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JSA Hybrid Mindset Event Planning Blog

Adopting A Hybrid Mindset for the Future of Event Planning

Like everyone else, for event planners and marketing leaders the story of the 2020 calendar year so far is a rocky one. The story so far probably looks something like this:

Step 1: Create a fantastic event strategy you are excited about.

Step 2: Panic as you realize none of those events will be able to go as planned.

Step 3: Consider cancelling.

Step 4: Consider crying.

Step 5: Decide to pivot your strategy to include virtual events.

Step 6: Panic as you realize you don’t know anything about virtual events.

Pandemic guidelines have managed to completely stop most meetings and events in their tracks. Hopefully you’ve found some success by scrambling to transform your typically in-person events to a digital format. You’ve been called on to solve unique problems, realizing that getting back to normal will take some time and events will look very different in the interim. However, when such focus is spent on short term fixes it can be easy to lose sight of the long-term view. But what does that look like, anyway? Is it possible that the move to a virtual event outlook is the start of a trend, and not simply a stopgap? Let’s explore.

Future in Flux

The reality is: the traditional business environment may not be back to normal for a while – if ever. Because of so much uncertainty, we should start considering a mindset where non-traditional events aren’t as temporary as we’d previously hoped. 

For one thing, pandemic constraints and regulations are constantly shifting. Group size restrictions, event type restrictions, travel restrictions, full shutdowns – these policies are not only continually changing but they also vary from state-to-state and country-to-country, with no clear conclusion in sight. Moreover, even in a case where there is a clear, overarching, long-term mandate in place for full-on large-scale gatherings, many won’t be comfortable gathering until there is a vaccine, which is another thorny topic altogether. Without even broaching the topic of a second wave, a return to events as we knew them is, unfortunately, not right around the corner. 

Marketing departments and event planners should start coming to terms with the idea that thinking about events as virtual experiences will likely be the norm for quite some time.

A Double-Laned Road Ahead

Looking even further into the future, even in a new normal, the cat is out of the bag regarding virtual events and their advantages. Having experienced digital events, many people will start to prefer the format, even when conventional in-person events are back into full swing at some point in the future. What does this mean for the future of events? Think hybrid. Conferences, trade shows, town halls, sales kick-offs, award ceremonies, executive panels – we may never truly go back to strictly face-to-face formats for these types of events.

There will be physical meetings again, sure, but now a simultaneous online audience also participating in the same experience or content from different locations must be on the table. In this light, it may be tempting to think that what this means is simply a meeting format that allows for small gatherings of local groups, while broadcasting to remote attendees or remote sites to allow for more attendees without the need for travel. But remember, the goal is to make the experience equally riveting for both groups. After all, hybrid events provide the opportunity for even more people to interact with your content and your brand.

Developing a Hybrid Mentality

The attitude you need is the same one that will aid your success in purely virtual events: the most engaging way forward is to create an interactive experience for all attendees. In this way, hybrid events require a traditional in-person event approach stacked on top of an innovative virtual event approach – it’s a both-and situation where you can no longer afford to misstep with either audience. 

Virtual events have moved past simply watching a live stream of a speaker or slide deck, so virtual attendees of a hybrid event have higher expectations for actively participating in the event. The goal for future events in a post-quarantine world will be to deliver a concurrent digital experience mirroring the live experience in quality and interaction. Not only are digital audiences for in-person events here to stay, but they can’t be left on the sidelines with a passive experience.

Here’s the good news: if you’ve already dug into the challenges of virtual events – from video glitches to online check-in – you’ve already set yourself on the right track. It’s a matter of realizing that your pivoting isn’t a Band-Aid temporary solution, it’s a transition into a permanent new way of doing things. In summary, it’s going to help to think of this changeover as an ongoing mindset shift. Like it or not, the wheels are in motion now for hybrid events to be the norm in 2021 and beyond. So, mastering virtual events now is not just a more realistic medium-term strategy, it’s also positioning yourself for two-pronged success in the long term. Set up your next steps to be great ones. 

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