Sure, each will have some subtle differences, so you’ll want to isolate those and decide early that you will not try and replicate them in the other format.

The onus is actually on your tech platform of choice in a lot of ways. The technology you choose can either greatly support you in your effort to create a unified experience, or really get in the way (especially if you end up combining multiple platforms together). Try to find a platform like PheedLoop that is designed, pre-pandemic, for a hybrid event experience where all the critical tools you need like apps, streaming, website, badges, floor plans, etc. share the same data source and are always synced. If you end up stringing together several different platforms to create your hybrid event, it may become a nightmare logistically, financially and experientially. You can be sure every event tech company will start marketing itself as a hybrid event platform, but few will actually do the job right. Ask vendors tough questions so you make the smartest decisions.

7) Many events will be local, small, short, and focused on community

We’ve already discussed why uncertainty around what the immediate challenges for events, post-pandemic, will likely delay the return to on-site for quite a while. We also discussed why shifts in consumer behavior, increased focus on sustainability, the necessity to focus on the event experience, and more may change events forever.

These all indicate that events in the future may be a lot smaller and focused on local communities. The idea that thousands (or tens of thousands) of attendees will fly into and take over a town may just start fading away. There’s a good chance it won’t, and definitely not immediately, but it’s a direction we may be headed towards long-term (say 5-10 years out). The pandemic and the impending recovery just gave us a glimpse of that future.

If you’re an event planner, our advice would be to focus some part of your time and energy on building these smaller experiences. Work on roadshows, local user conferences, half-day meetings, business retreats, and overall smaller events.

8) More exhibitors and sponsors will question their investments in on-site events

This is a really tough one for us, because pre-pandemic (about October of 2019), we decided that PheedLoop would no longer exhibit at industry events. The CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) numbers just weren’t making sense compared to our digital lead generation channels (exhibiting cost about 10x more), and we were finding that increasingly events we attended were largely populated by sellers instead of buyers looking for a party (nothing wrong with that) instead of wanting to talk shop. They were great parties and networking events, but we were investing multiple six-figures in exhibiting, sponsorship, travel, salaries, and more annually across many events. Not hard to imagine when, at our booth, a single power outlet costs $300, WiFi costs $200, and a piece of carpet more than $1,000. Something felt broken, and it pained us because this is the industry we operate in.

We sell PheedLoop to event planners, yet we were losing faith in this aspect of events. It didn’t feel sustainable compared to our high conversion, data rich, and low-cost digital channels.

There’s a chance we were just doing it all wrong and didn’t know how to make the most of the events, but except for a select few, most of them felt like cash grabs which really and truly hurt us. This was our industry. It is important to note that we did find positive ROI on the events we attended, but the ROI was closer to 2x instead of 10x. The math just stopped working.

The bottom line is, virtual events have been great for most sponsors and exhibitors, but difficult for some event planners who are losing their margins. In absolute terms, exhibitors and sponsors may sometimes get slightly less out of virtual events, but relatively speaking they spend about 10 - 25% of what they would to exhibit on-site for nearly the same result.

Digital transformation is absolutely real, and we as an events industry have done a fairly good job resisting it. Event technology companies haven't helped either, by focusing more on sales and less on engineering. The time to change may be upon us now, and it may be smart to embrace it.

We believe that there’s a major challenge ahead for events to convince mid-sized businesses to return as sponsors and exhibitors to on-site events over the coming years. Again, they may return in the next year or two, but this can rapidly devolve after the initial enthusiasm to return on-site. Virtual events get sponsors and exhibitors a tremendous amount of asynchronous interaction, data, leads, exposure, and longevity compared to the cost.

From a strict return-on-investment (not just return) perspective, virtual events are better for exhibitors and sponsors by about 34% on average (comparing average booth/sponsor cost to number of leads in 2019 versus 2020).

Event planners will need to start creating more opportunities for them and start charging for it. Platforms like PheedLoop have dozens of opportunities to monetize and are getting better by the day.

If you want exhibitors and sponsors to re-invest in on-site events over the next few years, you’ll need to ensure the benefit is greater than the cost, and that your ratio of buyers to sellers on-site remains healthy.

9) Remote work cultures will use events to come together, get ahead of the game

This could be a big win for hybrid events and planners excited about getting back to in-person events. Work culture may have changed forever due to the pandemic. Post-pandemic, it’s almost certain that many employers and employees will embrace remote work styles.

This means getting together in-person as a team will be precious and celebratory, and this could be a huge opportunity for the forward-looking event planner. Everything from sales kickoffs and more frequent company retreats, to training days and roadshows, may just become even more frequent for companies.


This is an exciting prospect because it gives us the feeling that while events may be very different post-pandemic, the need to meet people in-person will not go away - not by a longshot. This is one example of where the future of events may lie, bringing people together who are regularly remote.

