Hybrid Events: A theory of event evolution

| Marketing | July 25, 2011 | News

The theory of evolution by Charles Darwin is a fact that applies to the whole universe. Things change and evolve in order to adapt and survive in an ever changing environment.This theory is also applicable to the events industry and an evolutionary trend that is ongoing is called the hybrid event - a combination of a live event or conference with the virtual world.

 

Hybrid events are a combination of live events like a conference, a trade fair, a workshop or a concert with a virtual component like a live video streaming, web casts, live online commentary, or an online discussion forum.

 

The biggest factors that favour a hybrid event are the cost effectiveness and time efficiency of such a concept, both for the host and for the audience. As a participant, a hybrid event helps an organization or individual to save on the costs of travel and accommodation, as well as to save time because all its representatives and executives can attend the event live with the help of technology. For a host, a hybrid event means lesser worries about finding and paying the cost of a venue large enough for everybody, and gaining the ability to reach out to the maximum audience, without missing out on anybody who could not personally make it to the event.

 

What apparently started out in 2009 during the peak of the financial crisis, virtual events became an option to cut down on costs of live events. However, with world economies regaining their footing, the return of live events can be seen, but now with the added factor of the virtual component. Hence, the birth of hybrid events happened, or to be more precise, live events evolved into hybrid events.

 

Hybrid event is a relatively new concept and has yet to gain ground, but the process of making hybrid events into a regular affair has already started with many international companies like Cisco and SAP bringing the virtual component to their live events. The topic of hybrid events has even found a place this year at Event Camp Europe, the first ever Event Camp to take place in Europe. Ironically, Event Camp owes its existence to the micro blogging website Twitter, which brought together its founders.

 

So, what sort of live events can be transformed into hybrid events? Pretty much most live events can carry a digital component to it, whether they are conferences, conventions, workshops, seminars or even music concerts. The digital component of an event is not limited to just live video streaming of the event or videos of speeches and sessions. A hybrid event can even enable virtual participants to actually interact and network with other participants, speakers and exhibitors.

 

Business events like conferences and conventions are not the only types of events that can be digitalized, a hybrid event can also extend to live concerts. This allows the performer or performers to perform at one venue and have audiences across borders and seas witness the event without having to be present at the venue.

 

As mentioned before, hybrid events are a relatively new concept and like any new concept, there are bugs that need to be worked out to perfect the format. Virtual participation does not have the same experience that a live event has in terms of face-to-face interactions, and technology has its limitations and can be unreliable. The core challenges of conducting a hybrid event include building a networking bond between participants at the venue and virtual participants, and engaging the virtual participants as effectively as the on-ground participants.

 

From a technology and service perspective, the host has to ensure that it can efficiently address issues of virtual participants, provide adequate bandwidth and customer support for virtual participation, ensure that there is appropriate infrastructure to support heavy online traffic and on-ground equipment, and create backup technology support, among other things.

 

While hybrid events are still relatively rare, the trend is making it visible and it is catching pace. How far this trend will go and what it will evolve into is something to keep an eye out for. After all, it's all about survival of the fittest.


Hybrid events are a combination of live events with a virtual component, making it cost effective and time efficient.

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