10) Employers may question the value and impact of spending on business travel and meetings

If the pandemic lasted only a few weeks, then this wouldn’t be as big of an issue. However, its effects are likely to last for at least 2 years. Even after just a single year, we’ve seen the way people work and meet change drastically. People have found their groove, they’re used to it, and they see the benefits. That can’t be unseen, the genie’s out of the bottle. Ultimately, that’s a good thing because if that’s the direction the world was heading in any way, resisting it would only make things harder in the long run.


The question event planners will need to find answers to is whether employers are still willing to pay for, accommodate, and risk (at least for the next 1-2 years) as much business travel as they used to. With mounting pressure to focus on sustainability, limiting flying employees around may not just become a smart financial decision for some employers, but it may just become taboo.

This becomes especially important for event planners to consider because employers will have 2 full years of funding employees to attend virtual events which are a fraction of the cost. Travel and meeting budgets will shrink, and they’ll be hard to recover. Our advice to event planners would be to at least take a hybrid or fully virtual event approach seriously. If your data is telling you that your attendees are less willing or able to attend on-site events, perhaps instead of resisting it, embrace it. Event planners can do almost anything, but they can’t change consumer behavior.

11) Most events will not be able to afford both initially, pick your battles and try to unify

At the end of the day, events and the people that plan them need to make money. Although we’re seeing many virtual events turning great profits as technology, processes, and skills have matured, the next few years can’t be like the last where some event planners are barely breaking even.

Hybrid events are not going to be cheaper to plan. They will almost certainly be more expensive, especially with more technology (e.g. streaming and production) and logistics (e.g. COVID testing, sanitization, etc.) required on-site that didn't exist before.

This goes back to #6 in this article where you absolutely need to plan for as much unity in your virtual and on-site event experiences as possible to avert a business failure.

Although hybrid events are not going to be cheaper, the costs can be minimized by sticking to processes and technologies like PheedLoop and others that, by design, unify your event experiences. Still, they may be too expensive for events. In which case, our advice is to do your best to budget and plan ahead of time, and if it seems infeasible to run a hybrid event, don’t jump on the bandwagon and try. Run the best on-site event or the best virtual event you can. We believe the safest bet for the long-term, all things considered, would be to further develop your virtual event strategy.

12) Venues will need to upgrade their infrastructure from sanitization to streaming, and it’s going to be expensive

Venues are going to be under tremendous pressure to deliver the perfect environment for hybrid events. After the tragic 9/11 attack, airport security changed forever. This pandemic has almost certainly changed venues forever. Sanitization will be a top concern, and venues will be retrofitting and upgrading aggressively to help events return.

Beyond that, live streaming will be absolutely essential. Venues will be increasingly equipped with better internet, cameras, and facilities to help hybrid events become a reality at scale.

This builds off #11 in some ways, in that all of these upgrades to venues will not be cheap. Venues already cost events a pretty penny. Our advice to event planners is first to ensure the venue you are interested in is well equipped in all the ways you need, and second that you plan for the premiums associated with all the new amenities necessary to pull off a hybrid event. These costs may come down as the fixtures amortize and commoditize, but it will take years.

13) Attendee networking will be a challenge, but a solvable one

One of the most important reasons attendees attend events is to meet new people. Networking at in-person events works great, and we’ve seen networking at virtual events work incredibly well also. There are some awesome tools like Remo, Gather, and others out there that facilitate this, or tools like PheedLoop that have all the networking features built-in to one larger platform.

The challenge is how networking will work for hybrid events. Event planners have a decision to make here, and that decision is whether the networking experience for virtual and on-site attendees will be largely restricted to the formats attendees choose to attend the event in, or if they want to bridge the gap and empower attendees to network no matter where they are.


We may be biased, but we believe technology will play the biggest role in making this a reality. We think it’s a smart idea to try and combine the networking experience for both virtual and on-site attendees, and our advice is to choose a single platform for both.

The challenge with a virtual networking tool like Remo is that it is optimized for the virtual environment. Sure, they may come up with an app for networking on-site, but that app will need to do a lot more than just help with networking because your event is likely going to have a main mobile event app already. If you end up with two locations attendees can network from, they’ll either stay in their bubbles or possibly not network effectively at all.

Another thing to keep in mind is that networking can’t be forced. A lot of tools that have specific features that force networking interactions are good in small bursts, but what you want is a constant always-on networking experience. Look out for platforms that, in addition to forced networking features, also offer real-time presence tracking features the way PheedLoop does. This ensures virtual and on-site attendees are always aware of each other no matter their location, and can network on-demand and asynchronously instead of waiting for speed dating or some other forced engagement that suite Type A personalities best.

14) Vaccines may be a silver bullet to save lives, but not necessarily to save events

We hate being downers, but it’s important to temper optimism with realism. It is a miracle of science and engineering that the world has access to vaccines in less than a year for COVID-19. However, this does not mean events will return to normal the moment the majority of the population is vaccinated, if ever.

As we mentioned earlier, events were the first to shut down, and will likely be the last to reopen at full capacity - as unfortunate as this is. Just as previous disasters like 9/11 changed airport security permanently, so might the coronavirus change how we interact with each other on a daily basis.


You can be sure that there will be some significant subset of the population that will not be vaccinated, whatever the reason may be. Will events reject attendance for those who have not been vaccinated? How will we know who has and hasn’t been vaccinated efficiently?

Even if we’re vaccinated, we’ll still need to wear masks and maintain distance at events for a long time as potential carriers, likely even be tested on-site. How will this affect capacities in venues going forward? How will we deal with attendees that don’t comply?

How expensive will all of this be for events, and will attendees accept the increased costs passed on to them?

We’ve seen the virus mutate and the effects it has had on international travel. Can we be sure that future mutations will not affect vaccine efficacy? What happens if an event you are running leads to an outbreak?

These questions may seem unnecessary, hint at fear mongering, and seem overwhelming. Our job in this article is not to convince ourselves and event planners that everything is going to be okay, there are enough people doing that already. We’re here to ask the tough questions that event planners will inevitably face from people who may not be so reasonable. If 2020 is an example of what’s to come, reason and logic don’t always prevail, so event planners need to be overly prepared and hybrid events are a strong option to consider.

15) The next 5 years will look very different from the next 2, “revenge travel” may be real but short lived

Okay, we despise the phrase "revenge travel" just as much as anyone, but the we believe that the moment attendees and events can get back on-site, there will be a spike in travel and in-person meetings. It make sense, there’s a lot of pent up excitement and demand to just get out there after being at home for so long. We see this in countries like Japan, New Zealand, and others where demand for in-person experiences (including simple things like movie theaters and restaurants) is at an all time high.

Event revenge travel post pandemic image

The question is whether that demand will be an indicator of an actual trend towards events returning to normal, or simply the peak before a steady downward slope due to one or more of the other points we’ve raised in this article (cost, sustainability, low ROI, etc.). Keep in mind that going to the cinema, eating in restaurants, and attending concerts, albeit in-person gatherings, are very different from business meetings.

Our advice to event planners is to not let the next 2 years necessarily convince you of what the next 5 or 10 years may look like. The same way we saw a spike in virtual events which is likely to taper off, get ready for a possible spike in travel and on-site experiences, but a possible decline and tapering off to lower than pre-COVID levels as the decade rolls on. If you believe this may be the case, do not let go of your virtual event strategies. Double down, and future proof your events and businesses.

16) Event technology will play a major role, cutting through the noise and hype will be hard

It may sound strange coming from us as an event technology company, but event technology companies are infamous for overselling, remarketing, and doing the same basic thing as every other company. We like to think of ourselves as a company that is constantly innovating and investing in the product, but the signal to noise ratio is low and weak when you’re trying to find a genuinely powerful and affordable solution.

Especially over the last several months, countless virtual event technology companies have popped up, and you can be sure they’ll all claim to be hybrid event platforms in some form or another.

Regardless, the fact is that event technology will play a major role in the success of your hybrid events from streaming, payments, and networking, to check-in, floor plans, badge printing, and more. All technology is not equal, so cutting through the marketing noise and hype will be a challenge. The technology you choose can make or break your event both functionally and financially.


When looking for the perfect technology partner, look for platforms that actually have experience with on-site events. On-site events are a completely different beast from virtual events, even for us it took years to develop the expertise and build fully integrated systems to address the challenges of on-site events. Ask the companies you’re considering how they help facilitate a unified experience for your key stakeholders that are virtual or on-site (attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors primarily). Finally, ask the companies what their roadmap looks like. You can be sure there’s a tremendous amount of innovation required over the next two years, and if they aren’t helping you stay at the forefront, you’ll fall behind. We’re investing in everything from sustainable electronic badges and contact tracing, to new on-site streaming tools and hybrid exhibit halls.

17) Virtual reality will become more feasible, start experimenting now

At our last user conference, there were about 700 event professionals in attendance. We made it a point to talk about some of the ambitious products in our Moonshot engineering division, one of which is virtual reality. Out of 700, there were 2-3 vocal attendees questioning us (negatively) on our decision to invest in virtual reality. It’s that short sighted thinking that we, as an industry, need to avoid at all costs.

Virtual reality and other technologies may seem like a longshot right now, but they aren’t. Other industries are adopting new technologies, why wouldn't ours? In order for our industry to sustain itself for years to come, we need to take risks and make some big bets - even if we fall flat on our fact to start.


We’ve attended some events in virtual reality which were true VR-only conferences held on the Oculus platform. Our minds were blown, it was clear as day that the future of meetings is via virtual reality. The ability to socialize and engage was simply unprecedented, rivaled only by an in-person experience and barely so.

Our advice to event planners is to not dismiss ambitious ideas. Virtual reality will play a massive role in society in the coming decade. Go get an affordable virtual reality headset (we strongly recommend the $300 Oculus Quest), and experience the power of VR first hand. You don’t need to do anything more than be aware of what’s out there at this point so that when opportunity knocks, instead of dismissing it, you’re ready, open-minded, and have a vision.

18) Risk management will be paramount, start developing plans now

If the previous 17 predictions haven’t cautioned you enough, then you’re probably confident enough to not have to worry about any risk to your events! For most planners though, there is a lot of risk baked into the coming years. This doesn’t only mean health risk from the virus, but business risk as well.

Rely on professionals, government guidelines and regulations, and the venues you’re considering for the best possible advice around mitigating health risk. That is a domain we are not qualified to discuss in detail, but the one thing we can’t stress enough is that you need to plan for every outcome. Sit down with your team, and have a discussion about all the possible risks to your business, attendees, sponsors, and more. The goal of laying out all the risks isn’t to scare anyone into inaction, but it’s to be prepared.

We’re guessing most planners are already experts at developing backup plans and mitigating risk, but these coming months and years are extra special. Hire, if needed, a consultant to walk you through a plan.

Our advice to event planners is to diversify as much as possible. Hybrid events are a good risk mitigation strategy as they spread risk out over two entirely separate venues and domains. That doesn’t mean you plan two events (see #6 above), but it means you have a completely isolated backup plan locked and loaded.

19) Speakers may prefer to be remote, on-site attendees may not be so happy

We’ve heard a lot of people mention that the pandemic has increased acceptance of remote speakers, and we wholeheartedly agree. In fact, openness to remote speakers means events have easier and lower cost access to a-list speakers who would otherwise charge a small fortune to fly in and accommodate, in addition to their speaking fees. They may even be unattainable for many smaller events.

With that said, when we think about hybrid events and hear the argument being made that speakers can join remotely even when events return on-site, we put ourselves in the shoes of an on-site attendee. In #4 above, we explain why experiences will matter more than content, because content is becoming easier to access and the effect is nearly as good virtually as it is on-site. How likely is it that on-site attendees would be happy sitting in a room watching a speaker on a projector screen? Not very, by our estimation.


In fact, speakers themselves may opt to do more remote engagements because it means they can speak more often and earn more as a result. Traveling to a single event to speak can easily take 2 days out of their schedule, at least.

Our advice to event planners is to make every effort they can to make the on-site experience as human and real as possible, and focus on the experience. Seeing the speaker up close and personal, and potentially even be able to network with them, makes all the difference. If you’re running a hybrid event, it may be a good idea to try and have all your speakers on-site with you.

20) Many events will not return, the impact on small businesses is real

The truth is we may not fully realize the impact of the pandemic on the events industry right away, but we know of several events or businesses that have just shut down. Events are like any business, even pre-pandemic not every event was doing amazingly well financially. For the ones on the brink, the pandemic may have ended up being the final nail in the coffin.

It’s sad to think about, but it’s the reality of the situation. The lesson here for event planners is to keep adapting, learning, growing, and thinking ahead. The most successful events and organizations we’ve had the privilege of working with are those which moved extremely fast. They retrained their staff, they rebranded their services, they took risks, they demanded more from vendors like ourselves, and now they’re doing exceptionally well.

It is unfortunate that many events run by good people may not return or may not be the same ever again. There are silver linings, though.

New opportunities have opened up with virtual event experiences that no one ever imagined before, technology development and adoption has increased wildly, and event professionals are now more resilient and united than ever before.

Also, as unpopular as this idea may be, the pandemic might act as a filter to eliminate bad events and strengthen good ones to improve the overall quality of the events industry. Every industry has good and bad businesses, not just events, and a reset can be helpful sometimes. We've certainly attended disappointing events ourselves.

In spite of the resistance from the veterans and old guards in the industry, we’re excited about the prospect of a new beginning.

Conclusion

We’ve already said a lot in this article, possibly too much. Our goal was to invest as much time as needed in this piece, play a bit of devil’s advocate, and ask the tough questions about what a future with hybrid events may really look like, if it’s feasible at all. The future is bright for events, indeed, but we need to be objective, smart, proactive and determined to make it so. We’d love to be your partner in that pursuit by powering your events with PheedLoop.

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PheedLoop is an all-in-one event management platform for live, virtual and hybrid events. Our platform powers events for associations, corporations, agencies, educational institutions and governments worldwide including Shopify, Government of Canada, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, IBM and more. We commit ourselves to being a highly product focused company, and are dedicated to releasing new features and product updates every week since our founding in 2015. We post regular updates like this one to our blog.

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